My favorite ticket story of my trip so far is how I got the tickets to see the Astros on May 21st.
Obviously, I have been planning this trip for a long time and I have been excited about it for 10 months prior to leaving. And what do you do when you’re excited about something? Talk about it. A couple months before I left on my trip I was doing what I do behind the bar… pourin’ beers, slingin’ drinks, and talkin’ baseball. There was a gentleman drinking Guiness and watching baseball sitting alone at the end of my bar top. He engaged in conversation with me about my trip and seemed to be interested. I found out that he lives in Houston, has been an Astros fan for years and is only in Cali temporarily to take care of his father. He finds out when I plan on hitting Minute Maid Park and then tells me he is a season ticket holder and as long as his brother is not using the tickets that he would give them to me! That is an incredibly nice offer and I was genuinely excited that he would do that. He asked me when I worked next and I told him I work every Friday at the same time. I gave him the benefit of the doubt, and was excited to see him “next time” like he said. A week passed and the next Friday I did not see him…I got a little discouraged, but let’s be honest…Astros tickets wouldn’t be hard to come by. The next Friday I was pretty busy and so when Joseph Lamas sat down it took me a minute to recognize who he was. Before I could ask him what he was drinking he handed me two tickets to the Astros game on Tuesday May 21st! I was ecstatic! I knew it was quite a drive from where he was staying to come all the way to my restaurant. I thanked him over and over again and poured him a Guiness. It was very encouraging to know that a complete stranger had enough faith in me and my dream to not only give me two of his season tickets, but to make the effort to have integrity in his word and make a point to come find me again. This Houston fan taught me that when you have baseball in common with someone, you go the extra mile to help out and to follow through, because you sympathize with their baseball love affair.
Before the game I went on the “official” tour with Blake, as our tour guide. He was witty and sarcastic and had us laughing the entire time.
Minute Maid park’s central office is the old Union Station, and the entire park is built to mimic a train station. The archways and the ambiance of the park definitely gave me a train stationy feel. With the completion of Minute Maid in 2000, it helped business in the south side of downtown. Houston can say they are the only city in the world with two stadiums with retractable roofs, the other being Reliant Stadium home of the Houston Texans NFL team. Most games are played with the roof closed and if needed the park is a hurricane shelter. In Houston that’s an important factor. I did get to see the park with the roof both opened and closed. Watching the roof close was pretty interesting. I also would think that trying to find a fly ball with the roof on would be quite difficult.
My favorite part of Minute Maid park was the plaza outside centerfield. It was a mini park complete with a home plate, stands and statues of two of Houston’s pride: Jeff Bagwell and Craig Biggio. Another favorite was that they paid homage to these two players, Nolan Ryan, and other Astro greats by giving them a Walk of Fame Start so to speak. Their names were listed on the sidewalk inside a concrete carved baseball on the sidewalk of Texas Street.
Worth noting–If you’re looking to grab a drink before or after the game check out Texas Street. I grabbed a good ole Lone Star a the Home Plate Bar & Grill and then walked right across the street to the park. Perfect!
The Astros started as the Houston Buffs minor league team until 1961 and fed the St. Louis Cardinals. Their new logos since moving to the American League are are actually the old school font form this team. They then played as the Colt .45s at Colt .45 Stadium until 1965 when the Astrodome was finished. This was the world’s first domed stadium and the Astro’s got their name from the city’s participation in the space community. This was also the first major installation of ChemGrass, better known as AstroTurf.
Joseph’s tickets were first row right above the home team’s bullpen in centerfield, I definitely wasn’t complaining. We watched Bud Norris warm up before trotting to the mound to get the game against the Royals started. We sat next to another season ticket holder, and his Royals fan friend, Kenny. Kenny was incredibly nice and actually bought us a beer, that’s always greatly appreciated. I learned that the whenever the Astros hit a homer the longhorn that waves a Texas flag on the digital screen was a tradition brought to Minute Maid from the Astrodome. They did the kid that steals a base and gets to take it home if he runs in enough time after the 3rd. If you’re lucky enough to sit in Jack’s Lucky Section you win free Jack In The Box. Possibly my favorite food endorsement…probably because I am obsessed with Chick-fil-A… was the Chick-fil-A foul poles. If an Astro hits a foul pole during a home game fans can you their ticket for a free chicken sandwich the next day. “Chickens are fair, Burgers are Foul.” One thing that really threw me for a loop was the salad bar…it just seems a little out of place. I will definitely be eating hot dogs and drinking beer at my games but I’m sure there are some people thankful for the healthy choice in Houston.
The stadium was not full, at all. It actually made me sad because the park is gorgeous! I was really impressed by the jumbo tron, it was huge and incredibly clear. They also display what type of pitch is thrown next to the speed of the pitch, which I thought was unique. There is a season ticket holder whom all of the Stro’s fan recognize with a sombrero and a HUGE mustache that sits/stands in the home run alley. Home run alley is between left and center field and is also home to the Home Run Pump which counts every home run hit in Minute Maid Park by the home team since the stadium was built. We were lucky enough to watch it go from 1200 to 1201. To go along with the whole train idea of the ballpark there is a train that sits high above home run alley. It looks to be normal size but in reality the wheels are slightly above 5 feet tall, much like the Astro’s 2nd base man, Jose Altuve, and the oranges that the train carries are each the size of a beach ball. Contrary to popular belief, the train is not automatic but actually must be driven by a conductor every time the Stros hit a homer or win a game.
Unfortunately, the home team lost 7-3 while we were in tow. I really do hope that Houston will start to show more love to their team, because I didn’t even feel like I was at a big league game. But, that just proves that there are definitely ups and downs in baseball.