For the Express, there’s nothing quite like opening a season at home


An 8-foot, 800-pound statue of Nolan Ryan will greet fans outside the home plate entrance to Dell Diamond. A lush green playing field and a new sound system have been installed inside the ballpark, along with two additional dining areas.

The Round Rock Express assembled for a workout Tuesday on media day, and next up is opening night on Thursday against the Nashville Sounds.

“We did about our 17th walk-through this morning. We’re ready,” Express president Chris Almendarez said. “Our advance sales are good for the opening series. I expect we’ll have our best crowd Friday night with the fireworks and the start of the weekend.”

The Express expect about 9,000 fans Thursday night and close to 10,000 on Friday and Saturday nights before dropping off for the Sunday matinee. The weather forecast is immaculate for the weekend.

Round Rock opened on the road two of the last three years despite being a warm-weather club, but Pacific Coast League officials have stressed the scheduling complexity of a 16-team, geographically far-flung league that covers three time zones.

The Express led the PCL in home attendance last year, averaging 8,637 tickets sold, and are excited to throw the first pitch at home.

“I think there’s more buzz when you start close to Major League Baseball’s Opening Day,” Almendarez said. “When you’re removed from that by a week, you lose some pizzazz.”

Outfielder Travis Snider, a first-time member of the Express who played in Omaha last year, said, “It makes more sense to open in the warm-weather cities like Round Rock. This is much better than freezing.”

The Express will serve up the heat, the new field, the Austin-based Big House Sound system and these additions:

  • Nolan Ryan’s Beef Fireball Grill in the outfield, with a mini-beer garden.
  • The Hall of Fame Grille in the Intel Club, featuring memorabilia from Ryan’s playing career, signed balls from Joe DiMaggio, Sandy Koufax and other greats.
  • LED lights throughout the stadium and parking lots.
  • Wallpads around the field as a safety measure.
  • Two new retail locations, one down the third-base line and another near the right-field entrance.

Short hops: Manager Jason Wood said Tyler Wagner, 26, who made his big league debut for the Diamondbacks in 2016, will be the Express’ starting pitcher Thursday night. … Keone Kela, 23, who spent the last two years with the Rangers, is the team’s closer, with R.J. Alvarez as his primary setup man. … Texas State alum Jason Martinson, who spent seven years in the Nationals organization, will be the super-utility player and is likely to play nearly every day in the infield.



Reader Comments ...


Next Up in Sports

It’s halftime in the NBA: Team power rankings
It’s halftime in the NBA: Team power rankings

The 34-point hammering absorbed by the Cleveland Cavaliers in Toronto on Thursday night occurred in the 615th game of 1,230 dates on the 2017-18 NBA schedule. The exact midpoint, in other words, of the regular season. So as the up-and-down Cavaliers prepare to host their old friends from Golden State on Martin Luther King’s Birthday, it&rsquo...
Alabama, UCF headline list of college football prediction hits and misses 
Alabama, UCF headline list of college football prediction hits and misses 

Damien Harris burst out of the Alabama locker room moments after the Crimson Tide captured the national championship.  Harris joined his teammates following their thrilling 26-23 overtime win over Georgia at Mercedes-Benz Stadium, but the junior running back had a message for those who doubted this team.   “People said we weren&rsquo...
In this era of progress, good no longer good enough for inconsistent Wizards 
In this era of progress, good no longer good enough for inconsistent Wizards 

The Washington Wizards' dichotomy of past futility and current stability muddles what to think of this strange season. They're in the middle of a period in which they're better and more reliable than they have been in nearly 40 years, and there must be some comfort in knowing their problems aren't as onerous as they used to be. On the other hand, if...
Freeskier Torin Yater-Wallace candid about hardships in film
Freeskier Torin Yater-Wallace candid about hardships in film

Freestyle skier Torin Yater-Wallace has a simple picture in his mind: His family all together in South Korea for the Winter Olympics and watching him compete in the halfpipe. His journey there has been much more complicated.  The family has been through so much over the years — from dad serving time for a white-collar crime to mom dealing...
Mike Zimmer is another coach Jerry Jones whiffed on
Mike Zimmer is another coach Jerry Jones whiffed on

Of the many screw-ups committed by the Pro Football Hall of Fame general manager and president of the Dallas Cowboys over the past two decades, not giving his defensive coordinator even a cursory interview in 2007 will forever remain one of his most perplexing decisions.  In August of 2006, Jerry Jones said of his defensive coordinator, &ldquo...
More Stories