Finale crowd sets franchise attendance mark

ARLINGTON, Texas -- The hottest summer on record couldn't keep the Texas Rangers down or their fans away. Sunday's regular-season home finale saw the club tie the franchise mark for most home wins in a season and set a new standard for home attendance.

A crowd of 43,508 watched the Rangers blast the Seattle Mariners, 12-5, for the team's 52nd home win of the season. The near-capacity crowd vaulted the 2011 attendance to 2,946,949, the most ever in Rangers history and a 441,778 increase from 2010, the highest increase from one season to the next in Rangers Ballpark history.

The record surpassed the 1997 mark of 2,945,244.

"I think it's pretty amazing when you consider the record heat that we've had here in the Metroplex and all over Texas this year to set the all-time attendance record," team president and CEO Nolan Ryan said. "So that really speaks highly of our fans and the support that they've given us and how they've rallied behind us."

The team and its fans endured a record 27 games when the temperature at first pitch was at 100 degrees or more. Most of those games occurred in August, but some trickled into September when the Rangers went 10-1 at home.

"It's a shame that we had to endure the heat because it would have been nice to see how we could have broken the record this year," Ryan said. "I think we would have broken it substantially if we hadn't been faced with that. I think the team has played really well under those conditions and it speaks volumes for our fans. We are truly appreciative of that."

Just three seasons ago in 2008, the year Ryan joined the club as president, a withdrawn fan base ranked the Rangers 25th of 30 teams in attendance at just under 2 million.

After Friday's series opener against Seattle, a significant number of the more than 40,000 that attended stayed until midnight, watching the Oakland A's defeat the Los Angeles Angels on the new jumbo video board in right field, and then celebrated with the players who watched on the field with family members, the clinching of the American League West division for a second consecutive season.

After Sunday's win to sweep the Mariners, the entire team took to the field and applauded the cheering fans. Soon after, each Rangers player and coach greeted a randomly selected fan at home plate and presented him or her with the shirt off his back, literally, with an autograph included.

"It's fun playing in front of a lot of fans every night," outfielder Josh Hamilton said. "As a player you want to excite people, and the more people that are here to excite and appreciate what you do, we appreciate them coming to the games. We really do. It means a lot to us."

Fans won't know the next time they'll see their team in action at Rangers Ballpark perhaps until the regular-season finale Wednesday night. Texas holds a one-game lead over the Detroit Tigers in the chase for the No. 2 seed and home-field advantage in the American League Division Series..

"I'm real proud of our fan base for doing something like that," Michael Young said. "It's been a scorching summer, but it means a lot to us that every time we come home to our ballpark we have their support. I think our fans now are starting to recognize how much a home-field advantage can mean to a team in baseball. We definitely feed off our crowd. We feed off their energy and that definitely feels good."