The swings are rusted, the wood is splintered and the slides don't run as fast as they once did.
The playground we grew up visiting will soon be replaced by a new one across the street. Sure, it might be shinier, the air conditioning will be nice, and who wouldn't like that soft surface that goes into playgrounds now? But it won't be the same.
Globe Life Park in Arlington, the park North Texans my age grew up in, will host its last Major League Baseball game on Sunday.
My dad is John Blake, or @RangerBlake since July 2009, and he worked for the Texas Rangers from 1984–2004, and again from 2009 until today.
I was born in 1989 and the then–named Ballpark in Arlington opened in 1994. The stadium that helped keep baseball in Arlington really felt like my childhood playground. And while it often seems like the club played mostly bad baseball at its second home, the Rangers actually finished above .500 12 times in 26 seasons.
One of the first baseball memories I can summon is from when I was 7 years old, at the first-ever interleague game. I got to see Barry Bonds, a player American League fans had only ever watched on TV, in person. It was a big deal. I also won't forget where I was the night the Rangers beat the New York Yankees in Game 6 of the 2010 ALCS to clinch their first World Series berth. I was in college and (regrettably) decided to follow through with my commitment to cover an area high school football game.
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I knew the game's outcome before I got in the car, but teared up when I heard Eric Nadel's voice replayed over and over on the drive home.
"Strike three called! The Rangers are going to the World Series!"
To this day, it's one of the most beautiful things I've ever heard.
I don't know if I've ever experienced more communal elation than after Nelson Cruz hit a walk-off grand slam to beat the Detroit Tigers in Game 2 of the 2011 ALCS. I don't know if I've ever been more dejected than I was flying home from St. Louis after Game 7 of the 2011 World Series.
The highs were high, but the lows… well, you know.
The ballpark witnessed its share of bad baseball, including a stretch from 2000 through 2003 in which the Rangers averaged 90 losses a year, as the team essentially tried to prove that pitching didn't matter.
Sure there were players such as Rafael Palmeiro, Alex Rodriguez, Ivan Rodriguez and Mark Teixeira on those teams, but the Rangers also gave 450 or more plate appearances in those seasons to at least one of Luis Alicea, Frank Catalanotto, Royce Clayton, Gabe Kapler and Herbert Perry.
But the pitching. It's always been the pitching.
In that four-year stretch, Texas gave 20 or more starts to pitchers who posted an ERA over 6.00 (6.00!) five times. The illustrious list: Colby Lewis, Darren Oliver (twice), Kenny Rogers and Ismael Valdez. Coincidentally, or at least ironically, two of those men — Lewis and Oliver — were key contributors to Texas' pennant-winning teams in 2010 and 2011.
Even though the team sometimes left a little to be desired, the Rangers rarely failed to showcase an awe-inspiring hitter in a given year. From Juan Gonzalez and Pudge Rodriguez earning MVP honors in the late '90s, to Alex Rodriguez, Josh Hamilton and Adrian Beltre after the turn of the century, we've been fortunate enough to see some incredible individual feats.
We were fortunate to see other moments too.
We saw Rogers' 1994 perfect game and the 1995 All-Star Game. We saw Palmeiro's 500th home run, Sammy Sosa's 600th home run and Beltre's 3,000th hit. We watched the consistency of Michael Young and Hamilton's meteoric five-year run.
But even more than the games and the players, I'll remember the feeling the stadium evoked in me; the sharp scents of pine tar and ever-present stadium hot dogs still takes me to that place. It was summer.
The ballpark is my mom dropping me off early for Saturday home games to watch batting practice. It's the late-night walks with my dad from the press box back to the club's center field office building after games. It's car rides home to our house in Irving, listening to the postgame call-in show on the radio, while I offered my 12-year-old opinion on what the team should do with Joaquin Benoit or Kevin Mench (forgot about them, didn't you?).
It's the offseason hitting sessions in the batting cages underneath the stadium, followed — importantly — by lunch at the TGI Fridays that once sat atop the Home Run Porch in right field.
It's the second family that came together from March through September every year, a clan that included people like Gerry Fraley, Evan Grant, Tom Grieve, Chuck Morgan, Nadel, Taunee Taylor, Rich Rice and countless others.
The ties run deep through my whole family. The ballpark was the site of multiple childhood birthday parties, my sister's wedding reception and my mom's surprise birthday party.
Was I fortunate to have more access to the Rangers than the average kid? Absolutely.
Are the feelings I have toward the stadium that different than other fans my age? Probably not.
Before you become a teenager, and you're "too cool" for everything, there's no bigger thrill than getting to the ballpark early to watch Juan, Pudge and Raffy take batting practice; everyone has second-guessed Johnny Oates' or Ron Washington's decisions on the car ride home and a lot of kids have had their dads throw them batting practice.
So, do yourself a favor and go watch Rougned Odor and Elvis Andrus take BP at the ballpark this weekend, and while you're at it, second guess Chris Woodward's in-game decisions.
Because the park we grew up at will soon be replaced.
Take one last ride on the rusty swing, grab hold of the top and heave yourself down that slide that's lost its slickness and take in baseball at Globe Life Park in Arlington one more time.