Minute Maid Makes 24* (5/27/2011)

* [Note: The number 24 has a special signficance to me.  It is Ken Griffey, Jr.'s number.  And it has been retired on this blog -- I dare you to try to find a player wearing the number 24 on this blog.  This is the story of Tim's 24th MLB stadium.]

I’ve wanted to get to Texas for some time now.  More specifically, we just had to get to Minute Maid Park and Rangers Ballpark in Arlington.  And that’s just where we were heading for Memorial Day weekend this year.

We started off in Houston.   My buddy, Jason, from high school lives in Houston and used his connections to get us ridiculously awesome tickets in the Diamond Club at Minute Maid Park.  Jason and his daughter were going to join me and Tim for the game, but Jason had to  leave unexpectedly.  So Tim and I were on our own.  Luckily, we know what to do when
we find ourselves in a new stadium.

After hitting up the awesome Children’s Museum of Houston, we found ourselves outside of Minute Maid Park…

…about half an hour before gates opened.  We walked around the stadium to get a lay of the land.  And, boy, was Texas hot…I don’t advise walking anywhere, for any distance, in the heat of Texas.

Behind left field, we found a cool little park where Tim took some fake hacks and ran some bases…

…but, beware, there is no third base in this park.  Third base would be in the middle of the street.  This wasn’t a satisfying explanation for Tim; he’s not accustomed to stopping at second base.

A little background before we head into the game.   I knew that Willie Bloomquist played for the Diamondback and I have a Willie Bloomquist Mariners t-shirt jersey.   So I decided to wear it just in case Willie might take notice.

When the ballpark opened, we headed into the Diamond Club, through the restaurant, down the tunnel, through the seats, down to the first row, and right out onto the warning track behind home plate:

For some reason, a doorway onto the field was open and a bunch of people were out there, so we just walked out there.  We weren’t actually supposed to be out there unless we had special passes (which we didn’t) so a few seconds later, we were back in the seating area.  But when we were out on the warning track, we noticed that Willie Bloomquist (under the yellow arrow above) was standing around getting ready to play catch.

I called out, “Hey, Willie” and when he looked over at us, I showed him the “Bloomquist” / “16” on my back.  He gave me a big thumbs-up.

We looked around and quickly realized that the Diamond Club was the most pointless place in the world to be in during batting practice.  So we headed back through the
Diamond Club and out toward left field.
Nothing was doing down the LF line.
So we headed back to the dugout to watch Willie Bloomquist hit.

After he finished hitting, he and his group of
hitters hung out on the dugout steps and signed autographs for a while.  While Willie was signing, someone overthrew a
baseball to Matt Williams (who was hitting fungo to the right side of the
infield) and the baseball came to rest just behind Willie.  I called out, “Hey, Willie!” and he looked at
me like “what do you want me to sign?”  I
asked, “Hey, could we get that baseball right behind you?”  He laughed, looked away and kept signing
autographs.  About a minute later, he
walked out of the dugout, grabbed the baseball, autographed it and tossed it up
to me and Tim.

Thanks,
Willie!  You da man!

With our shiny new Willie Bloomquist baseball in
hand, Tim and I posed for a picture before heading off to see the stadium:

Ah, I love checking out a new stadium.  And this was a beautiful one.  My only regret (well, semi-regret) was that
the roof was closed.  It’s a great
looking stadium when it is opened.  But,
it was closed due to the stifling heat…and I have to admit I was happy to have
the air conditioning running on full blast.

Before heading on our way, we paused another second
to get our first panorama of Minute Maid Park…from section 116:

One screwy thing about having the roof closed was
that it made the lighting really crazy.
It looked fine to human eyes, but the sun streaming in through the
windows in LF really overpowered my camera on some shots…like the last one.

We walked toward CF via the 1B line and RF.  We got this panorama of Minute Maid Park as
we passed through section 120:

When we reached the RF corner, I finally noticed the
train in LF.  When I pointed it out to
Tim (he loves trains), we stopped to get his picture with the train in the
background:

Here are panoramic views of Minute Maid Park from
section 134…

…section 152…

…and finally section 156:

The reason we were heading toward CF was so Tim
could check out the hill a/k/a “Tal’s Hill”).
Section 156 is the closest seating section to hill, but the Astros’
bullpen completely blocks your view of the hill.

The area right behind the CF wall (and the Hill) is
a restaurant and bar.  I didn’t know what
the story was with the restaurant.  There
was a hostess out front so I asked her if Tim and I could go down into the
restaurant seating area so we could check out the Hill.  She initially thought I meant that I wanted
to take a picture of Tim standing out on the hill.  “No, no, no…we just want to go down into the
seating area so we can take some pictures of the hill.”  No problem.

