"The Rangers are very happy to be returning to San Antonio and Big League Weekend in 2014," said Rangers President of Baseball Operations Jon Daniels. "Ryan-Sanders Baseball put on a first class event in 2013 and did an amazing job in converting the Alamodome into a Major League Baseball facility. The reception we received playing before the tremendous fans of the San Antonio area was outstanding and we look forward to another great series."
Over 75,000 fans packed the Alamodome earlier this year when the Rangers hosted the San Diego Padres for two games. It was the first baseball event in the building's 20-year-history. While playing in the Alamodome will not be a completely new experience for the Rangers, it will be for their American League Western Division rivals.
"I thank Ryan-Sanders Baseball and the Texas Rangers for inviting us to play in these games," said Astros President of Business Operations Reid Ryan. "San Antonio is a great baseball town and being able to take part in Big League Weekend gives us the chance to play in front of all our fans in South Texas."
Turning the Alamodome into a baseball facility is no easy task. Ryan-Sanders Baseball collaborated with AstroTurf last year to build a 133,000 square-foot custom field for the Alamodome floor. In addition to the turf, 300 cubic yards of dirt was brought in for the base around the infield. Custom dugouts, bullpens, netting and walls were also installed. The overall conversion took almost three weeks. This time the group plans to convert the dome in just three days.
"Seeing the Alamodome transform into a baseball field showed just how diverse the building is. We are thrilled to again have the opportunity to host two MLB teams in San Antonio," said Convention and Sports Facilities Director Michael Sawaya.
Other exciting changes were announced in regards to the field and overall fan experience, involving slight modifications for the second year. Bullpens, which were previously hidden in the two South End tunnels, will now be located down the first- and third-base lines. The entire field will be moved slightly towards center field so that fans on the third-base line have a better view. Additional lighting is also being installed by the Alamodome to brighten the corners of the field.
While the baseball games anchor Big League Weekend, Ryan-Sanders Baseball also has other special activities planned around this year's event. The first of those is a "Hall of Fame Luncheon" on Thursday, March 27th. The luncheon will include several Major League Hall of Famers and well-known former Rangers and Astros.
Another new element is the "Big League Weekend Sports Collectible Show," hosted by Sports Collectibles of Houston. Located on the South End Club Level of the Alamodome, collectors and fans can buy and sell sports cards, autographs and memorabilia with dealers from all over the Southwest. The show also offers free appraisals, so fans can find out what their old sports items are worth. Many one-of-a-kind collectibles-including items from Babe Ruth, Mickey Mantle and other sports legends-will be on display. Admission to the Sports Collectibles Show is free with a game ticket each day.
The extension of the agreement between the city and Ryan-Sanders is only the first of two possible extensions that could take the event through 2017. "We couldn't be happier with the way the first year turned out," said Ryan-Sanders CEO Reese Ryan. "Our goal has always been to promote the game of baseball, and we're very appreciative of our partners with the city and also the San Antonio Missions. They (Missions) have been bringing baseball to the fans in San Antonio for over 100 years. We couldn't have done this without them."
ABOUT THE RANGERS: The Texas Rangers finished with a 91-72 record in 2013, second in the American League West, losing a Wild Card Tiebreaker to Tampa Bay in the 163rd game of the season. It was the fourth consecutive season (2010-13) that Texas had posted 90+ victories, joining the Rays as the only major league teams to accomplish that feat. The Rangers are 370-279 (.570) in that four-year span, tied for second in the majors in wins and placing third in winning percentage with three playoff appearances and two A.L. pennants. The club has drawn over 6.6 million fans to Rangers Ballpark in Arlington in 2012-13, fourth in the majors in total attendance in that period. In 2013, the Rangers posted a 3.62 team ERA, the club's lowest in a season since 1983. Yu Darvish topped the major leagues with 277 strikeouts while his 2.83 ERA was fourth lowest in the A.L. The bullpen was a major strength with a team record 2.89 ERA and 35 victories, tied for most in the majors. Offensively, 3B Adrian Beltre led the way with an A.L. best 199 hits, 30 homers, 92 RBI, and a .315 batting average.
ABOUT THE ASTROS: When Astros General Manager Luhnow took charge prior to the 2012 season, the focus of rebuilding the organization was to build a top-rated minor league system that could sustain success on the Major League level. The results have been dramatic. After having the lowest ranked farm system in 2010-11, the Astros have rapidly developed one of the top farm systems in baseball since Luhnow came on board. In 2012 and 2013, the combined record of the Astros domestic minor league teams has been the best in baseball. In 2013, six domestic minor league clubs earned postseason berths, with two winning championships. Several media outlets, including Baseball America, Baseball Prospectus and ESPN.com (Keith Law) have the Astros system ranked as one of the top five in baseball. On the Major League level, the Astros fielded the youngest roster in the Majors in 2013. The club established several young players in 2013, including 3B Matt Dominguez, 2B Jose Altuve and All-Star C Jason Castro, who had the finest season by a catcher in franchise history. Several young pitchers also showed promise, including Jarred Cosart, Brett Oberholtzer and Kevin Chapman. With the infusion of young talent over the last two seasons, the future is bright for the Houston Astros.
ABOUT THE ALAMODOME - The Alamodome is a domed 65,000 seat, multi-purpose facility that is primarily used as a football/basketball stadium and convention center in San Antonio, Texas. The facility is owned and operated by the City of San Antonio and is a column-free, 5-level stadium which can seat up to 65,000 spectators for a football game and is expandable to a maximum capacity of 72,000. With 160,000 square feet of column-free exhibit space and 30,000 square feet of conference space, the Alamodome is ideal for conventions, general assemblies, trade shows, sports and special events. Throughout the years, the facility has hosted a wide range of events including the NCAA Division I Men's and Women's Basketball Championships, Valero Alamo Bowl, Dallas Cowboys Training Camp, New Orleans Saints Regular Season Games and such major productions as George Strait, Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus, Disney On Ice and Monster Jam. The Alamodome is known for its unprecedented guest service as well as unparalleled attention to clients and promoters needs.
ABOUT RYAN-SANDERS BASEBALL- Combine a 27-year, Hall of Fame baseball career with more than 45 years of savvy business approaches and the roots of Ryan-Sanders Baseball begin to take hold. Today, the group is comprised of more than 60 minority shareholders, many of them former professional baseball players. Established by Nolan Ryan, Major League Baseball's all-time strikeout king, his son, Reid and Houston businessman Don Sanders, who first ventured into securities in 1959, Ryan-Sanders Baseball laid down its foundation in Round Rock when it purchased the Jackson Generals and moved the team to Texas for the 2000 season. Over the past 15 years Ryan-Sanders has owned and operated two of the most successful franchises in minor league baseball. The group owns one team now (Round Rock Express - Texas Rangers AAA) after selling the Corpus Christi Hooks in September to the Houston Astros.