If you listened to this week’s Crawfish Boxes’ Podcast you heard me talk about the fan experience and the ballpark experience at Minute Maid Park and the impact that could have on the small fan base that remains for the Houston Astros. I truly believe that even if the team on the field isn’t a World Series contender that fans can have a great baseball experience if it’s done right.
There is nothing as great to me as live baseball. It’s best in a crowd, outdoors with the sun shining on your face, but in Houston neither of those are possibilities right now. It gets too hot here for outdoor baseball to be as pleasant as it should and the crowds these days at MMP are too small to build the kind of energy that bounces around a stadium.
But there are lots of reasons to enjoy a day at the ballpark this season.
First, you need good food. It’s true that Houston is a food town. People here will flock to eateries like nowhere else. In fact, Houston has more restaurants per capita than any other city.
So how does Minute Maid Park fare when it comes to food? Despite the recent bad press and poor judgment of a snocone vendor, I believe the food quality at Minute Maid is pretty darn good. Whether you want the traditional hot dog and popcorn or prefer a burrito or barbecue or fish tacos, you can find it. And they’re tasty! And if you want to eat as healthily at the ballpark as you do at home, you can visit the custom salad stand on the main concourse near the homeplate entrance. Food options at Minute Maid are vast and good.
Baseball is one of the greatest family sports there is. Some of the best afternoons and evenings are those spent with my daughter at a ballgame. Whether the conversation is about what happened at school that day, the great diving stop Jose Altuve just made, the latest strikeout by any number of Astros, or her 11-year-old analysis of Jordan Lyles, it’s a great sport for chatting with the kids.
I think MMP does a great job of catering to families. With the return of Orbit, the entertainment has been outstanding. The guy inside that suit deserves a raise if you ask me – he's infinitely entertaining whether he's goofing off with fans or dancing on the top of the dugout.
Other than Orbit there’s the Minute Maid Squeeze Play behind section 132 where you’ll find a giant climbing structure, Wii baseball, water fountain batting, a runner’s race to home plate and more. I highly recommend letting your little ones run around a bit before or during the game here. It burns off energy and keeps them from running around in the seating areas (and that keeps me happy).
If you’re the sort of fan who collects autographs, nothing beats the first base line prior to game time. Just outside the home team dugout you can find countless kids and adults waiting for players to emerge during warm ups for autographs. With a club as young as the Astros, there are always several players happy to take the time to meet you or your child and sign away.
Of course, the park itself is pretty special in my opinion. The Community Partner sign – you know the controversial one – has blocked part of the glorious wall of windows, but even still, there are over 50,000 square feet of glass on that West wall of MMP and it’s a sight to see. So even though it’s hot outside and the roof is typically closed, you never feel as if you’re completely indoors. You still get the essence of outdoor baseball.
So yes, there’s a lot of good that happens at Minute Maid Park each and every home game. It isn’t always the play on the field (although this team never says die, do they?), but it’s still a great place to come, hang out, and watch nine innings of baseball. A little over a year ago I shared my thoughts about baseball etiquette and how people should and shouldn’t behave at baseball games, and that still comes into play, but if we all follow the rules, we have a great place to watch baseball in Houston.