I have known that Santa is a sports fan since I was five years old. All I wanted for Christmas that year was a football uniform. Johnny Unitas was my favorite player, so a blue No. 19 jersey and a pair of short pants would have done the trick. But, Santa went all out. I got the blue jersey, No. 19, I got pants that had pockets inside for the knee and thigh pads, and I got … wait for it … shoulder pads! Are you kidding me? None of the other kindergarten kids had shoulder pads, but I did. It was then that I knew Santa loves sports.
Because he does, don’t be afraid to populate your list with sports-related requests. Fear not, he does not have a favorite team. I have seen him at games in every city wearing the colors of every team. In fact, I was at the game in Philadelphia where Eagles fans booed him. OK, so maybe he does not like the Eagles, but every other team in every other sport is fair game. You got a wish? Put it on the list.
My list starts with the Texas Rangers. I would like Santa to bring them Gerrit Cole, Anthony Rendon, Stephen Strasburg and Yasmani Grandal. When I was a kid I would have put all four on my list. As a parent, having read many lists with Rolex watches, Teslas and thoroughbreds on them, I know that Santa can’t deliver all the goods. In fact, from the Rolex, Tesla, thoroughbred list, he has delivered none of the goods to my kids. And yet they have always had a great Christmas. So even if none of those free agents land in Texas, the Rangers can have a great Christmas and off season.
The reality is that the new ballpark may be the greatest gift Rangers fans have gotten since Globe Life Park opened 26 seasons ago. In the short term, Globe Life Field will make your experience at the game so much more enjoyable. I know this will be true because I lived it during the final game at Globe Life Park. My pre-game duties on that remarkably hot late September day were fairly normal: a live hit from the field, some interviews and memories of this great ballpark. Wearing a new suit for the big broadcast was not a great idea. I was so hot that I stayed in the home dugout, which has air conditioning, until I got a 30-second cue, and then I moved to the field to stand in front of the camera. This may have been the hottest I have been since the All Star game here in 1995.
For post game my assignment was to Emcee the transfer of home plate from Globe Life Park to Globe Life Field. I had been there when they transferred the plate from Arlington Stadium 26 years ago, so I loved this assignment. The air conditioning was not working at the new park, but the roof on the west side of the stadium was in place. Since the sun sets in the West, the roof blocked it. The shade took the temps down about 20 degrees. I wasn’t even sweating during the post game broadcast, and I realized the roof is already working. Add air conditioning, and this place will be ridiculously comfortable, even for day games.
The long-term benefits will be almost as dramatic. It may not happen immediately, but eventually the free agents will be like so many geese we see this time of year. They will flock to Arlington. The truth is, the only thing not to like about the previous ballpark was the heat. There was no relief from it. In a recent interview with Michael Young he recounted the time he was at an All Star Game, approached soon-to-be free agent, Roy Halladay and said, “Hey Roy?”
To which Doc replied, “Don’t even start with me, I am not going to play there; it is too hot!”
I wish Michael would have said, “Oh man I was just going to invite you to dinner!” Instead, Young walked away, tail between his legs, knowing that it would be forever difficult to attract free agents. Especially pitchers.
A decade and a half later there is a new option. An air-conditioned option. This could, seriously, open the flood gates. I mean North Texas is a great place to live! The ballpark is brand new and air conditioned, and the owners are not afraid to spend money. Arlington will be an attractive destination!
Until free agents figure that out, the Rangers will continue to develop players in a farm system that was once the envy of Major League Baseball. It was depleted during many a playoff run early in this decade when it appeared Texas was only one player away.
The same people who built that farm system are rebuilding it now. The vast majority of draft picks have been spent on young pitching. So maybe, just maybe, the next Gerrit Cole or Steven Stasburg is in the organization. If not, no big deal, the Rangers now have the kind of ballpark that can attract top-level free agents.
If the Rangers sign that big free agent or, better yet, develop him, then we can all hold our heads high, stick our chests out, put on our shoulder pads and sing, “There’s No Place Like Home for the … World Series!”