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Houston Fans Follow Through

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.

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There’s No Place Like Home!

Can I just say that walking in to the Pro Shop at the Ballpark in Arlington was like heaven! I’ve been surrounded with Angels fans and Angels gear and Angels rally monkeys and Angel Flags and Blah Blah Blah for WAY too long. I needed some Ranger in my life. I actually wanted to buy the whole store but then I couldn’t pay for the rest of my trip, so I settled for a cute Rangers shirt for my little baby nephew to wear to the game when I come to Anaheim. I was really stoked to see some old friends! Like a school reunion! Thanks to Blake Lemons, Drew Smith, Zach McKim, Jordan Hartsell, Caitlin Collins, Mackenzie Johnson, and Shondra Carter for coming out to see me and experience our first game of the trip!

It’s crazy how much you don’t really appreciate things or how you think of them when you grow up next to them. I know people who grew up in LA, but have never been to Hollywood Blvd and people come from all over the globe to just to walk down the street and take pictures of a marble star that people walk all over. The same goes for me I grew up going to Texas games but I had never done the tour. And also explains why I forgot to take lots of pictures and why I forgot to get my MLB passport stamp….dangit.

Well, this time I wasn’t skipping the tour. Bob was our tour guide and he was incredibly knowledgable. We toured with two Detroit fans, and it was fun to poke fun and give each other crap the whole time. My favorite part was getting to sit in the dugout. I kinda went crazy, my heart was beating fast and I was just plain star struck, like a little kid. The Ranger’s picked the first base dugout when the park was first built because it is the first one that gets shade. They are smart. I’m actually upset I didn’t have the courage to leave a love note in Craig Gentry’s helmet! He wears a 7 1/8 inch in case you were curious. Alexi Ogando is currently on the DL and therefore when I brushed shoulders with him in the hallway I was caught way too off guard to even think straight…basically I need to get it together! I learned that there is a room called the Ryan Room right behind the dugout. It doubles as a training room but it was Nolan Ryan’s idea to increase the size of the room to allow pinch runners or new batters or just anyone feeling a little stiff during the game. The suites have names from different Hall of Famers and lots of them played for the Yankees…so of course my Yankee friend Shondra was going crazy about that.

In case you didn’t know: It is up to the starting pitcher what color the Rangers wear for their home games.

The game that we went to was one of the greatest pitching match ups that has happened this season. Darvish VS Verlander. I love that they play Soulja Boy’s “Crank Dat” when Yu pitches, pretty fantastic and made me smile. There was a ton of talk about how Rangers have not had a huge challenge yet this season and blah blah blah…well we rocked Verlander, one of the best pitchers in baseball currently. Until he came to Arlington at least… we put up 8 runs on him the first 3 innings…7 of which came from the 3rd. AND two of them were walked in! BULLPENNNNNNN!!!! He didn’t last past that. And he racked up his second loss in a row.

Darvish lasted a little longer than usual. He threw through the 8th and had a career high of 130 pitches. He allowed 7 hits and 4 runs but with the run support, it was no issue. With a 10-4 win over the Tigers, he is now 7-1 with a 2.97 ERA.

Some of the things that made me feel at home about the park were some things I remembered from being a little girl. When the Tigers went to the bullpen the scoreboard doesn’t let him go easy. They play a cartoon with a Texas Ranger batter with oversized cowboy boots on who stomps to the mound and kicks the opposing pitcher out…and I love it. I can sing my heart out to “Deep In The Heart Of Texas” in the middle of the 5th and there is the Texas Legends race in the middle of the 6th. This is where mascots dressed as Davy Crockett, Jim Bowie, and Sam Houston race around the field. That’s also an exciting experience. If you don’t know who they are…you’re not a Texan so don’t worry about it. I’m wondering if this replaced the dot races that used to happen at the ballpark. They would pass out little Ozarka cards with a red, green, or blue dot and people dressed in Dot Mascots would race around the park. And people would cheer for the card that they got. As a little girl I was sneaky and I would take one of every color…I’m too competitive to lose to my dad and that method was foolproof! At the top of the 7th they do the ‘Steal a Base’ where they have a young kid run from outfield to pick up third base and bring it back and if they do it under a certain time they get to keep it. I’m always jealous of that…I would so get back in time and I want a real base!! Obviously we play “Take Me Out To The Ballgame” during the 7th inning stretch but if you stay standing you can dance to a southern classic “Cotten Eyed-Joe” immediately after.

All of these traditions are what makes one fall in love with their home field. I know that as a 22 year old I can come to the park and sing the same songs and look forward to the same same activities that I did when I was 5. It brings you back to that place and just puts a smile on your face and makes you feel all warm and fuzzy inside.

I loved being back home and I loved watching Texas whoop up on the Tigers. I can’t wait to watch Texas again on Memorial Day.

What I learned from my friends that did the tour with me was that only in baseball do you have a connection between players, fans, and managers. It’s different than other sports. It’s like you can understand one another on a different level and you can feed off their passion.

Well the bar is filling up across the street from Minute Maid! Which tells me its about time I get ready for the game….Rootin for the home team tonight!!! Royals @ Astros