Tony La Russa

In this Oct. 19 photo, Reginald Rutledge displays his model of the Rangers Ballpark in his home backyard in Arlington. $12 million worth of renovations to the ballpark’s bullpen will take place in the coming weeks.

Photo Credit: The Associated Press

ARLINGTON, Texas — Visiting managers will soon have an unobstructed view into their bullpen at Rangers Ballpark.

A reconfigured bullpen is among nearly $12 million in stadium upgrades the Rangers announced Thursday. The plans were in the works before the bullpen phone foul-up for St. Louis manager Tony La Russa in Game 5 of the World Series.

The entire plaza in center field is being redone. A play area for kids that had taken up most of the plaza is being moved to an indoor location nearby. There will be a new indoor seating area, a Rangers-themed restaurant/sports bar and four new concession areas. Bleachers will be replaced by individual seats.

The changes, including changing the orientation of the bullpen to run parallel to the left-center field fence, are scheduled to be completed before the 2012 season opener for the two-time defending American League champions.

The Rangers had previously announced plans to make all protective railings along front-row seats above field level at the stadium a uniform height of 42 inches. Some rails will be raised as much as a foot after a firefighter’s fatal fall in July when he reached out to catch a ball tossed his way. That project is also expected to be completed before the April 6 home opener.

Team CEO Nolan Ryan said the changes in center field will add more concessions and entertainment options and provide ways to cool off in the summer months at the stadium that opened in 1994. The Rangers set an attendance record of 2,946,949 this season despite 27 games when the temperature was 100 degrees or higher at first pitch.

“We have a commitment to our fans to provide the finest ballpark experience,” said Ryan, the Hall of Fame pitcher who is part of the ownership group that acquired the team in August 2010. “This project represents the most extensive renovation in the history of the park and we plan to make further upgrades in the coming years.”

Pitchers in the visitor’s bullpen in left-center would have their backs to the field behind a barrier when warming up during games. With that setup, it was hard if not impossible to see from the visitor’s dugout along the third-base line.

In Game 5 of the World Series on Oct. 24, there was a miscommunication between La Russa and a coach on the bullpen phone about who should be warming up. All the confusion came during the decisive eighth inning when the Rangers went ahead 4-2. Texas ended up winning to take a series lead before the Cardinals won both games in St. Louis to claim the World Series championship.

Aluminum bleacher seats on the left and right field sides of the grassy area in straightaway center will be replaced by individual seats. The capacity in the area will decrease from 1,075 to 424, but there will also be covered deck areas with open seating and tables on either side of the new indoor seating area that will be known as the Batter’s Eye Club.

Printed on Friday, November 4, 2011 as: Rangers Ballpark will undergo changes

2011 World Series

Photo Credit: The Associated Press

ARLINGTON, Texas (AP) — Derek Holland kept Albert Pujols in the ballpark and the Texas Rangers in this World Series.

In a title matchup that’s getting more interesting with every game, Holland put the emphasis back on pitching. Given a pep talk by manager Ron Washington minutes before the game, Holland threw two-hit ball for 8 1-3 innings to beat the St. Louis Cardinals 4-0 on Sunday night and even things at 2-all.

Holland struck out seven, walked two and never was in trouble against a team that erupted for 16 runs the previous night. He came within two outs of pitching the first complete-game shutout in the World Series since Josh Beckett’s gem for Florida to clinch the 2003 title at Yankee Stadium.

“I was very focused. I knew this was a big game for us,” Holland said. “I had to step up and make sure I was prepared.”
Hobbled Josh Hamilton put Texas ahead with an RBI double in the first inning. Then Mike Napoli broke it open with a three-run homer in the sixth that set off a hearty high-five in the front row between team president Nolan Ryan and former President George W. Bush.

And just like that, for the first time since 2003, the World Series stood at two games apiece. Now the whole season is down to a best of three, with the outcome to be decided back at Busch Stadium.

