The stadium has a new name—Ameriquest Field in Arlington—and the Rangers are contending for the top spot in the AL West. Also, Texas’ new shortstop is filling A-Rod’s shoes quite nicely seven weeks into the season.
Texas finished in last place the last three seasons, while totaling 270 losses, after signing Rodriguez to a record $252 million, 10-year contract prior to the 2001 campaign. Rodriguez, led the AL in homers and was an All-Star each season, winning two Gold Gloves and the 2003 AL MVP Award.
“I’m excited about seeing a lot of the guys, but it’ll be business as usual,” Rodriguez said. “Everywhere we go, it’s a circus, anyway.”
The Rangers go into the series opener just 2 1/2 games out of first place in the West. Because of a strong start, Texas has stayed close to division-leading Anaheim despite losing five of its last seven games.
While A-Rod returns to Texas, Alfonso Soriano—the All-Star second baseman the Yankees sent south in the blockbuster offseason deal—also plays against his former team for the first time.
“I have only good memories,” said Soriano, who is hitting .297 with five homers and 28 RBIs for his new team. “I had a great three years with the Yankees. The only bad moment I had is when I heard the trade.”
Rodriguez’s replacement at shortstop, Michael Young, is having a breakthrough season, hitting a team-best .360 with eight homers and 32 RBIs compared to A-Rod’s .285, nine HRs and 22 RBIs. Young also leads the league with 63 hits.
“It will be different. I’m sure it will be because we were used to having him,” said Young of Rodriguez’s visit. “At the same time, that little nostalgia period will last about 10 minutes.”
Rodriguez will likely draw boos from the capacity crowds after spending the offseason trying to facilitate a deal to Boston.
On the day he accepted his MVP award in New York, Rodriguez met for nearly five hours with owner Tom Hicks, general manager John Hart and manager Buck Showalter, and emerged as the Rangers captain.
However, two weeks later, Rodriguez was back in New York being introduced as the latest All-Star in the Yankees lineup.
“I grew a lot as a person and a player (in Texas), but wearing the pinstripes now is something that I cherish very much,” Rodriguez said. “The fans were incredible to me in Texas, but it’s hard to embrace anyone when you’re not winning. We all shared those frustrations.”