ARLINGTON, Texas -- It wasn't that long ago that you could count sellouts at Rangers Ballpark in Arlington on one or two hands. Each season, you knew Opening Day would be sold out. Big crowds would show up for some holiday dates, including July 4. And the attendance would swell when the Boston Red Sox or New York Yankees arrived.
But for the Yankees or Red Sox, it never seemed like a home-field advantage. There were more Yankee or Red Sox fans than Rangers supporters. And they were loud when their team beat up on Texas. Not anymore.
"I've had a front-row seat to see what this place has become," veteran Michael Young said. "It's been a lot of fun to be a part of it. Our fans have been incredible for the last three or four years. We have a massive home-field advantage because of them. You feel that and so can the teams we play against."
Obviously, winning makes a difference. The Dallas-Fort Worth sports fan cares about the Cowboys first and foremost. But they care about winners, too. And I've always believed this is a baseball town, they just needed a team they believed was capable of winning championships.
The past few seasons have shown that. Traveling around to different parks, I'd put the noise level of Rangers Ballpark in Arlington when the stadium is full -- especially when it's fired up for the postseason -- up against anywhere else in the big leagues. But don't trust me. Rangers players agree and they've said that opponents have shared that same opinion.
"Anytime you can play in front of big crowds, it's stimulating," manager Ron Washington said. "It motivates you. When you can come to the ballpark and you've got fans in the stands and they are loud and they stay to the end -- all of that is a motivating factor. They've played a huge part in our successes the past few years."
Washington said he'll never forget how loud the ballpark was for Game 3 of the 2010 ALDS, the first postseason game since 1999 at the ballpark.
"I've never had chills like that," Washington said. "I just couldn't believe the people that were in the stands. I remember telling my guys: 'If you can't get up for this, I don't know if there's anything that can get you up.' That's how loud and how chilling it was to see all of those people in the stands."
Washington is impressed by the number of fans that keep coming to the ballpark, fighting the heat and traffic to cheer on the club.
"It certainly proves that they are true baseball fans," Washington said. "That's a lot of people, three million. The fans deserve a lot of credit. The players deserve a lot of credit for the entertainment. The organization deserves a lot of credit for putting the entertainment out there. They all work hand-in-hand."
So keep it up, Rangers fans. It's three million and counting and you've helped make Rangers Ballpark in Arlington one of the biggest home-field advantages in the league. I can tell you it sure makes games fun in Arlington.