ARLINGTON, Texas — Clayton Kershaw was 8 years old when his hometown Texas Rangers reached the playoffs for the first time. It was the perfect age to be immersed in the game, and now as the 32-year-old ace of the Los Angeles Dodgers, Kershaw still wears a reminder on his back: His No. 22 is a tribute to Will Clark, the former Texas first baseman.
Kershaw saw a few Rangers games every year at the old ballpark across East Randol Mill Road from its successor, the imposing Globe Life Field, where he has won Games 1 and 5 of this year’s World Series against the Tampa Bay Rays. The limited crowd in attendance was mostly pro-Dodgers, giving Kershaw a distinctively 2020 spin on his memorable October.
“This year’s been weird, special, different in a lot of ways, to get to be here,” he said late Sunday night, as two of his young children romped around the Zoom room, mugging for the cameras at his virtual news conference. “I don’t want to say that it’s working out the way I wanted it to, because being at Dodger Stadium would be awesome, too.
“But to get to have family and friends here, to get to have as packed a house as it can be and basically seem like it’s all Dodger fans is very special as well.”
The Dodgers have taken quite well to Globe Life Field, which has rivaled the Rays’ Randy Arozarena as the star rookie of the baseball postseason. The Dodgers — who were scheduled to face the Rays in Game 6 on Tuesday with a chance to clinch their first championship since 1988 — swept the San Diego Padres in their division series here then took a seven-game National League Championship Series from the Atlanta Braves, overcoming a three-games-to-one deficit.
Counting those games, and a three-game series with the Rangers at the end of August, the Dodgers played 19 times here before Game 6, with 13 victories. They have made one of the league’s more spacious fields seem cozy, bashing 30 homers in those 19 games — or three more than the Rangers managed in their 30 home games in the regular season.
“It’s definitely not small, I’ll tell you that,” said the Dodgers’ Justin Turner, who has three postseason homers here. “We have hit some home runs, but you definitely have to hit it for it to get out of here. We have played a lot of games here, and we are pretty familiar with it. It’s no Dodger Stadium, it’s not our home park, but so far we’ve done a pretty good job.”
Globe Life Field has been an ideal setting for much of baseball’s first mostly neutral-site postseason. The Rangers were never a threat to be here (they went 22-38 in the regular season), and with a retractable roof, weather has not been much of a factor. While it was windy at times in the N.L.C.S., the roof was closed on a chilly night in Game 3 of the World Series and again to keep out rain in Game 5.
The 8,700-square-foot video board above right field has played to the designated home team — Los Angeles for Games 1, 2 and 6; Tampa Bay for the others — and the players get their usual walk-up and warm-up music. Vin Scully gave his trademark greeting before Game 1 (“It’s Time For Dodger Baseball!”), and when the Rays won a wild Game 4, the scoreboard beamed the “Entourage” scene with Johnny Drama shouting “Victory!” from his knees by a canyon. (It’s a Rays thing.)
“There’s something about this place,” Rays starter Charlie Morton said. “It’s very robust. It’s big — it feels big — they have the big screen above the field. It feels like it’s hanging right on top of you. They’ve got the World Series logo in gold, the banners you’d expect to see.”
Rob Matwick, the Rangers’ executive vice president of business operations, said the club replaced the old park, which opened in 1994, for three main reasons: to escape the unrelenting summer heat; to host events year-round; and, naturally, to generate more revenue. When Rangers fans are allowed in to cheer for their team, they could help provide a robust home-field advantage.
“One thing that’s been very obvious is how loud it is,” Matwick said of having fans during the postseason, adding that even limited crowds have made much more noise than simulated recordings. “I can’t wait to experience it with 40,000 people in the building.”
While little Rangers signage faces the field, the ballpark has some subtle touches of the home team. The field dimensions wink at several retired numbers: 329 feet down the left field line for Adrian Beltre’s No. 29; 407 feet to straightaway center for Ivan Rodriguez’s No. 7; 326 feet down the right field line for Johnny Oates’s No. 26.
Giant bobbleheads of Beltre, Rodriguez and Michael Young greet fans on the upper concourse, and the team moved a Nolan Ryan statue from inside the old stadium — Globe Life Park — to an outdoor plaza here. Rodriguez donated a statue of himself for the opposite side of the park, and a third statue depicts Neftali Feliz and Bengie Molina embracing after the Rangers clinched their first pennant in 2010.
“We’re at a different place in our history now,” Matwick said. “Globe Life Park reflected the history of Texas with the reliefs that are in the exterior, and the suites named for Hall of Famers — only one of which, at the time, had played for us, Nolan. But here, we’ve really tried to reflect Rangers’ history and make it our own.”
As for the old stadium — initially known as The Ballpark In Arlington — it has been reconfigured and is now home to North Texas S.C., the reserve team for F.C. Dallas of Major League Soccer, after holding XFL games in the spring. Last week the park hosted two high school football games and its first collegiate game, between Abilene Christian and Stephen F. Austin. The Rangers’ old office space now serves as the corporate headquarters for the Six Flags Entertainment Company.
But for some faraway baseball fans, it will always be a sacred spot: The San Francisco Giants clinched their first World Series championship there in 2010, ending a 56-year drought that stretched to the franchise’s days in New York.
The Giants’ old rival from Brooklyn has won five titles since moving to Los Angeles, but the latest pursuit has been decades in the making. The Dodgers were hoping to start a new decade by turning a different Texas ballpark into their own hallowed ground.