Game 5 is Monday night at Rangers Ballpark. It’s a rematch of the opener, when Cardinals ace Chris Carpenter topped C.J. Wilson.

A day after Pujols produced arguably the greatest hitting show in postseason history, tying Series records with three home runs, six RBIs and five hits during the Cardinals’ romp, Holland emerged as the unlikely star.

Holland got a big cheer when he took the mound in the ninth and was still throwing 96 mph. With the crowd chanting his name, he walked Rafael Furcal and was pulled by Washington after a long talk on the mound.

“I was begging to stay out there,” he said. “I said, ‘I’ll give it everything I’ve got. I can get the double play.’

“When I came off the field my arm hair was sticking up — not like I have much.”

Holland tipped his cap and waved to the fans as he walked off. His outing was the longest scoreless appearance by an AL starter in the Series since Andy Pettitte also went 8 1-3 at Atlanta in 1996.

Neftali Feliz took over and closed. He walked Allen Craig, then retired Pujols on a fly ball and struck out Matt Holliday to end it.

Pujols finished 0 for 4 and hit the ball out of the infield only once.

“I wanted him to see my ‘A’ game,” Holland said.

Said Cardinals manager Tony La Russa: “Well, I would just say he worked us over. Give him credit.”

“Good pitching is always going to stop good hitting,” he said.

Holland was in tune all evening with his Napoli, his pal and catcher. Much better than the battery for the pregame ceremony — Bush tossed a wild pitch that glanced off the catcher’s mitt Ryan wore.

“I should’ve gone with the regular glove,” Ryan said with a chuckle.

The bounce-back Rangers managed to avoid consecutive losses for the first time since Aug. 23-25, a streak that’s kept them out of trouble in the postseason.

The Rangers also completed a Sunday sweep in the matchup of teams from St. Louis and the Dallas area. Earlier in the afternoon, the Cowboys beat the Rams 34-7 right across the parking lots. Hamilton and Lance Berkman served as honorary captains for the pregame coin toss, wearing their baseball uniforms.

Many fans might remember Holland from last year’s World Series. He’s the reliever who came in against San Francisco, walked his first three batters and promptly got pulled.

Maybe that guy was an impostor. Because this 25-year-old lefty with the sorry little mustache was completely poised, with pinpoint control. Perhaps it was the talk he got from Washington near the dugout shortly before taking the mound.

Washington put both hands on Holland’s shoulders and talked to him tenderly, like a dad about to send his teenage son off to college. Holland kept nodding, and Washington finished up with a playful pat to Holland’s cheek.

“He shows that he cares about all his players, and he definitely showed that when he talked to me,” Holland said.

After that, Holland was in total command in his first Series start, and improved to 3-0 lifetime in the postseason. The only hits he allowed were by Berkman: a double in the second and a single in the fifth. Holland got even later, getting Berkman to look at a strike three that left the St. Louis star discussing the call with plate umpire Ron Kulpa.

Cardinals starter Edwin Jackson kept his team close despite a wild night. He walked seven, and eventually they caught up with him.

It was 1-0 when La Russa yanked Jackson after two one-out walks in the sixth and signaled for reliever Mitchell Boggs. Napoli was up, and the sellout crowd chanted his name as he stepped into the batter’s box.

Boggs stayed in the stretch for an extra beat while Furcal ducked behind Nelson Cruz from shortstop. When Boggs finally threw a 95 mph fastball with his first pitch, Napoli whacked it.

Napoli stood at the plate for a moment as the ball sailed deep, just inside the left field line. Boggs could only contort his body, seeing the game get out of hand.

Hamilton forced the Cardinals to play catch-up for the first time in a while. St. Louis had scored first in 10 straight postseason games, one shy of the record set by Detroit during a span from 1972-84.

Elvis Andrus singled with one out in the Texas first and sped home when Hamilton doubled into the right field corner. The reigning AL MVP has been slowed by a strained groin, part of the reason he hasn’t homered in 57 at-bats this postseason.

