ARLINGTON, Texas — The Texas Rangers dropped their home opener to the Toronto Blue Jays by a score of 6-2 in front of 38,238 fans — the largest event held in North America since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Hosting a sellout crowd is the way the Rangers organization always envisioned christening Globe Life Field — their new $1.2 billion stadium that sits across the street from Globe Life Park, their previous home of 26 years.
Because of the COVID-19 pandemic, the 2020 season was shortened to a 60-game sprint, and Rangers fans weren't permitted to attend any of the team's 30 home games.
One of the storylines heading into last season was how the Rangers would get accustomed to their new home. An artificial surface, as opposed to natural grass and a retractable roof, is a massive change, but that's just the tip of the iceberg regarding adjustments players have to make when learning a new ballpark.
Unfortunately for the Rangers, three weeks' worth of Spring Training 2.0 and 30 regular-season games was too small of a sample size to have any firm grasp on how Globe Life Field will play overtime.
Getting used to hosting fans might be the biggest adjustment.
"We have a young team," said Rangers shortstop Isiah Kiner-Falefa. "For a lot of the guys, [Monday] was their first time playing in front of a sold-out crowd. Just for them to experience that in such a beautiful stadium — a palace, pretty much. If I'm nervous, I can't imagine the emotions everybody else is feeling. It was just cool to get back out there in front of the fans. Hopefully, we'll start playing a little better."
The lineup struggled in the 6-2 defeat, mustering only five hits after they had scored 21 runs on 29 hits in the opening series in Kansas City. Kiner-Falefa refused to make excuses, but there are some tangible obstacles that players will have to overcome.
"I think last year, playing with the stadium closed all the time kind of got us spoiled," said Kiner-Falefa. "It felt like we had one of the best batter's eyes in the league. Just dealing with the shadows this year and the brightness and reflections are going to be a little challenging."
The 2020 season limited the Rangers to play during July, August, and September — months where Globe Life Field's roof will be closed the majority of the time. In the 30 home games last season, the roof was open only six times.
Playing in the earlier months provides a new set of challenges. Only rain will force the roof to be closed in April and May, and maybe even into the early part of June with how well the stadium can keep the heat out even with the roof open.
While open, Globe Life Field is a much more enclosed stadium than its predecessor. In addition, its orientation differs from Globe Life Park. Home plate at Globe Life Field is in the southwest corner of the stadium, while home plate was in the northwest corner of Globe Life Park.
All of these changes provide different angles and amounts of shade for players.
"We've just gotta stick with it," Kiner-Falefa said. "[We've gotta] get out there as much as possible, and just get familiar with our new home. We're very thankful for it. It's a palace."
That palace may have a number of unknowns. But one thing we learned, even from a cheer for a fan winning free Whataburger for a year, Globe Life Field is loud.
"It was fantastic. It felt like a real game," Rangers manager Chris Woodward said after Monday's loss. "It felt like the old days when we had full capacity. It was a good crowd. They stayed in it the whole game. Unfortunately, we didn't give them much to cheer about."