Have a baseball road trip coming up? Well, in a bid to help you with your upcoming journeys, Big League Stew has solicited the help of the locals. Over the next month or so, we'll be hitting up our usual guest blogger crew to feature 10 tips for enjoying each of the 30 ballparks like the locals do. Have a suggestion in addition to the ones listed here? Make sure to list it in the comments below.
Planning a trip to Rangers Ballpark in Arlington? First things first, we just call it “the Ballpark” around these parts, and we never agreed to call it Ameriquest Field for those few years a while back, but I digress. The home of the two-time American League champion Texas Rangers is a beauty of a stadium, blending Texas tradition with architectural elements reminiscent of bygone eras, most notably a covered porch in right field that echoes Tiger Stadium and old Comiskey Park. The past three offseasons have included extensive technological upgrades and stadium renovations, enhancing the game day experience for fans and players alike. Pack your warm weather clothes and join me for some tips about my home away from home:
1. Location, location…location? While many other entries on this list can boast a vibrant downtown or quirky neighborhood full of unique characteristics surrounding their stadium, the same cannot be said for our fine establishment situated at 1000 Ballpark Way. Take a stroll down Randol Mill Road and you’ll find yourself at either Cowboys Stadium or the Wal-Mart Supercenter, both emitting an equal sense of despair.
Deciding where to stay on your trip basically depends on who you are and what you want to do — are you a family looking for an easy few days of baseball games and amusement parks? Keep it local and stay in Arlington. Rangers Ballpark is in close proximity to both Six Flags Over Texas and Hurricane Harbor, so gather up the kids and the sunscreen and go say hello to Bugs Bunny and his pals.
Not into roller coasters or water parks? Opt for Dallas or Fort Worth. What Arlington lacks in amenities that aren’t chain restaurants, it makes up for in geographical convenience. Sandwiched right in between Dallas and Fort Worth, you can easily book your hotel stay in either city and fill your days with superior sightseeing, and then hop in the car to make the drive to Arlington at night for the games. It might not sound all that convenient, but let’s face it; if you’re in Texas, you’re driving everywhere already.
2 But what If I’m not driving? No, you’re probably driving. Unless you’re in a cab or hotel shuttle, your trek to Rangers Ballpark will be in your own hands as Arlington does not have a public transportation system. Really, we don’t.
Once behind the wheel, it’s not too hard to get in and out of Rangers Ballpark, but there will be traffic. Numerous parking lots surround the stadium in all directions, with most of the cash parking lots located on the north and east sides of the Ballpark, accessible from Interstate 30. Don’t be fooled by the Arlington Convention Center lot that is also on the north side of the Ballpark, unless you feel like spending $20.00 instead of the $15.00 charged in Rangers lots. Slightly cheaper options can be found at various restaurants and office parks nearby, but having parked there myself on a few occasions, saving a few extra bucks isn’t necessarily worth the extra effort even if you do snag the “Employee of the Month” parking spot.
Do you own a Lexus? Can you borrow someone’s Lexus? If you answered yes to either of these questions, you can valet park for free at Rangers Ballpark. These spaces tend to fill up quickly, especially for a big series and on the weekends, so take that into consideration when you head out the door. If you don’t own (or can’t borrow) a Lexus, you can still choose to valet, but it’ll cost you $40.00.
3. Where (not) to sit: Whether it was suffering the last-place Rangers teams of yore, or bathing in the glory of attending a World Series game, I’ve sat just about everywhere you can sit in Rangers Ballpark and have nothing but good things to say … for the most part. You’ll run into some obstructed views due to safety rails and the like, but the only place I would tell you to actively avoid is all tiers of left field. Not because the sightlines are bad, or because the fans or ushers are rude, but because it’s entirely possible that you will catch on fire while filling out your scorecard. What I’m trying to tell you is that it’s hot under the sun in left field. Very, very hot.
If you’re attending a night game, you will eventually find some relief once the sun sets over the first base side of the Ballpark, but for a day game in a North Texas summer? That sizzling sound you hear isn’t a nearby concession stand grilling up some food, that’s your skin. Unless you’re the biggest David Murphy or Jeff Baker fan in the world and just HAVE to sit in left field, select your seats elsewhere and thank me later. And if you are in fact the biggest David Murphy or Jeff Baker fan in the world, we may need to have a talk.
4. I’m here and I’m hungry Come for the two-foot-long hot dog, stay because you just ate a two-foot-long hot dog and can’t get out of your seat. Rangers Ballpark offers not one, not two, but several different food items measuring in at a whopping 24 inches all ready for you to consume as soon as you come through the Home Plate entrance gate. We’ve got the classic Nelson Cruz tribute in the form of the “Boomstick” (a hot dog covered in chili, nacho cheese, jalapenos and grilled onions), the “Sausage Slugger” (Polish sausage that can be topped with onions or sauerkraut), and last but not least, the “Murph-a-Dilla”, a dystopian interpretation of a quesadilla named after David Murphy, featuring flatbread topped with brisket and nacho cheese Doritos.
