June 12, 1997, was a day that changed regular season Major League Baseball. And the Texas Rangers and Arlington helped usher in the era known as Interleague Baseball.
Do you remember the Texas Rangers opponent? It was the San Francisco Giants. I wasn’t living in North Texas at the time. But as a big Texas Rangers fan, I wasn’t going to miss baseball history.
Interleague baseball holds intrigue for both the casual and diehard fan. American League and National League teams see each other a few more times than during spring training, the All-Star Game and the World Series.
I like to see how the National League team reacts to playing under American League rules. If the A.L. team is the home team, the N.L. team has to play with a designated hitter.
If the A.L. team is playing in the N.L. park, the designated hitter sits on the bench and the pitcher has to bat.
And that is the beauty of interleague play. Strategy comes into play during May, June and July when Interleague games are usually played.
For the A. L. team playing in the N. L. park, when do you pull the starting pitcher if your team is behind and his spot is coming up in the batting order? It’s a different type of baseball thinking and strategy that we may not be used to.
It keeps the game fresh. That’s a win for baseball. Diehard baseball fans who get used to thinking about the style of just one league, now approach the game with a different perspective.
Major League Baseball was wise to modify who the teams played to include more in-state rivalries. For example, look at the first night of the 2012 Interleague schedule. Texas versus Houston. Baltimore against Washington. Los Angeles Angels taking on San Diego. The Northside/Southside rivalry in Chicago between the Cubs and White Sox.
Natural in-state, and in some cases cross-town, rivalries are finally playing out in front of the fans. It builds up more interest in the game for the casual fan. That’s a win for baseball.
The Rangers will see the Astros a lot more starting next year when Houston moves to the A.L. West. I hope the teams agree to keep the Silver Boot series alive. It’s a nice symbol of pride that goes beyond the box score and the standings.
That means Texas will have to find a new Interleague rival. Maybe it’ll be the Colorado Rockies? Or will another team step up to capture the imagination of Rangers fans? We’ll have to wait and see.
Interleague Baseball has withstood the test of time and scrutiny of baseball purists and the casual observers. It deserves to be a part of Major League Baseball’s yearly lineup.