ARLINGTON (CBSDFW) – February 1990, an 11-year-old Rangers fan wants nothing more than to celebrate his birthday at Arlington Stadium. As that’s not possible since it was the off-season, he accepts the next best thing – going to Bobby V’s.
The restaurant, named for then-manager Bobby Valentine, was a shrine to all things Rangers. It was just an exit down from the stadium too, so it was almost as good as going.
On any given night you might just meet Bobby V while he was gladhanding and signing autographs underneath the jerseys, baseball cards and TV’s. I was fortunate enough on that storied February night to meet him.
Flash forward to 2012. Valentine hasn’t been the Rangers manager in 20 seasons, but he still holds a part of baseball lore in Arlington as the Rangers’ longest-serving manager. And while the I-30 and Collins location of Bobby V’s is now part of the interstate off-ramp, Valentine’s namesake restaurant is still proudly serving Rangers fans in South Arlington.
I’ve visited the Bowen Road and I-20 location a few times since returning to North Texas in 2007. The boxing ring is still there, the jerseys are still along the wall, and the baseball cards are still shellacked to the table. I love going in there, and with Valentine now in a different uniform, I wanted to find out if the place was turning into a refuge for Red Sox Nation.
I talked with Bobby V’s manager Scott Hennigan, who says while they’re not becoming a Red Sox bar, all fans are still welcome. “We’ll get a lot of Red Sox fans in, people ask about Bobby all the time. But we’re still 100% a Rangers bar,” he assured me.
Bobby V’s is the prototype for every sports bar you’ve ever been to. From the covered walls to TV’s every way you look, Hennigan says with the thousands of bits of memorabilia around he sees something new every day.
He adds with Valentine’s success in Japan, the restaurant has been a draw for Japanese fans for quite a while. “Japanese fans have been coming for a while – even Ichiro Suzuki came when he first came up,” he says of the Mariners star player, the first Japanese superstar to come over to the Major Leagues.
This season, Hennigan says, they expect quite a few more fans with Darvish. They even already had quite a bit over the first few games.
“With Yu Darvish playing, we’ve gotten a lot of Japanese tourists coming here because of Bobby’s reputation over there. He’s so well loved over there.”
And while Valentine may not be beloved by Red Sox fans, especially after Tuesday’s 18-3 Rangers home run derby, the folks at Bobby V’s are at least hoping the man does good up in Boston, but not too good. “That may be tougher for Rangers fans to accept. We’ll root for Bobby, but we won’t be too blatant about it,” Hennigan laughs.
And as the Rangers have done well, Bobby V’s has done well. Hennigan says during the World Series last year, people packed the bar cheering for the Rangers. He says the climactic moment of the 2010 ALCS against Alex Rodriguez sent the building into an uproar. “It still gives me chills… It’s so much fun here when the Rangers are doing well, when everyone’s cheering and having a good time, there’s no better place to watch the game, except maybe the ballpark.”
And as the season begins the Rangers are doing well, and they’re on their way to hopefully having a successful year. Hennigan hopes the same can be said for his Arlington icon. “Obviously our business goes up when they’re good. So we certainly want them to do good for as long as they can.”
If you want to visit Bobby V’s Sports Cafe, it is located at 4301 S. Bowen Road in Arlington, just north of Interstate 20. You can find out more on their website bobbyvsports.com.