Take me out to the ballgame

Astros vs. Rockies

Ok, I can take myself to the ball game. And did yesterday. On my bike. It was a great day and an afternoon game between the Astros and the Rockies with the roof open. My secondary reason for going was it was magnetic schedule day, and I had to have a magnet (or many).
The ride there is a straight shot down Washington (has a passable bike lane) veers onto Preston (only mildly trafficked, easy to manage) downtown. It’s a little longer but smoother to take Heights Blvd to Washington, but I took Sawyer. It goes through an industrial area and is in very had shape. Not very bike friendly, but with fresh legs i don’t mind it. I tied up to a small city bike rack across Texas Ave from the ball park, and bought my ticket to the cheap seats in sec 432. Someone offered me a ticket in the “dugout” seats (1st – 3rd, lower section), but I sit there all the time, and could sneak a seat there if I wanted to. I wanted to sit up high.

ticket $5

I had half an hour before game time, so I went to Home Plate, across Texas Ave to get a good beer – St. Arnold Amber. Stood by the rail at the window, watched the crowd, checked out the schedule for the season. There was a “beach” band playing at Larry’s. It’s a new bar inside the stadium. It’s got a Florida Tiki theme to it. They have a door to the outside and had a patio going on Thursday with the band and Rock 101 broadcasting from there.

St. Arnold Pint $4.50+$1 tip

Finishing up the tasty St. Arnold, I headed over. You can actually get in through the Larry’s entrance and there was no line, as opposed to the 30-60 person lines at all the other entrances. I circled on the first level and scored a few magnets, then took the stairs to the top. Went to section 433 (one further out than my ticket) and up about 2/3 of the way. Just under the shade from the overhang with an excellent view of downtown. It was quite windy and mostly cloudy, but the sun did poke out off and on (I preferred the shade). You can’t see the main scoreboard from the section I was in, but there’s a really great view of the Astros’ bullpen. Beer prices went up the last few weeks of last season and remain $6 for 16oz. plasti-bottles and 12oz. premiums (poured into a cup), $8 for 24oz. cans (poured into a cup).

$6 MGD plasti-pint

In a surprising move, the group who sang the national anthem was actually good. It was some high school choir. I thought they might blow away in their robes, but they sounded very good.
The squeezy ball throwers showed up in our section and since I was way up high and by myself, they of course threw one to me. More swag to add to my magnets.
On my way through the Houston section of the Chronicle to the crossword, there was a column by Ken Hoffman mentioning the new “Kiss Cam”. A friend of mine who works the production of some of the games mentioned this to me after working the opening day. He thought it was a horribly bad idea, but was amazed how well it worked. Here’s what Ken Hoffman had to say:

April 2, 2003, 7:06PM

On camera, a kiss may not be bliss

By KEN HOFFMAN
Copyright 2003 Houston Chronicle

On opening night, the Houston Astros unleashed the most frightening threat to fans in the history of organized sports.
Kiss Cam.
This is a new “entertainment” feature between innings at Minute Maid Park. A camera zooms in on a couple in the stands and splashes their picture on the scoreboard. Fans whoop and holler, encouraging them to smooch. If the couple locks lips, a big cheer goes up.
If they refuse, they get jeered.
The punchline is, the last “couple” always will be two players from the opposing team.
Here’s the real scary part. Let’s say the Kiss Cam zeroes in on Mr. and Mrs. Johnson, a handsome couple sitting behind third base. Mr. Johnson is wearing a smart business suit. Mrs. Johnson is wearing a provocative, low-cut dress. It’s obviously a date. They’re obviously very much in love.
The crowd goes wild, urging Mr. Johnson to lay a big wet one on Mrs. Johnson.
Caught up in the moment, and the reasonably priced beer at $5.25 a bottle, the couple kisses. Minute Maid Park goes wild.
There’s only one problem. That ain’t Mrs. Johnson. That’s his secretary.
Mrs. Johnson is home with the kids.
I figure it will take, oh, about two seconds before someone calls her and says, “Marge, I’m not one for gossip, but you’ll never believe what I just saw on the scoreboard.”
This is going to put a serious dent in the Astros’ wife-swapping, philandering-fan base.

This day there was definitely one couple adamantly refusing to kiss. They even went back to them after getting a few kissers. I guess “Mrs. Johnson” can be happy about that one.
After doing a bit of the crossword puzzle (on which i was not doing very good) I decided it was time for the obligatory ball park food, I went vegetarian with the nachos. Of course, the cheese on those things is prob’ly some kind of petroleum product (bring home that Iraqi oil!) but it tastes so yummy. The necessary jalapeños were joined by some onions and nice dill pickles.

$5.50 nachos
$6 Pacifico

Later I headed down to Larry’s to check it out. I bought a Red Stripe there. I had to stay in theme. They were horribly understaffed, one bartender. Yet there were half a dozen off duty county deputies standing around. What did they expect to happen? They had patio tables outside and tall coctail tables inside in a part of the bar that you can see the walkway behind home plate. And TVs scattered liberally throughout.

$6 Red Stripe

I looked around for some more magnets, but none were to be had. Attendance was 21,171 and there were 20,000 magnets. Darn. I really wanted a box full of them to cover my car with. Then in the 9th inning I went down to the dugout cameraman to get hold of my friend doing the producing, so we could meet up afterward. Watched the 9th inning rally from the front row. The Astros lost 10-5, stranding 3 men on base in the 9th. No comeback like the night before.
I headed over to the B.U.S. (Bar at Union Station) across the street. It was totally sardineville in there. Waited for Mr. Producer, then went next door to the Drink, which is in the balcony above Home Plate. It’s a great space and I wanted to see what they were doing with it. Looks like they want to try 80s dance music up there. It could be a neat club if they get people to come.
Around 5pm I headed home on the bicycle. Despite it being rush hour, it was really easy getting around (as long as you’re not scared of riding w/ cars). It’s already slow and crowded from the cars and people are very amicable about giving right of way to bikes.
Hmmm, where did all my money go?
After that, got home, showered, went to the Continental Club to see Beetle and eat Jim’s birthday cake. They I was going to just stop by Catbirds (that’s how it always starts isn’t it) but ran into lots of people i hadn’t seen, and chatted it up and triviated until 2am.

-b