The Texas Rangers (1-3) welcomed the Toronto Blue Jays (3-1) and a sellout crowd of 38,238 to Globe Life Field for their home opener Monday afternoon.
After having played a shortened 2020 season without fans, the Rangers begin their 2021 campaign as the only team in all of professional sports to open their stadium at full capacity.
The decision has been met with much criticism, including from President Joe Biden, who described it as a mistake and irresponsible.
38,238 fans attended the Rangers' home opener against the Toronto Blue Jays, making it the largest event in the U.S. to be held at full capacity since the pandemic began.
Only hours before he was scheduled to throw out the first pitch, Gov. Greg Abbott released a letter announcing that he would not participate in an event held by MLB. Abbott cited the league’s decision to move its All-Star Game away from Atlanta after the state of Georgia passed new election laws.
Politics aside, it had been 740 days since the last Rangers Opening Day with fans in attendance.
Much like that day two years ago when they lost 12-4 to the Chicago Cubs, they failed again to deliver a win for their fans in attendance, losing 6-2 against Toronto.
One of those fans in attendance was Richardson resident Larry Abeln.
Abeln has attended every Rangers home opener since the team’s inception in 1972. And when the COVID-19 pandemic delayed the start of the 2020 season and snubbed his Opening Day plans, he found a way to keep the tradition going.
“I was in the gift shop on Opening Day when I couldn’t get in the ballpark,” he said.
Donning a Texas Tech baseball jersey with a Rangers jacket and ball cap for his 50th consecutive Rangers home opener, Abeln was one of the first people in the ballpark when the doors opened at noon to the cheers of fans and the stadium employees greeting them.
Fans made their way around the ballpark with many stopping to take photos along the main concourse as they entered.
Eventually they made their way to their seats to hear Chuck Morgan, Rangers public address announcer, say those famous words: “It’s baseball time in Texas.”
Texas Rangers manager Chris Woodward described the atmosphere as electric, adding that it felt like a real game and old times to have the stadium at full capacity.
“I was hoping we’d see how loud our stadium got if we gave them something to cheer about, but unfortunately we didn’t do that,” Woodward said.
Dressed head to toe in red, white and blue, Texas Rangers superfan Matthew “Ranger Man” Irwin made his way around the stadium posing for pictures with anyone who wanted one.
Irwin was in attendance at game six of the 2010 ALCS between the Rangers and New York Yankees when the Rangers clinched the pennant and advanced to the World Series for the first time.
Seeing the passion and all the fans going nuts motivated him to start dressing up for games because he felt like the team needed a second mascot besides the Rangers Captain.
“I’ve been going to Opening Day ever since, and I feel like it’s just a lot of fun to dress up and enjoy my favorite team,” Irwin said.
Fans continued to make their way into the ballpark well after the game started only to see the Rangers struggle to get a man on base.
Rangers pitcher Mike Foltynewicz started the game off with a strikeout of Marcus Semien, Blue Jays second baseman, to the appeasement of the tens of thousands of Rangers fans in attendance.
The Rangers were hitless trailing 4-0 until the fourth inning when shortstop Isiah Kiner-Falefa scored on a single by first baseman Nate Lowe.
Lowe’s RBI was his 10th through the first four games of the season, a franchise record.
After the game, Kiner-Falefa said that playing in front of a sold out crowd was nerve racking for him, and his introduction when he first came out was one of the coolest moments of his career so far.
“It’s just cool to get back out there in front of the fans,” he said.
The game situation didn’t improve much for the Rangers as Toronto pulled further ahead in the sixth and seventh innings.
Cavan Biggio, son of Houston Astros Hall of Famer Craig Biggio, scored his third run of the day on an error by Rangers third baseman Charlie Culberson in the seventh inning to make it a five-run deficit for the home team.
In the bottom of the ninth — with a majority of the fans gone from the stadium — the Rangers were in need of a walk-off if they were going to win the game.
Designated hitter Brock Holt took to the plate with two outs as the team trailed 6-1. Holt drove an RBI to right field that went in and out of Blue Jays outfielder Randal Grichuk’s glove, just short of a home run.
The dropped ball allowed second baseman Nick Solak to score and bring the game to 6-2.
The Rangers' hope of a two-out comeback fell short after pinch-hitter Leody Taveras struck out swinging to end the game.
Foltynewicz was credited with the loss, surrendering four runs, including two home runs, off four hits in four innings pitched while walking three and striking out seven.
Steven Matz earned the win for the Blue Jays. Matz gave up one run off two hits, struck out nine and walked one batter in 6.1 innings.
The Rangers will return to their turf diamond for game two Tuesday night with first pitch at 7:05 p.m.