So, here we go – Tim and Tal’s Hill:

FYI, that flag pole is in play.  The hostess wasn’t paying attention to
us.   So we just hung out down there for
a few minutes.  Tim grabbed some railing
and took a big gander at Minute Maid Park:

I was hoping one of the batters would launch a ball
out toward the hill.  Eventually, someone
did.  And the only player who was wearing
a jersey with his name on the back, Zach Duke, ran over to grab it.

“Hey, Zach!”

And that’s all it took; Mr. Duke hooked us up with
our second Minute Maid Park baseball.

Thanks,
Zach!

Next, we continued on our way around the
stadium.  The concourse down the LF side
of the stadium is just a narrow walkway…

..along the right side of the walkway was the glass
outside wall of the stadium, and to the left was a bunch of Astros history:

In an arch in deep LCF, there is an overhang where
fans can stand high above the warning track.
For some reason, there is a huge gas pump inside the arch:

From the overhang, I took our Minute Maid Park bonus
picture for the mygameballs.com photo scavenger hunt:

And I got this shot of Tim with the field behind him:

And finally, a panoramic view of Minute Maid Park
from the overhang:

The overhang is way above the field level.  And our man, Willie Bloomquist, was down
below shagging fly balls.

A little further down the LF walkway, we wandered
into the “Crawford boxes” and got this panoramic view of the ballpark:

It was time to go up top.  We took an escalator to the upper deck.  From the upper deck concourse, fans can
access the 300 level (below) and the 400 level (above).  Here is a picture of Tim from the walkway
just behind the 300 level:

And then we got this panoramic view from the cross
aisle behind section 307:

While we were walking toward home plate, I got this
shot of the big screen at Minute Maid Park:

That is one HUGE screen – it is three sections
wide!  And its picture is crystal clear.

Finally, we got this panoramic view from behind
section 318…

…before heading downstairs and into the “Diamond
Club”:

Here is a hot of the main entrance Diamond Club:

Here is a look at the buffet area and bar:

All food and non-alcoholic drinks were free for us
in the Diamond Club!  And those people
served us about 10 little bottles of water.

My favorite part of the food area – the Nacho Bar:

In the photo two above, a big beam is shown right in
the middle of the bar.  Well, here is a
shot of the other side of the beam – more bar area and several big screen TVs!

We grabbed some honey biscuits (delicious), a huge
soft pretzel (crazy delicious), and a huge pile of beefy-and-cheesy nachos (oh,
yeah!), a couple bottles of water (I think we drank about 12 bottles of water
during this game), a big glass of lemonade (I drank about 5 during the game!),
and headed out to our seats in the Diamond Club.  Neither Tim nor I had ever sat in such big
and cushy seats for a game:

This panorama shows our ridiculously awesome view of
Minute Maid Park from Diamond Club section A, row 6, seats 1-2:

I was hoping that former President Bush (41, not 43)
would be in the house so we could ask him to autograph a baseball.  But the usher assigned to our section (shown
in red pants and khaki pants in the last picture) explained that George and
Barbara had just left for Maine for the summer.
Too bad.  A presidential autograph
would have been awesome.

Anyway, we headed to the first row right behind home
plate to get Tim’s picture:

Tim’s still got a bit of honey biscuits in his mouth
in that last picture.   There was too
much to eat for him to stop eating long enough to take that picture.

When the game started, I decided the main picture
goal was to capture Justin Upton hitting one of his monster bombs.  Unfortunately, Astros pitching and Upton’s
bat wouldn’t cooperate with my camera.
But here is one of my efforts from the first inning:

Sweet view, eh?
Yeah, we could get used to that.

Anyway, Upton was hit by a pitch in the top of the
first inning.  Other than the HBP, the
D-Backs had nothing going in the first.
But the Astros would get off to a fast start.  Lead-off man, Michael Bourn, led off the
bottom of the first with a single.

Bourn then scored with one out on a double…

…by Hunter Pence.
Pence then scored on a single by Carlos “El Caballo” Lee.

Another fun part of our Diamond Club experience was
that we were sitting about 20 feet from three MLB Authenticators:

They are the three guys sitting behind the little
yellow ramp (two bald guys in blue shirts and a bigger guy in dark grey).  On the first pitch of the bottom of the first
inning, Michael Bourn broke his bat.
After grabbing the broken bat, the bat boy ran it over to wall by the
yellow ramp and one of these guys jumped up and grabbed it.  The bigger guy with the dark grey shirt then
filled in a bunch of information on a form on his clipboard.  This went on all game with balls fouled
straight back off of the screen and broken bats (I think there was only one
other broken bat).