Are you worried about the difficulty of cradling a food monster like a baby while you maneuver to your seats, but still want to eat a ton? Check out the “All You Can Eat” seats in the Upper Home Run Porch in right field. For $51.00 ($58.00 for premier games) you can fill yourself with unlimited grilled chicken sandwiches, hot dogs, nachos, peanuts, popcorn and sodas. You can eat in the air-conditioned grill at the top of the porch, or take your bounty down to your seat.
If you’re looking for quality over quantity, you can find all sorts of goodies in the rest of the Ballpark. Head out to the center field concourse to Smokehouse 557 for smoked brisket and turkey legs, get a gourmet burger at the Ryan’s Express stand, or you can visit the Centerfield Market for veggie-friendly choices and gluten-free snacks.
Your primary options for tastiness are going to be located on the lower level, so if you want to grab some street tacos, garlic fries or a Food Network Signature Sandwich, you won’t find it in the upper deck. You will find a churro vendor in the upper home plate area who hands out vintage baseball cards with a purchase, so it’s not all bad up there. Who doesn’t like a Montreal Expos player card that ends up covered in sugar?
Rangers Ballpark does allow you to bring in your own food and beverages, but metal cans, glass bottles and alcoholic beverages are not allowed.
5. I’m here and I’m also thirsty: Throughout Rangers Ballpark you’ll find stands specifically dedicated to Texas brews (Rahr & Sons, Saint Arnold, Shiner, Lone Star) as well as stands with premium selections (Shock Top, Hoegaarden, LandShark, Abita, Goose Island, Leinenkugel).
Full bars are available in certain areas of the Ballpark, which we’ll get to next.
6. Air-Conditioned escapes: Need to step inside to beat the heat or wait out a rain delay? The Captain Morgan Club in center field is open to all ticketholders before, during and after games. They have a food menu as well as the aforementioned full bar if you want to have a drink and beer isn’t your thing.
Also in center field (but lacking in alcohol) is the Kids Zone, featuring an indoor playground and video games. This area of Rangers Ballpark is open before and during the game, but closes down before the game is over.
7. Free Stuff: Promotional giveaways usually occur on Tuesdays when it’s an item that’s given to all ticketholders or on Sundays if it’s a kids-only item for children 13 and under. Every Friday night home game is followed by a fireworks show that is worth sticking around for.
If you find yourself sitting in Sections 201-208 on a Thursday or Saturday game (even though I told you not to), you’ll be rewarded with a spot in the Kia K-Zone. What’s the Kia K-Zone you ask? Earlier this season it was called the “Yu-niverse” and bore a striking resemblance to a little thing called The King’s Court up in Seattle. For reasons unknown to me it’s now no longer exclusive to Yu Darvish starts, but you’ll still end up with a free yellow t-shirt and “K” card to hold up when a Rangers pitcher records a strikeout.
8. Behind the scenes: Tours of Rangers Ballpark are available on game days (night games only) as well as non-game days, and will take you to the batting cages, dugouts, press box and much more. Chances are if you’re reading a local’s guide to a baseball stadium, you might care enough to see the stuff you wouldn’t normally get to see as a fan, so I definitely recommend taking the tour if it fits into your schedule.
9. Baseball Town: Did you hear that thing that Josh Hamilton said about Arlington not being a baseball town? Well, Rangers Ballpark PA Announcer Chuck Morgan certainly did and took it as inspiration to create the “Baseball Town” video montage that plays on the jumbotron before the start of every game, highlighting great moments in Rangers history. A certain play from last season’s final game involving a dropped ball in Oakland’s O.co Coliseum didn’t make the final cut, however.
10. Darvish:If you trust the Baseball Gods and your every-fifth-day counting skills enough, try to buy tickets for a game started by Yu Darvish. What emerged last season as required viewing for Rangers fans when Darvish began to adjust to the majors has now become required viewing on a national level. Think of the pitchers you’d list as worthy of the price of admission alone (Verlander, Kershaw, etc.), and then add Darvish to that list. I’ve attended two of his starts this season and became spiritually bonded to a 61-mph curve from my seat in section 323. Trust me — you need to see this man in person. You also need to set your DVR to record what you may miss when you turn to your companions and try to process the pitch you just saw while deciphering what that strange tingling feeling inside of you is. Is it love? Is it lust? Is it fear? It’s Darvish.
Holly Hollenbeck tweets about Rangers baseball and Stars hockey at @holly_holl
What are your favorite tips for attending a game at Rangers Ballpark?
Previous parks: Citi Field, Marlins Park, Great American Ball Park, Petco Park,Comerica Park, Progressive Park, AT&T Park, Rogers Centre, Wrigley Field, O.Co Coliseum, Yankee Stadium, Coors Field, Minute Maid Park, Fenway Park, PNC Park,U.S. Cellular Field, Safeco Field, Target Field