Took this picture on dollar hot dog night, 40 minutes after accepting free tickets from a friend. Sometimes life hands you some great gifts.
Stadium Name: Minute Maid Park
Location: Houston, Texas
Team: Houston Astros
Stadium Rating: A-
First Game: Too many to count
Oh, the juice box.
While not the number one park on my list, Minute Maid is the one I consider “home.” No, I’m not the biggest Astros fan, though I am pulling for them to win the title in 2017. (The Braves will win soon enough)
I have been to at least 10 games at Minute Maid through the years, if not more. While I was an intern in Houston in the summer of 2015, I went to five Astros games, all wins. In fact, I haven’t been to a Major League game where the home team lost in at least 10 straight (five this last summer in Colorado, but I’ll touch on that down the line).
The closest stadium to where I grew up, Minute Maid was and still is a place that I love going to. The Crawford Boxes, Tal’s Hill (r.i.p.), the Friday Night Fireworks, the secret hot dog stand that I frequented, it’s all part of what I love at Minute Maid.
Though I can’t remember my first game, I do have a favorite memory.
Backstory: A few years back, I was a huge fan of Ryan Braun, left fielder of the Milwaukee Brewers. He is a great player, but as most baseball fans know he lied about using steroids. So, not as big of a fan now, but at the time he was someone I looked up to as an aspiring but ultimately lack-of-talent baseball player.
I went to a Brewers v. Astros game at Minute Maid maybe 6-7 years ago. I had two goals for that day, and neither involved what happened in the game itself. I wanted a batting practice ball, and I wanted an autograph from Ryan Braun. In order to make sure I was in a prime spot to do the latter, I paid $12 to take a tour of the stadium, solely to gain access to the seats behind the dugout area (as my family was sitting on the top deck).
The first time I saw Braun was when he came out of the dugout for shagging fly balls, and I yelled for an autograph. He turned around and said “after I’m done in the field,” which presumably would get me off his back. Nope.
He came in from the field and I yelled a second time for an autograph, to which he said “I gotta go hit, man.” And he grabbed his bat and took some cuts at the plate.
Finally, he was leaving the field and walking back to the dugout, and for a third time I yelled out at him for an autograph. He stopped, shook his head, and said “alright, alright you have a ball?”
Of course, I was prepared, threw him a ball, and the rest is history. I don’t remember a single thing from that game, but I got my autograph.
I then went to the outfield and proceeded to get a practice ball. The guy next me dropped a ball back onto the field that had been previously tossed to him. When a Brewers relief pitcher reached down, grabbed it and turned back to him (an Astros fan), I said “come on, right here! For a Brewers fan!”
Much to the chagrin of the person next to me, the reliever tossed me the ball, and I had my two souvenirs for the day.
So why is Minute Maid below Wrigley and PNC at this point? I’ll give you two reasons – the roof and the weather. Now you might be saying, well of course they have a roof, Houston is humid. And I will agree with you.
However, there’s just something about the downtown location, in the midst of a bunch of buildings (coinciding with the heat) that just turns me away from ranking it higher. The openness of PNC and Wrigley just invites that “let’s play two” feeling.
But I’ll always love Minute Maid, and it will always be home.
Current Stadium Rankings:
- Wrigley Field
- PNC Park
- Minute Maid Park
- Ballpark in Arlington
- Miller Park
- Chase Field
- Guaranteed Rate Field