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MLB playoffs back at the Globe with Texas Rangers part of them, and not neutral 3 years after COVID

There was a World Series and other postseason games played at Globe Life Field even before Texas Rangers fans got to see their own team do anything in the stadium with a retractable roof.

And who knew back in 2020 that World Series MVP Corey Seager had already picked out a locker in the home clubhouse that would become his own.

Three years after MLB’s neutral-site World Series during the COVID-19 pandemic in the stadium that was then brand new, the postseason is back. The hometown Rangers, with Seager in his second season as their shortstop, will play their first playoff games there before a full house.

“This is what I’ve envisioned so many times when I’ve walked in there and just looked around,” Rangers general manager Chris Young said Monday, a day before Game 3 of the American League Division Series against Baltimore. “Just to have a packed house full of 40,000 fans rocking and cheering on their home team, I think it’s just great for our community.”

After the Rangers played all 30 of their home games during the abbreviated 2020 regular season without fans, the stands were also empty that October when hosting the National League Division Series. The stadium was then limited to about 25% capacity for the NL Championship Series and World Series, averaging around 11,000 fans for each of those games.

The Los Angeles Dodgers won all three of those series during a 16-game stretch on way to their first world title since 1988.

“We were essentially in a bubble. And it was us and our families and the other team, ironically, and we were all together,” Dodgers manager Dave Roberts said. “There was no travel. There were no distractions. It was sort of point A to point B. And so I think that that was galvanizing for our team. We spent a lot of time at Globe Life. … The no fans early and then there were fans, just certainly a unique experience.”

Only weeks before being hired by his hometown Rangers in 2020, Young was MLB’s senior vice president of baseball operations and directly involved in baseball’s most unusual postseason.

Before Texas played Game 3 against the Orioles with the opportunity to complete a sweep and advance to its first ALCS since 2011, Young reflected on how special it was during the pandemic to be able to play the World Series.

Young said so many groups worked together to make it happen, from MLB, the Rangers and the city of Arlington, to the Major League Baseball Players Association, the owners and the league’s broadcast partners.

“Everybody came together to give people entertainment at a time it was desperately needed,” Young said. “Everybody knew our country needed it.”

Braves catcher Travis d’Arnaud most remembers that there seemed to be a definite crowd advantage for the Dodgers in 2020, when Atlanta played them in a seven-game NLCS.

“It was the first game all year they allowed fans in the park,” d’Arnaud said. “For me, there was actually more Dodgers fans, so it sounded like a home game for them. With 10,000 people, it got pretty loud. So I can’t imagine how loud it’s gonna get there with a full stadium.”

The Rangers had 15 sellouts at home this year, and expect another one for their first playoff game after having to start this postseason on the road. They swept the Wild Card Series in Tampa Bay, then won the first two ALDS games in Baltimore.

There is a new excitement around the team that lost 102 games in 2021, the first time fans got to watch them play at Globe Life, and before Seager ($325 million over 10 years) and second baseman Marcus Semien ($175 million, seven years) signed in free agency.

Seager has the same locker he used throughout the 2020 postseason, when the Dodgers occupied the home clubhouse and he was the MVP in both the NLCS and World Series.

Texas still didn’t have a winning record in its first season with the All-Star middle infielders, but then focused on pitching in another spending spree last offseason. That included signing two-time Cy Young Award winner Jacob deGrom, though he last pitched in April before elbow surgery, and ALDS Game 3 starter Nathan Eovaldi, a Texas native and All-Star this year, plus the hiring of three-time World Series champion manager Bruce Bochy.

“For Ranger fans, hopefully they’re really excited because it’s been a little while,” Bochy said. “To have the first (playoff game) here, I’m honored to be part of that. And to be part of, you know, what’s going on right now.”

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AP Sports Writers Beth Harris and Paul Newberry contributed to this report.

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