This weekend, I had the opportunity to cover the Rangers from Big League Weekend in San Antonio. Thomas Backlund -- whom gets all the credit for the above photos -- came with me as One Strike Away's photographer, and we set out to take a look at what Rangers baseball in San Antonio is like.
We were able to get into the thick of things and take a different look at the team than the one we normally provide here. With that said, I have some thoughts on the weekend.
For those unfamiliar, Big League Weekend is a two-game exhibition series that takes place at the Alamodome in San Antonio, TX. This is the fourth year for the event, and it has proven to be rather popular. This year was no different.
On Friday, 27,536 people came out to support baseball in San Antonio as the Rangers and Royals squared off. Saturday, an even more robust number of people filled the stands, with attendance figures coming in at 33,592. For a bit of perspective, Saturday was also the day that the San Antonio Spurs welcomed in the Golden State Warriors for one of the biggest games of the NBA season. The AT&T Center welcomed in 18,825 people for that game.
Furthermore, while Big League Weekend was taking place, the opening weekend of the NCAA basketball tournament was underway; a tournament that some are saying had some of the best drama in the history of the tournament. And yet, Over 60,000 fans came out to watch some baseball over the weekend, a figure that would make some ball clubs envious even if it was the regular season and the games counted.
No, there may not have been appearances in San Antonio by Adrian Beltre, Yu Darvish, Prince Fielder, Elvis Andrus, Shin-Soo Choo, or even Josh Hamilton. But how about a former top overall prospect in baseball in Jurickson Profar?
And that, more than anything, goes to show just how much Texas has grown to love baseball. Some might have been disappointed in the lack of starpower, but for others, it was an exciting opportunity to watch the future of the organization play.
While the Kansas City Royals brought along core parts of a World Series champion ball club, Texas fielded the likes of Nomar Mazara, Lewis Brinson, Ryan Rua, and the aforementioned Jurickson Profar.
Even if Jared Hoying never touches a Major League roster, he'll always be able to say that he hit a game-tying home run in front of nearly 30,000 cheering, screaming fans.
Nomar Mazara figures to be an important piece for Texas in the future, as he continues to show why the baseball world has been excited about him for several years now.
If you're not excited about Lewis Brinson yet, you should be, and not just because he hit that walk-off home run in Friday's game. You see, Brinson profiles as a very good center fielder. He's also only 21 years old.
And Ryan about Rua: I'm here to tell you that of every Texas player I saw take batting practice over the weekend, the sound of the ball coming off of Rua's bat was the best. Never mind that his swings were sending balls easily over the walls all over the field, it was that he just made the difficult act of hitting the baseball look so easy. Do you think I'm betting against Rua playing some important role for Texas in 2016?
Beyond the players, Big League Weekend was a fun opportunity to see just how baseball looks in the Alamodome. It may seem weird, but there's something fun about watching balls that would be normal fly-ball outs in any other park easily sail over a 272-foot wall in right field.
Yes, it's a stadium that was clearly built for football -- although even the San Antonio Spurs called it home for 9 seasons from 1993-2002 -- but seeing the place transformed into a baseball field was neat.
I think, more than anything, my biggest takeaway was this: Although we're still exactly two weeks away from Opening Day, Texas fans are excited about baseball. The games themselves will be forgotten in short order, but in Arlington, an organization has been built on a strong foundation that is attracting fans for hundreds of miles.
A credit goes out to the Texas Rangers, Ryan-Sanders Baseball, and the city of San Antonio for making the event a fantastic one. I can honestly say that it was an immense pleasure to be a part of a weekend of fun and friendly baseball between two clubs that share a Spring Training home.