A fourth MLB (or more likely Astros) employee would
come out of the tunnel (the Diamond Club tunnel) every once-in-a-while and
would take the newly authenticated items from the Authenticators.  When he was standing around with the Bourn
bat between innings, we got this picture:

[Note: the Astros guy has a wicked Rollie Fingers
‘stache].

Between innings at one point early in the game, the
ball that made the final out of the inning ended up on the ground on the 1B
side of home plate.  We home plate umpire
Ted Barrett moseyed over and grabbed it, Tim and I ran down to that little yellow
ramp and yelled, “Hey, Ted!”  He was about
15 feet away, but completely ignored us.
He tossed the ball to the ball boy instead.  After Barrett tossed the ball into the
dugout, the authenticator sitting closest to the dugout got out attention and
declared, “if you hold tight, we’ll make sure you get one later in the
game.”  Sounded good to us.

During the game, we noticed there was an engineer
standing in the train out in deep LCF:

Although they look more like pumpkins, I think the

train’s coal car is full of oversized (Minute Maid) oranges.

In the top of the fourth inning, I took another
panorama from out seats to show our view in “game” conditions:

The most action we got on any of our Justin Upton
homerun attempts was catching this foul in mid-air before it slammed into the
net in front of our section:

In the middle innings, and with the Astros leading
6-2, Tim said he wanted to go explore the stadium a little.  So we headed toward the kids play area.  On the way, we grabbed some ice cream products
(chipwich for Tim and Snickers ice cream bar for me) from a freezer full of
free goodies in the Diamond Club hallway and then we got this panoramic view
from the concourse just behind section 122:

The Kids Play Area at Minute Maid Park was amazing:

We have seen a lot of Kids Play Areas at MLB
stadiums (this was Tim’s 24thstadium) and I think this one probably
ranks first on the list.  It was
huge.  And Tim had a blast.   The Astros also were thoughtful enough to
put a large flat screen TV in the kids area (you hear that, Nationals) so
parents could still watch the game.

After Tim burned off about 500 calories running
around like a maniac in the play area, we headed to the second deck in RF (just
below the big screen).  From the handicap
accessible seating area behind section 255, this was the view of Minute Maid
Park:

Next, we headed back toward the Diamond Club and got
this panorama from the big cross aisle behind Section 119:

Next, we headed back into the Diamond Club and got
some more waters.  Just for kicks, we got
another picture of Tim behind home plate.
This time, Tim couldn’t find the time to put down (or swallow) his water before this
picture:

When we got back from exploring, we found that the
Diamondbacks had taken the lead 7-6!
How’d that happen?  Well,
baseball-reference.com explains that part of it happened via a pinch hit and
run scored by Willie Bloomquist.  Nice
job, Willie.

Let’s check out a couple random features of Minute
Maid Park:

Left: The out of
town scoreboard is a full 9-inning hand operated scoreboard.  That must make for a lot of work for the
operators throughout the course of the game.

Right: I was
perplexed for a while because I couldn’t find the visitors’ bullpen.  The Astros bullpen is in deep RCF (as
pictured above).  But where were the
Diamondbacks’ relievers?  The answer:  behind these bizarre garage-like doors.  Odd.

Late in the game, a Diamondback broke his bat and
their batboy took the bat back to their dugout on the 3B side.  I thought that was odd because he’d picked it
up pretty close to the MLB Authenticators’ seats.  I wondered if they only authenticated bats
from the home team or something.  But
between innings, the middle authenticator walked out a half step onto the
warning track and called the bat boy over with the broken bat:

By the way, it was late in the game now and we still
had not gotten a ball from the MLB Authenticators.  When the bat boy brought them a foul ball in
the 8th inning, the guy who had told us he’d get us a ball pointed us out to
the middle guy (the guy pictured above), but that guy gave the ball to a little
girl who can relocated to the front row when those seats were vacated.

Former-Mariner J.J. Putz came in and closed out the
game for the Diamondbacks in the bottom of the ninth:

Good job in this game, former-Mariners!  The Diamondbacks won by the final score of
7-6.

Immediately after the game, Tim and I were standing
around down by the on deck circle, just watching the post-game action.  The ball boy ran out of the Astros dugout and
brought two more baseballs to the MLB Authenticators.  The middle guy (pictured above) waved me down
and tossed one to us.  Here is Tim with
his baseball from the MLB Authenticators:

A minute or two later, we went over and thanked him
for the baseball and asked if it had been a foul ball in the game.  Yep, it was a foul ball in the ninth
inning…although the bat boy did not tell him who hit it – possibly because they
knew it was going to Tim.  I should have
asked him to authenticate it first!

Thanks,
MLB Authenticators!

