Following a day of activities in the Houston area, we relaxed for a bit before heading out to Minute Maid Park for an evening contest between the Anaheim Angels and Houston Astros. We had been to Minute Maid Park once before, in September 2003. Having arrived just before game time back then, we didn’t leave ourselves time to truly explore the stadium. We planned to make up for that oversight.
1. Minute Maid Park
We arrived about two hours before game time, not long after the gates opened. There was plenty of parking at a reasonable prices less than two blocks from the stadium, though I’m sure our early arrival made finding parking much earlier. Almost like an omen, my brother had difficulty having his ticket scanned from his phone. As it turned out, we had to scan a paper copy of the ticket to allow him enter Minute Maid Park. The callousness of the ticket staff was dismaying, but we let it go fairly quickly as we toured the inside of the stadium.
Much had changed, but there were still many of the landmarks we saw in 2003. Gone was the flag pole in centerfield (no tears shed here), but the train on the left field wall was still present. The evening weather was as good as could have been hoped, and the roof was open for the game.
Following a quick trip to the concession stand for dogs and drinks, we went in search out our seats. The stadium looked much bigger with the roof open (back in 2003, the roof was closed until the 7th inning), something we did not get to experience much in our previous visit. We sensed some trouble not long after settling into our seats. The people behind us were drunk and rowdy, and I began to get a sinking feeling, as though the experience was about to be ruined.
My fears were realized shortly after the first pitch, when one of the drunk fans vomited on us, with my brother taking the brunt. The fan explained it was his birthday, and he had too much to drink. His companion, also visibly drunk, starting screaming at the top of her lungs. Trying to be kind, I asked her to tone it down a bit, but I was told something I’d prefer not to write here.
Finally, I asked an usher to intervene. The usher talked to her, and tried to explain that she was just enthusiastic about the game. Dejected, my brother and I actively considered leaving, in order to maintain civility. The usher promised to watch over her, and eventually he did admonish her for her behavior. After that, the circumstance changed, and we were able to enjoy the game. Overall, I was disappointed by the response to the aberrant behavior, leaving me with a negative early opinion of Minute Maid Park.
With most of the unpleasantness out of the way, we did our best to enjoy the game and the ballpark. In addition to seeing Mike Trout live for the first time, we also got to see Shohei Ohtani start for the Angels. Considering the amount of hype following him, I felt lucky to see him so early in his MLB career.
Unfortunately, Ohtani did not have his best stuff that night, grinding out 5 1/3 innings, giving up four runs on six hits and five walks. However, the Astros pitching wasn’t much better, and the game took on the feel of a burgeoning slugfest. Angels SS Andrelton Simmons hit a ball completely out of Minute Maid Park (which only seems possible with the roof open), part of a two HR, 5 RBI night.
Simmons’ second HR night, a three run shot in the seventh inning put the game out of the reach. In total, 11 pitchers were used in the game. As it typical when this many pitchers are used, the game slowed to a crawl at times. On this pleasantly evening, in this beautiful ballpark, the pace of play was not as draining as it can be.
Following the last out, we exited the park and headed back to the hotel. Minute Maid Park is a beautiful place, but the fan unfriendly actions of just two took away from the experience. The Astros’ response was also distressing, leaving me with an overall negative feeling about the night. Hopefully the matinee tomorrow afternoon can wash away the unsettling vibe from tonight.