When I decided to start my trip to Texas in Houston it was with baseball and football schedules in mind. The plan was to fly into town midday on Saturday in plenty of time for a Saturday night ballgame. Then a playoff race between the two teams I was slated to see conspired to have the game moved up six hours for national television. With a few strokes of luck, my flight was on time, there wasn’t too much traffic on the way in from the airport and after quickly dropping my bags at the hotel, I arrived in my seat moments before first pitch between the Rangers and the Astros.
So although I got cheated out of watching batting practice and wandering around the park pre-game, I was comfy in my upper deck seat as the game got underway. It was lucky that I got there in time as the game got off to a rip roaring start. Texas scored three in the top of the first and the Astros responded with a mammoth homerun in the bottom of the inning.
With every Astros homerun, a train carrying oranges (Minute Maid owns the naming right to the park) moves along a track above the left field fence in an apparent nod to the old Union Station that was incorporated into the design of the stadium. This game let me see that train go back and forth a bunch of times.
The stadium has a few other design quirks, like the steep hill and flagpole in the field of play in deep centre field about 430 feet from home plate.
There are also the “Fowl” poles down each line sponsored by Chick-fil-A with cows encouraging you to eat chicken rather than beef. This was probably the ballpark with the most ads of any I’ve been to.
As I didn’t have a chance to wander the park before first pitch, I moved around a bit to take in the game from a couple of vantage points. From down the first base line in the upper deck, the view was pretty solid. With the glass behind the left field wall and a bright day outside I found I could track fly balls better than my ticketed seat behind home.
… and it was a good day to be able to track fly balls. Seven total homeruns, six by the Astros, including what amounted to the game winning bomb by Colby Rasums down the right field line in the bottom of the 7th. Here are the fans celebrating as he rounds third on his HR trot:
That put the Astros up 8-4 as I took another seat high up on the third base side of the stadium for the 8th inning. The seat on this side was pretty nice too with a great view of the enormous scoreboard in right field.
The Astros tacked on another run as it went into the top of the 9th. The home fans were confident, and many headed to the exits. Some even stopped to take a selfie thinking the result was no longer in doubt….
I walked down a level to watch the last out from a slightly better vantage point that would hopefully give me a jump on getting to a local BBQ joint a bit ahead of others who stayed in their seats. Little did I know I’d end up standing here for 20 minutes watching the Rangers close the gap to 9-7, all with two outs. They even managed to get the tying run to the plate:
With a change of pitchers, the Astros finally managed to stop the rally sending their fans home happy (though grumbling a bit about their bullpen) and me sprinting toward a much needed feed of Texas barbeque in the neighbourhood. This was about as entertaining a ballgame as you could see – a game that mattered in the race for the playoffs, moonshot homeruns, lots of runners on base and the lead bouncing back and forth through the middle innings. So glad my plane landed on time!