Cardinals pitcher Chris Carpenter will start game on of the World Series tonight against the Ranger’s C.J. Wilson. Carpenter’s pitching is key to the Cardinals success in the series, along with the rest of their starters. (Photo courtesy of Associated Press)

Photo Credit: Courtesy Photo | Daily Texan Staff

Editor’s Note: Austin Laymance covered the St. Louis Cardinals for three months during his summer internship with MLB.com.

The Cardinals are no strangers to the World Series. But this might be their most improbable run yet.

St. Louis is the only team in Major League history to be 10.5 games out of a playoff birth in August and make it to the Fall Classic. The Cardinals are the hottest team in baseball and are playing their best ball at the right time.

Their bullpen is among the best in the league and their lineup, from top to bottom, has found its swing. The Redbirds have scored in the first inning in each of their last eight playoff games, a postseason record. 

The heart of the batting order — Albert Pujols, Matt Holliday and Lance Berkman — is a nightmare for pitchers. If Texas manager Ron Washington wants to walk Pujols, he better have an answer for the RBI machine that is Holliday and the switch-hitting Berkman.

And don’t forget about David Freese, the hometown hero and National League Championship Series MVP. The oft-injured third baseman is the key to the St. Louis offense. When he’s hitting, the Cards score in bunches.

Freese is just one of a host of Cardinals who spent time on the disabled list this season. St. Louis, though, is a better team because of it.

The Cards also lost Holliday, Pujols, Nick Punto, Gerald Laird, Skip Schumaker, Allen Craig, Kyle McClellan and Lance Lynn to the injuries in 2011. Still, the Redbirds persevered and became the never-say-die team that manager Tony La Russa covets.

The adversity began in spring training, when staff ace Adam Wainwright underwent Tommy John surgery on his right elbow. When the club announced he would miss the entire season, few gave St. Louis any chance of making it this far.

But they did. And they aren’t going to leave quietly.

Veteran right-hander Chris Carpenter gets the ball in Game one. He’s 2-0 this postseason with a 3.71 ERA in three starts. Carpenter shutout the high-powered Phillies in the Divisional round, so he’s capable of silencing the Rangers.

La Russa, though, hasn’t announced his starters for the rest of the series. And that isn’t a surprise. The crafty manager will exploit any advantage he thinks he may have. But Rangers fans should hope they see Jaime Garcia in Arlington. The southpaw is dominant at Busch Stadium but struggles mightily on the road.

The Cardinals rotation has been a model for inconsistency all season. But La Russa is a master at utilizing his bullpen. He’s often credited for the construction of the modern bullpen and has a pair of left-handed specialists ­— Marc Rzepczynski and Arthur Rhodes — lined up for Josh Hamilton.

Rhodes was with Texas earlier in the season before being waived and signing with St. Louis. He’ll get a ring no matter who wins.

It’s hard to think of two franchises with such a stark contrast in pageantry.

The Cardinals have won a record 18 NL pennants and 10 World Series championships — second only to the Yankees.

The Rangers are going to the World Series for the second time in as many years after decades of futility.

While the Cards have several champions on their roster, they acquired a number of players at the trade deadline searching for a title late in their careers. Shortstop Rafael Furcal and relievers Octavio Dotel and Rhodes all came to St. Louis in hopes of a ring. The same rings true for Berkman, who signed with the club in the offseason and recently agreed to an extension.

The Rangers showed interest in Berkman at the trade deadline — funny how baseball works. He’s also a Texas kid who grew up in New Braunfels, went to Rice and started his career in Houston. But this October, the “Big Puma” could upset his fellow Texans.

Pujols will be a free agent at the end of the season, and this could be his last hurray in a St. Louis uniform.

The Cardinals are searching for their 11th World Series title in ‘11. And if you think they can’t beat Texas, consider this: St. Louis has not boarded a plane coming off a loss since August 3. The Cards have dubbed the streak “Happyflight” and chant it after each win before heading home.

Yes, these Redbirds are ready to soar.