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TX Rangers hope for rare repeat as World Series champs

AILSA CHANG, HOST:

The Texas Rangers are still riding the high from last year's first-ever World Series win. They opened the baseball season last night with a dramatic win over the Chicago Cubs. And as Toluwani Osibamowo of member station KERA reports, it has fans hopeful that Texas can repeat as champs this season.

TOLUWANI OSIBAMOWO, BYLINE: More than 40,000 fans filled Globe Life Field in Arlington, Texas, last night to cheer on their hometown championship team.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

UNIDENTIFIED SPORTS FAN: Yeah, baby. See how we do it? We turn it up.

OSIBAMOWO: Fans watched the Rangers get their first-ever Commissioner's Trophy and saw their World Series Champions banner unfurled from the right field rafters. This game had it all, including the season's first walk-off hit that won the game 4-3 in the bottom of the 10th. The Texas crowd was on edge after a disputed call by the home plate umpire and a mistake by catcher Jonah Heim allowed Chicago to take the lead in the ninth. Heim thought the ball was dead, but it wasn't. But Heim redeemed himself with a two-out single to win it. After the game, he said the win was extra special after unveiling the banner in front of the largest regular-season crowd since the stadium opened.

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JONAH HEIM: It was special to be able to celebrate this night with not only our teammates, but with our fans. We wouldn't be here without them, and I hope they enjoyed it as much as we did. And it was a truly special night.

(CROSSTALK)

OSIBAMOWO: An expectant hope filled the air throughout Opening Day. Tailgaters like Dave Lara lined the grass outside the stadium, reveling in the joy of finally being fans of a world championship team. The Arlington native says the come-from-behind win was made even better by celebrating it among family and friends who were together for the World Series win and joined him again on opening day.

DAVE LARA: That's the best part - is being able to slap them in the face, saying, yeah, we won - pssh - yeah - you know, that kind of stuff and just being silly. And we just love having - you know, being able to share it with all of our friends and stuff like that. It means a lot.

OSIBAMOWO: Even Cubs fans, including Marissa Lopez and her family, were enjoying the afternoon sun and the infectious Rangers pride.

MARISSA LOPEZ: It's opening day, which is exciting for everybody. I love that the Rangers and the Cubs are the same colors. But the most important part is bringing our family out, having a good time and enjoying the game as well.

OSIBAMOWO: This new season gives the Rangers an opportunity to become the first team to win back-to-back World Series in nearly 25 years. The team made back-to-back Fall Classic appearances in 2010 and 2011, but lost both times. But some fans are confident the Rangers can get there again - and win. For Laura Reta, it comes down to good pitching.

LAURA RETA: I definitely feel like outfield is taking advantage. Like, it's good - that's also 'cause I'm a big Garcia fan. Love you, Adolis. But, yeah, just maybe - just making sure our pitching stays consistent.

OSIBAMOWO: Velika Harris says she's looking forward to seeing what young center fielder Evan Carter has in store this season.

VELIKA HARRIS: Well, like, he did win the World Series, you know? When he stepped up to the plate, he got a hit when we needed it. He got a play in the field when we needed it, you know? He was a big part of the win, in my opinion.

OSIBAMOWO: Juan Aranda says he just hopes the team stays injury-free.

JUAN ARANDA: And hopefully, if some of that happens, it happens early, where it gives us an opportunity to bounce back, recuperate, rehab and be back for the postseason.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "WE ARE THE CHAMPIONS")

QUEEN: (Singing) 'Cause we are the champions...

OSIBAMOWO: The Rangers will celebrate again this weekend, when the players get to show off their championship rings before their second game against the Cubs Saturday night.

For NPR News, I'm Toluwani Osibamowo in Arlington, Texas.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC) Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by an NPR contractor. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.

Toluwani Osibamowo
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