ARLINGTON — A baseball game in early July at Rangers Ballpark in Arlington gave more than 4,500 West residents and emergency responders a much-needed respite Saturday night.As Mayor Tommy Muska said, they have known no normalcy since the April 17 fertilizer plant explosion wiped out several city blocks, left 15 people dead and injured more than 200 others.Its been 21/2 months of a nightmare, said Muska, whose own home, he later said, sustained more than $200,000 in damage and is two months away from being ready. Tonight were going to have fun. Its important for our citizens to have something to take their minds off it. They need it for their mental psyche.Mayor Pro Tem Steve Vanek, who attended the game with his family, added that having a place to congregate with loved ones was meaningful.So many people lost their homes, he said. Its been hard to find gathering places.Between innings along the upper concourse from Section 301 to Section 317 they gathered, sharing hugs and smiles and joy.The Rangers, who furnished game tickets, T-shirts and food coupons, honored the volunteer firefighters and paramedics who died in the blast with a slide show on the ballparks massive video screen and a moment of silence, and welcomed those who survived onto the field, where outfielder David Murphy and team CEO Nolan Ryan shook their hands. There wasnt a dry eye, PeeWee Adamson of West said. Im glad I had sunglasses on. Its good to see that people outside the community care about us, too.Designated hitter Lance Berkman, who like Murphy has ties to the Waco area, presented West fire officials with the key to a firetruck he is donating to the city. The Arlington Fire Department acquired the refurbished pumper on behalf of the Rangers. The Rangers club, players, sponsors and fans combined to donate nearly $200,000 for various needs in West.Theres so much bad in the world, Vanek said, but there are also a lot of good people.Former Rangers player Scott Podsednik, who grew up in West, turned emotional when he talked about the impact the disaster has had on the close-knit town. The Rangers, he said, connected with the town in a way it understood.West is a little bit of a sports town, he said. We love our baseball.
Patrick M. Walker, 682-232-4674 Twitter: @patrickmwalker1