Country music legend Charley Pride will be at Globe Life Field on Friday night to sing The Star-Spangled Banner. Texas Gov. Greg Abbott will be in Austin to ceremonially (and virtually) throw out the first pitch.
There will be red, white and blue bunting hanging in the stands. Players and staff from both teams will be introduced at their respective foul lines.
When the Rangers are introduced, they will hear the sound of 40,000 fans cheering for them, even if those people are there in spirit only.
“It’s a special moment for the players,” Rangers public address announcer Chuck Morgan said. “I want to make sure that moment is special to them. That they are home, they are in Texas and there are people behind them.”
The Rangers have plenty of fans, enough to draw 2-3 million every season for the past 30 years. They just won’t be at Globe Life Field on Friday. But the Rangers are still ready to celebrate the grand opening of their $1.2 billion ballpark when they face the Rockies at 7:05 p.m. CT (watch on MLB.TV).
“The ballpark itself is fantastic,” Rangers manager Chris Woodward said. “I’m really fortunate to get the job at this time when the ballpark was being built. It’s unfortunate, not having the fans in the ballpark is a little bit of a buzzkill because it’s such a beautiful place. I can’t wait to feel the energy of fans here.”
Right-hander Lance Lynn will get the start for the Rangers. He started the final game of last season at the old ballpark and now has the honor of being the first on the mound at the new one.
“Being an Opening Day starter is a great honor,” Lynn said. “You are the first one. You’re the first one out of the gate and you’re trying to establish something for everyone to build on.”
Morgan’s goal is to make the atmosphere sound as real as possible. He will be assisted by Michael Gruber, another local game-entertainment icon who electrifies the fans at Dallas Stars hockey games.
“It’s not what we want to do,” Morgan said. “If we weren’t doing any sound effects, the place would sound pretty dead. It’s not going to be perfect. I don’t think anybody can match the real thing. But we are going to do the best we can to make sure it sounds like there are 40,000 fans in the ballpark.”
Morgan said it’s all about making special memories for the fans beyond having approximately 2,700 DoppelRanger cardboard cut-outs placed in various spots around the ballpark.
“Take care of the fans’ memories,” Morgan said. “It’s not going to be the same for them. It’s not going to be the same for us. But it’s still the first game of this crazy Major League season. I have to take care of those fans’ memories and make sure it stays special in their heart. That’s important to me.”
The Rangers will have a few supporters in the stands for Opening Day. Major League Baseball has granted them permission to allow approximately 150 employees to watch the game -- masked and social distancing -- in the suite level above the right-field foul line.
“It’s sad with everything we are living through right now that we have to open the season with no fans,” catcher Robinson Chirinos said. “This organization and the city of Arlington put a lot of time into building this ballpark and make this really a favorite for fans to come and watch the game.”
There were more than 11,000 workers who spent approximately 6 million man hours in constructing the park. Ground-breaking took place on Sept. 28, 2017, and the original Opening Day was scheduled for March 31 against the Angels.
“It’s poetic. It’s a beautiful field,” said veteran infielder Todd Frazier, who homered in Wednesday's exhibition at the new ballpark. “I was driving by the other night after we played a night game, and you could actually see through to the field. That’s something you don’t see in many stadiums. I really enjoy it. I think it plays well. I’m really excited to play in such a prestigious stadium.”
Morgan said Friday could be the first of three Opening Nights for Globe Life Field.
“There is [Friday] night, which will not be a typical Opening Night celebration,” Morgan said. “If we get down the road and we are allowed to have fans in, we could have another small-type celebration.
“But I think the big Opening Night for this ballpark would be 2021 when we can have 40,000 people here and it can be celebrated the way it should be.”
The Rangers are still preparing for the possibility of having fans this season. The state of Texas is allowing fans at up to 50 percent capacity to attend sporting events. But Major League Baseball is holding off through the first two regular-season series at every ballpark.
“We are still planning, and we are still hoping,” Rangers executive vice president Rob Matwick said. “We have to be ready if that changes.
“The decision came down: Let's proceed, minus fans here to get started. We've made it successfully through camp, we're to the industry's Opening Day. I think it's an intelligent approach; the Commissioner just felt like it was smart to proceed cautiously.”
At some point, fans will get to see what the Rangers, the city of Arlington, Manhattan Construction and the many subcontractors have built. They will be able to enjoy six premium clubs over seven seating levels, state-of-the-art video and scoreboards, the panels that allow natural lighting into the park and, above all, the retractable roof that allows climate-controlled comfort.
They can see for themselves everything that Globe Life Field has to offer. But, for now, it’s time for the Rangers to get started on a 60-game season and make the best of it without fans in attendance.
“I am already nervous and excited,” infielder Isiah Kiner-Falefa said. “I am already looking forward to Friday. We have been doing this for so long. We just want to get back to playing against other guys. Just having the Rockies on the other side gave everybody a different kind of anxiety, different type of nervousness and a different type of excitement.”