Texas faithful rewarded at special opener

Texas faithful rewarded at special opener

ARLINGTON -- There have been six regular-season games, one playoff game and one All-Star Game that have drawn more people to the Ballpark in Arlington than Monday's home opener.

There have also been two playoff games in 1996 that remain unsurpassed in the atmosphere created at the 17-year-old ballpark lodged between Nolan Ryan Expressway and Ballpark Way.

But the Rangers were more than happy to revel in the experience provided by 50,299 fans on Monday afternoon who were on hand to welcome in the 2010 season. The Rangers' 5-4, come-from-behind victory was made that much sweeter by playing in front of such an enthusiastic crowd on an afternoon in which the 40 millionth visitor passed through the turnstiles at the Ballpark.

"It was a great atmosphere," pitcher Scott Feldman said. "It was like pitching in Yankee Stadium. It was really cool."

"That was awesome," first baseman Chris Davis said. "It was a great atmosphere from the beginning. The fans were behind us, they were loud and they stayed to the end. We need those guys behind us and they were in it the whole time. You can't ask anything more from them."

Maybe the Rangers were on to something when they asked Roger Staubach to throw out the ceremonial first pitch. The former Cowboys quarterback was known as Captain Comeback during his Hall of Fame NFL career and that may have set the tone for the afternoon.

After Sgt. Dana Bowman (ret.) made a majestic parachute jump into the ballpark to deliver the baseball, Staubach threw a high hard one to injured second baseman Ian Kinsler as the crowd roared in delight.

It was one of two highlights of the opening festivities, right there with the overwhelming positive response Rangers manager Ron Washington received in his pregame introduction.

The fans stayed with it through six tough innings as Blue Jays pitcher Shaun Marcum flirted with an Opening Day no-hitter. But their patience was rewarded when Nelson Cruz hit his three-run home run to tie the game in the seventh.

"It was fun out there," third baseman Michael Young said. "We wanted to give the crowd a chance to get into the game, and fortunately for us, they stuck with it. Cruzie's home run gave them a chance to release everything."

The Rangers had another advantage going for them in their home park. Cruz, on his home run, chased an outside pitch and really didn't get it on the sweet part of the bat. Blue Jays manager Cito Gaston pointed out Cruz swung one-handed.

But he hit it into the jet stream that was blowing out to right-center and the ball ended up in the Rangers' bullpen.

"I knew it right away," Young said. "Today was pretty insane as far as the wind. It was howling and Cruz is a strong guy. That was as strong as I've seen it blowing here in a long time."

That brought the crowd to a full-throttle roar and they stayed that way right up to the end when Jarrod Saltalamacchia's bases-loaded single in the bottom of the ninth brought home the winning run.

"It was unbelievable out there today," Saltalamacchia said. "It was a great feeling to be a part of all this and win the game."

T.R. Sullivan is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.