2 new parks take the field to applause


April 15, 1994|By Mark Hyman | Mark Hyman,Sun Staff Writer The Dallas Morning News and Cleveland Plain Dealer contributed to this article.

It's the week's most intriguing story -- from an unheralded rookie on a home run tear to a key development in baseball labor talks. This week, In the Spotlight shines on the grand openings of heralded, new ballparks in Cleveland and Arlington, Texas.

Picture this.

Opening Day at new Jacobs Field. Cleveland Indians owner Dick Jacobs, proud papa of the ballpark that bears his name, was standing outside the handsome stone-and-block structure feeling great about his contribution to the city skyline.

A shy and somewhat reclusive man, Jacobs was signing autographs when an Indians fan approached and told him: "I saw your statue."

Jacobs seemed confused for a moment, then figured out what the fan was talking about. "That's not me," he said. "That's Bob Feller."

"Who are you?" replied the fan.

Maybe a new ballpark can't buy fame for an owner, but it has brought sellout crowds and surging interest in two big-league towns -- Cleveland and Arlington, Texas. State-of-the-art stadiums made their debuts in both places last week to overwhelmingly favorable reviews.

The Rangers officially took the wraps off The Ballpark in PTC Arlington on Monday, losing to the Milwaukee Brewers before a franchise-record 46,056. The huge opening crowd hardly came as a surprise, considering that a few days earlier a workout and home run-hitting contest in the new stadium attracted 13,643, more than that day's paid attendance at the NBA Mavericks' game.

Monday's opener was dampened by an accident in which a fan posing for a picture in the upper deck tumbled over a railing. The fan, who fell 30 feet, is in serious condition with broken ribs and a broken right arm.

The best things about The Ballpark, a Camden Yards disciple, down to the brick and arched exterior, seem to be the lower deck seating. Sightlines are great, even down into the right- and left-field corners, a statement that the proprietors of Oriole Park cannot make.

The Orioles get their first look at the Texas ballpark tonight. It'll be interesting to hear their reactions and listen to their comparisons between Camden Yards and this one.

Not surprisingly, the Texas players love their new home.

"Best in baseball, by far," pitcher Kenny Rogers said. "This outdoes them all."

Jacobs Field already has edged ahead of The Ballpark in one important category: presidential visits. On Opening Day in Cleveland, Bill Clinton strolled to the mound and distinguished himself in the first-ball ceremonies, throwing a strike to catcher Sandy Alomar.

"It started high," said the chunky southpaw from Arkansas.

Clinton couldn't make the opener in Arlington, but then again he wasn't really invited. The president isn't a favorite of Rangers general partner George W. Bush, whose father lost an election to Clinton not long ago.

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