Houston's stifling heat? I didn't have to deal with it. While it was 84 degrees at first pitch, it felt cooler than that, thanks to a splendid 12 MPH breeze that was blowing through the stadium. The roof was open; it was a tremendous night for baseball.
Prior to the game, I met with another baseball stranger; a lovely young gal named Gabriela. A transplanted Torontonian, and huge Blue Jays fan, she now calls Houston home. And after vowing on Twitter to buy me a beer on my #TBRTOAL Houston stop, she stayed true to her word. Together we hit up the Home Plate Bar & Grill, adjacent to Minute Maid Park, on Texas Street, where we talked baseball, and life, and where Gabriela treated me to a cheeseburger and fries, and Shiner Bock beer. An amber ale, it's proudly brewed in Shiner, TX. Another Texan beer on tap at Home Plate is Lone Star, brewed by Miller in Forth Worth, TX.
The food was decent and, if you're in the area, you might want to give B.U.S. Bar a whirl. It's next door to Home Plate Bar & Grill. Also: if you're looking for a place to stay, and don't mind abusing your wallet as much I do, check out Inn at the Ballpark. It's a stones throw from Minute Maid Park, baseball themed, and came highly recommended. I thought about it, but couldn't do much more than that; no vacancy.
After our healthy meal, Gabriela and I headed across the street to Minute Maid Park's box office. The cheapest seats in the house? Seven dollars. But we got an even better deal than that: free! As we waited in line, a gentlemen -- sent none other than by the baseball gods -- walked up to us and said: "I've got four tickets. They're yours if you want them." After making sure there was indeed no catch, because there's always a catch, there we were, the two of us, with four free tickets to our names.
The ducats were good, too: $39 Field Box seats, and only seven rows from the field. But, with only minutes before game time, we had to get rid of two of them. We tried a tent across the street from Minute Maid Park's main entrance, where, oddly enough, two ticket scalpers -- a man and woman tandem, possibly husband and wife -- had set up shop and were, I guess, "working." I stepped into their office --the back of the tent -- and, in the end, managed to pry $15 out of them, instead of the insulting $10 I was initially offered. It wasn't a lot, and hardly a fair deal for $78 seats, but with the game set to begin, it was better than nothing. The money went to Gabriela for our meal, and, either way we looked at it, we were ahead of the game.
And upon our arrival at our seats in right field, we felt that much better about our circumstances. Check out the view:
The Juice Box
I quickly became a fan of Minute Maid Park. And it had nothing to do with the fact I got into the building for free; I swear. (FYI: Indian people really, really love free things. Free anythings.)
Some people find the train, an 1860s replica, that runs atop the left field wall tacky. Me? I loved it. I mean, honestly, who doesn't like trains? Terrorists. They don't like trains. Probably because they didn't have a miniature train set to play with growing up. But that's a whole other story. Anyway: awesomely overpaid Houston Astro Carlos Lee made sure I saw that train, along with it's tender filled with oranges, in motion, after he sent a home run to left field in the 5th inning. Thanks, Carlos Lee. You and your six-year, 100 million dollar contract are not appreciated very much in Houston, but your efforts during my trip to H-Town won't soon be forgotten.
You might be wondering why that train is up there, in left field. I'll tell you. Minute Maid Park, also affectionately known as "The Juice Box," is now attached to what used to be Houston's Union Station. It's all about history, folks. And Union Station, once upon a time Houston's main rail station, has been restored thanks to the ballpark, and now serves as one of its main entrances. There's more: attached to both the stadium and Union Station is Lefty's BBQ, a perfect spot to grab a brew, or a meal, before, during, or after the game.