Soon, the Minute Maid Park roof started opening in
preparation for post-game fireworks:

Before they turned off the lights for fireworks, an
usher took this picture of us (with Tim celebrating a great day at Minute Maid
Park and me looking seriously because the guy didn’t seem to understand how to
use my camera):

The fireworks weren’t on par with the shows the
Indians put on at Progressive Field, but it was a good show and Tim really
enjoyed it:

A cool touch was that the Astros let about 15-20
players’ kids down onto the field for fireworks.  They all lined up laying on their bellies in
foul territory down the 1B line.  Their
mothers sat about 10 feet behind the group of kids, and during the fireworks
show 2-3 Astros came out to watch the fireworks with their families.  After the fireworks, the players’ kids all
ran the bases.

It was time to head out.  Before we could head to the car, Tim needed
to stop to get his picture with this cool…

…blue and green fire hydrant that he’d noticed
before the game.  It is just outside of
the third base gate in case you want to get your picture with this amazing fire
hydrant.

So, the first day of our trip was awesome.  Tim woke up at 6:00 a.m. eastern time, and
was wide awake until after 11:00 p.m. central time…after a drive to the
airpoint, 4 hour flight, 2.5 hours at the kids museum, and a great evening at
the ballpark.  Tim is a trooper.

2011
C&S Fan Stats
9/1 Games (Tim/Kellan)
11/2 Teams [Tim – Mariners,
Orioles, Rangers, Brewers, Nationals, Phillies, Mets, Rays, Braves,
Diamondbacks and Astros; Kellan – Mariners, Orioles]
4 Ice Cream Helmet(s) (Orioles (2),
Nationals, Phillies)
27 Baseballs (4 Mariners, 3
Rangers, 3 Orioles, 2 Umpire, 2 Nationals, 2 Brewers, 4 Phillies, 1 Mets, 1
Rays, 2 Braves, 2 Diamondbacks, 1 MLB Authenticator)
4/1 Stadiums [Tim – Camden
Yards, Nationals Park, Citizens Bank Park, Minute Maid Park; Kellan – Camden
Yards]
11/7 Player Photos* [Tim – Felix
Hernandez, Adam Moore, Garrett Olson, Chris Seddon, David Aarsdma, Michael
Pineda, Miguel Olivo, Ryan Langerhans, Greg Zuan, Mark Lowe, Michael Saunders;
Kellan – Luke French, Milton Bradley, Franklin Gutierrez, Justin Smoak, Matt
Tuiasosopo, Ryan Langerhans, Michael Saunders]
3/1 Management Photos* [Tim – Howard
Lincoln, Jack Zduriencik, Eric Wedge; Kellan – Jack Zduriencik]
3 Autograph(s) (Michael
Pineda, Michael Saunders, Mark Lowe)
1 Bat* (Milton
Bradley)
3/2 Mascot Photos* [Tim –
Mariner Moose, Teddy Roosevelt, The O’s Bird; Kellan – Mariner Moose, The O’s
Bird]
*includes
Spring Training

6 Comments

The reason for the sculpture with the 1st and 2nd Basemen (and no 3rd base) are because it’s Biggio and Bagwell. And the explanation for the visiting bullpen is a bit of gamesmanship putting it in a virtual cave underneath the left centerfield wall.

When I was there a few years ago, Biggio’s last year, the scoreboard was no where close to that size. The vivid screen has to be great and put to good use during games.
http://pittpeas.mlblogs.com

Great pictures. Looks like a beautiful park.

The Dodgers have fireworks on Fridays too, but they let fans on the field to watch them! If you get down there early enough, anyone can enter the field. It’s a very cool thing. And Dodger Stadium is more family-friendly than you may think. As long as you don’t go to a SF-LAD game, I think you and Tim would love it!
Garrett

P.S. Are you guys going to be at Camden Yards on July 23 for Ballhawkfest?
http://www.mygameballs.com/baseballdata?db=garrett37

Awesome…. Congrats on your 30 stadium goal. I am attempting to do the same thing. Just did stadiums 19-20 (AT & T and Oakland Coliseum) earlier this season and plan to do #21-22 (Chase Field and one to be determined) later this season.
Good luck on finishing up.

JASON-
Thanks for the explanation…and the tickets…and the room and board, etc. Next time, hopefully I’ll get to see you too!

PITTPEAS-
It was a great looking board. The picture with the MLB At Bat with the big baseball looked amazing from across the stadium.

WRIGLEYREGULAR-
Thanks. Yep, it is.

GARRETT-
The fan-on-the-field-for-fireworks in LA sounds awesome. I wish we could have done that when we visited Dodger Stadium last season. We had a great time at Dodger Stadium. All of the people sitting around us were really nice and made it very enjoyable. And, yes, we’ll be in Baltimore for Ballhawkfest on July 23rd. We’ll see you there!

BRETT-
Thanks! And have fun on your adventures. We’ll finish it up next season with St. Louis, Kansas City and Denver.

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