ARLINGTON, Texas (AP) — Elvis Andrus wasn’t going to sit out the season finale of the long-eliminated Texas Rangers, not even on a scorching afternoon that illustrated why Globe Life Park is getting replaced after just 26 seasons.
“I know it’s super hot, but it’s a lot of memories throughout the game,” Andrus said of the park where he debuted as a 20-year-old a decade ago and played in the club’s only two World Series in 2010 and ’11.
On the seventh day of the fall, the temperature reached the mid-90s for a sellout crowd that included former President George W. Bush, who was the managing partner of the club when the ballpark opened in 1994.
After a 6-1 victory over the New York Yankees, a parade long enough to make a ring around the field took home plate across the street to Globe Life Field. The retractable-roof stadium, which officially opens with a March 31 game against the Los Angeles Angels, will have the option of air conditioning once the Texas heat kicks in next spring and summer.
“I do think there is a need for it,” former Texas outfielder Rusty Greer said. “At some point, if they’re ever going to build a new stadium, then obviously it’s got to be covered with AC. Because if not, then there would be no reason to build one.”
Greer was among 15 former Rangers introduced as part of the all-time Globe Life Park team. Hall of Fame catcher Pudge Rodriquez also made the finale, as did Adrian Beltre, a little more than two years after getting his 3,000th hit in the park he called home for his final eight seasons.
The former Rangers hopped in pickups for the short ride across the street along with hundreds of fans headed by a police escort and a firetruck.
Richard Greene, who was mayor for the city’s vote to approve the stadium’s funding and during the building and opening of what was then known as The Ballpark in Arlington, was part of the ceremonial transfer of home plate.
The Rangers called on a little history to close the old place, beginning with the national anthem played by the Fort Worth Symphony Orchestra , just as it was 25 years earlier when the pianist Van Cliburn also was part of the rendition.
The crowd of 44,144 — bringing the park’s final total to 66,744,029 — went wild when strikeout king Nolan Ryan emerged from the dugout to throw out the ceremonial first pitch to Kenny Rogers, who threw Globe Life’s only perfect game in its debut season.
The fans didn’t seem to care that Ryan, who had the last two of his record seven no-hitters with the Rangers, bounced the pitch. They were just happy to see the tall Texan six years after he resigned as team president — he later became a consultant for rival Houston.
“It’s definitely sad,” said Will Clark, who hit the first regular-season homer by a Ranger at the new park. “When you played in the first game, 25 years for the most part is a fairly young ballpark. To see it go, yeah, it’s pretty emotional.”
Same for the fans, including a woman who was among those who stayed in their seats long after the parade had wound out of the stadium. She was seen crying on television, with her husband’s arm draped over her shoulder.
Those emotions weren’t saved for the last day. Shirley Kost, who has been going to games since moving to the Dallas area 40 years ago, said she and her friends were crying the day before they said goodbye to Globe Life — and she said they probably would be again Sunday.
What the 80-year-old Kost will miss the most is what so many others say is their favorite thing about the park: the curb appeal. The granite and red brick facade, lined with high-arched openings for a view of the concourse and steel support beams, has always been a favorite.
“I wish we could take it with us,” Kost said. “But we’re going to love the new one, too. It’s just going to take a little time.”
Bush sat a few rows above the Texas on-deck circle next to former first lady Laura Bush and Deedie Rose, the widow of Bush’s co-owner, Rusty Rose. Tom Schieffer, who was the club president and threw out the ceremonial first pitch 25 years ago, also was in the group.
“It really is a reminder of this wonderful partnership we had,” said Bush, who had to give up ownership of the Rangers after he was elected Texas governor in 1994. “And sitting in this cathedral we built, it means a lot.”
Yankees slugger Giancarlo Stanton made the last out, on a check-swing strikeout against José Leclerc.
After all the former Rangers were introduced, club hits leader Michael Young tossed a ceremonial final pitch to Rodriguez. The catcher known for his defensive skills threw to Andrus at second base, and raised his arms with a big smile when the throw made it without a bounce.
The only downer for the former players was the sense that perhaps their old home was closing too soon.
“I drove up today and I was walking out, told my wife, I said, ‘There is absolutely nothing wrong with this ballpark. I love it,'” Greer said. “That’s the way I feel, felt in 1994, the way I feel today about it.”
Andrus won’t really miss the heat, though.