Athens Review, Athens, Texas

December 26, 2013

Take me out to the ballgame

Chad Wilson
The Athens Review

Athens — There are few, if any, places that mean as much to me as Rangers Ballpark in Arlington.

Funny thing is, it has little to do with the results of the games played on the field.

Long before the park opened on my birthday, April 11, 1994, my dad was a key figure in making sure Ranger fans had a home to be proud of.

Brownsboro High School graduate, Marshall Edward Wilson, Jr., helped build Rangers Ballpark and his name is forever enshrined near the first base entrance on a display for those who helped build the park.

As a young boy, I can remember my dad bringing home the blueprints from the ballpark, telling stories of the players who toured the facility and bringing home several momentos.

In fact, my dad was there as Juan Gonzalez, Pudge Rodriguez and other heavy hitters took part in a homerun derby while the stadium was still being constructed.

He watched in amazement as the ball flew out of the park and wondered what it might be like when 40,000 people filled the stands for a game.

Following the event my dad watched as Pudge was interviewed by local media. Shortly after, he received an autographed ball from the catcher.

Once the stadium was complete my dad loved attending games each year, setting high above the action in the “nose-bleed” seats. There is really not a bad seat in the house.

From tours around the park to listening to stories by my dad, a lifetime of memories are housed in Arlington.

Memories I will cherish forever as my dad unexpectedly died on his birthday last week. He was 56 years old.

He loved baseball, but more importantly he loved his kids.

Yes, we spent family outings at Six Flags, Lake Lewisville and other family-fun venues, but Rangers Ballpark is where the magic took place.

Sitting in the outfield bleachers as a young child on bat day with my dad, brother and sister making tons of noise, to attending the Rangers’ playoff game against the Tampa Rays in 2010, we have many fond memories of the park.

One of my top memories came in 2006 when I covered my second game as a member of the press and my dad was right there with me at the ballpark.

Our journey had come full circle. He helped build the park and now, his oldest son, was there working as well.

I enjoyed the experience as I was positioned as close to the field as possible in the photo well while my dad was seated in his favorite spot - high above the action in the nose bleed seats.

Later in life I met my wife for the first time on my way to the ballpark. Our first date, yep, Rangers Ballpark in Arlington.

While I proposed to her elsewhere, we did go to the ballpark later that day.

A new generation of the family, my nephew Hunter, fell in love with the ballpark on his first trip.  

My dad was there to watch his grandson’s eyes light up as a babe, that experience was priceless.