Itâ€™s that time of year again, the Mets make there lone visit to the Lonestar State. I live in Arlington, (three minutes from the Ballpark in Arlington) and make the annual journey south on 45 every year to watch the Mets in person so I too have the experience of being an out of towner. However, since I am a resident of the great state of Texas, I can provide some tips on watching the Mets in Houston and if you plan on attending, shoot me an email.
Houston, while a pretty crappy berg, is actually a solid baseball town, a rarity in the Republic of Texas. Though theyâ€™re anti-Met fervor has cooled since making a failed appearance in the World Series; their once vicious and profane insults have turned to good natured ribbing, even toward a fan in clad in Mets gear.
This year, we have a three game weekend series in Houston. Itâ€™s too early for probable pitching matchups with Pedroâ€™s status in question, but here are the facts.
*Note: all times are in Central Standard Time*
Game 1: 8/01 7:05 CST
Promotions: Berkman Bobblehead (first 10,000); Friday Night Fireworks
Batting practice starts at 3:50 Mets BP starts at 4:50
Game 2: 8/02 6:05 Insulated Travel Mug (first 10,000)
Batting practice starts at 4:40 Mets BP starts at 5:40
Game 3 8/03 1:05 Back-School Backpack First (10,000 kids under 15)
The gates open at 11:35, Iâ€™ve never seen either team take BP, and usually itâ€™s the Astros on the field with their families playing catch with their kids. Do yourself a favor and sleep in.
As far as batting practice goes, Iâ€™ve only ever gotten one autograph (Joe Smith) so BP isnâ€™t a must. I usually have pretty good seats. It is a kick to get close enough to see the Mets up close and personal. Itâ€™s not a must attend, but one BP is always a nice treat.
Why youâ€™d want a Lance Berkman bobblehead doll or an Astros travel mug is beyond me, but if you want one, wearing blue and orange wonâ€™t secure said items. Iâ€™ve shown up for most batting practices and am told they are out as a whole pile of whatever crap theyâ€™re giving away is sitting right next to them.
You should have your tickets already if you plan on attending. If you donâ€™t, and donâ€™t plan on going through one of the wonderful ticket brokers on my sidebar, youâ€™ll be sitting in the upper deck behind the plate or on the first and third base side. Those are terrible seats, and Iâ€™ve sat in Sheaâ€™s upper tank. The views are obstructed and the row numbers are misleading. If you plan on making this series, cough up the extra dough so you arenâ€™t sitting behind a pole or in the stratosphere.
It may be too late for this yearâ€™s series, but next year plan ahead. Register as an Astro fan at the Astroâ€™s website. Theyâ€™ll send you annoying emails about Astro signings and promotional events but the payoff here is theyâ€™ll give you preseason ticket rights. I have either field level or club level seats for each game. Purchasing through these promotional sales for some reason gives you playoff rights. Iâ€™ve only bought tickets to the Mets series every year, but when the Astroâ€™s were fighting the Cardinals for the NL Central in 2006, they sold, and then refunded me playoff tickets.
You can tackle this bad boy a number of ways. Iâ€™ve tried the Super 8/Holiday Inn route and cabbed it to the games, Iâ€™ve tried driving in and paying for parking and either way, youâ€™re going to drop a chunk of change. I recommend the Magnolia (1100 Texas St). Rooms are around $120.00 a night and itâ€™s in walking distance. Itâ€™s a very nice hotel with valet parking. The staffs decent, the rooms are large and hi-speed internet equipped. Either way, youâ€™re going to spend the cash, you might as well walk a few blocks and stay in style.
Concession Stand Food:
This is a tricky proposition. The one thing the Texas Rangers do better than the Astros is stadium food, but thatâ€™s another story for another post in like 3 years when the Mets come back to Arlington. Minute Maid Park food is for the most part god-awful. Just to avoid confusion, Minute Maid Park went to the trouble of naming their concession stands.
Now if you are reading this and saying â€œBut Dan, I canâ€™t possible enjoy a game without waiting on line for an unacceptable amount of time to purchase overpriced mediocre food served by idiots who canâ€™t make change like at Sheaâ€ then, good news for you; the Astros are happy to provide that service for you at no extra charge. If you really like diarrhea, swing by one of these places, youâ€™ll feel at home.
Try to avoid:
Chicken Tenders- Sold in All Aboard Sec. 109- Stay away, itâ€™s tough, over fried, and basically tasteless.
Hotdogs: Union Station- Usually cold frank served on a stale bun. If your pallet is used to Nathanâ€™s Famous, there is no way youâ€™ll enjoy these things.
Pizza- Conductors Hall- Itâ€™s not digestible, itâ€™s DiGiorno.
The safe bet:
If youâ€™re going to eat, stick with the BBQ beef sandwiches at the Maverick Smokehouse in sections 125, 409 and 427. Texans canâ€™t eff up barbeque. The Nachos arenâ€™t bad, but again, itâ€™s hard to screw that up. Why the Astros donâ€™t serve turkey legs is beyond me.
Ah, beer. An essential must for a ball game. The beers are pricey ($7.25 to $7.75 last season), but what did you expect? Do yourself a favor, pony up an extra buck and grab a Shiner.
Those of you who know me, know this is a lightning rod of discussion. New York City may be the Baseball Capital of the World, but itâ€™s also the biggest nanny city in the world. However, fear not, you are in the Republic of Texas. Smoking is allowed in designated areas on all decks. Most areas provide TVâ€™s so if your smoke break runs a little long you wonâ€™t miss a pitch. Smokeâ€™em if youâ€™ve got em!
If you can manage to score tickets anywhere other than the third deck, watching a game in Minute Maid is a real treat. Texas summers are very hot and Houston summers are very humid. Fortunately, someone in Houston thought ahead and designed Minute Maid with a retractable roof so you can enjoy games in 75 degree weather. I suppose they might play some games with the roof open, but Iâ€™ve never been to one. Minute Maid is a very pretty ballpark. Other than the dreaded third deck, there are some other obstructed views like on the first base side of club level. From there you canâ€™t see deep centerfield, which doesnâ€™t seem like a big deal until your centerfielder climbs the ridiculous hill out there and makes a game saving catch. Bottom line is that Minute Maid Park is a beautiful stadium, and the energy inside the place is well worth the visit.
After the Game:
I havenâ€™t really branched out and explored the options in this field. There is one place Iâ€™ve gone to after every Mets victory. The Home Plate Bar and Grill. The prices are kind of high, the service is slow but the feeling of Mets fans packed in an Astroâ€™s bar after vanquishing the opponent has a satisfying sense of conquest.
Home Plate Bar and Grill
1800 Texas Ave
Houston TX 77003
If you are a Houston native or resident and have a better place to dine or have a drink or five, please feel free to add it in the comments section.
There is a high population in the Houston area of a group of people whom refer to themselves as Aggies. You can often spot them wearing maroon and white or, at times, inappropriately dressed in overalls. They’ll have bad haircuts and an unhealthy fetish for collies. I canâ€™t stress this enough, avoid these people. They have nothing useful to add to anything.
I swear to god, that is from something called “Yell Practice”
There you have it folks, everything you need to know about a possible trip to the home of the Houston Astros.
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