In 2010 I wrote an article that was a primer on ballpark etiquette. Since the Astros are fresh-faced off a 6-2 win over the Yankees last night, I suspect there will be a massive surge of people racing to Minute Maid Park to support the team. Some newer fans may not be as well-versed on the do's and do not's of ballpark behavior. Aren't you glad I'm here to steer you in the right direction?
In the past couple of years as attendance has dwindled, some of these rules could be sidelined or ditched all together. If there's no one in the 5 rows behind you, it's totally fine to stand up, after all, who's view will you block? But now, with this one game win streak, the stadium is bound to be packed, so let's brush up on what is considered nice fan behavior and naughty fan behavior.
1. SIT DOWN!
The most common complaint I hear from fans has to do with others getting up and down throughout the game. It may be to head to the restroom or grab another beer. They may be in need of food or just to walk around and stretch their legs. Most of us get up at some point during a baseball game and there's no harm in that in and of itself. The key to a successful stand or sit at the ballpark is all in the timing.
The ideal moment to get up would be at the end of an inning or the mid-inning changeover - basically anytime one team just finished batting. It takes a few minutes for the teams to change positions and that gives you time to get up or sit back down and not even come close to blocking another fan's view of the game. In a DIRE situation - you HAVE to get up, it should, at the very least, happen in between batters.
Getting up during a player's at-bat is all around bad form and will annoy everyone sitting in your row as they have to stand, to let you by, as well as all the people in the 3 rows behind you who will have their view blocked as you and your whole row get up. Do everyone a favor and time your visits to the beer vendor with breaks in the action.
2. LEARN THE RULES
I don't think you need to be a scout, analyst or know all the ins and outs of baseball to attend a game, but I do think that if you're going to invest 3+ hours of time at the ballpark, learn a little while you're there. With MLB At Bat (app for mobile devices) you can get all sorts of explanations of what's going on right in front of you. And if you're at a game with a diehard fan? Even better. Pick their brain, learn to fill out a basic scorecard like the ones sold at the ballpark - it will give you some insight into the strategy of the game as well as the ever-growing list of stats that baseball enthusiasts are often obsessed with.
If you're the guy who knows everything, be willing to answer the question of the guy sitting behind you who isn't sure why that call was made or what just happened. And don't forget that baseball, among all professional sports, has the highest female fandom. Almost half of die hard baseball fans are women, so the expert to answer the question may not be the man behind you, it may very well be his wife. Baseball fandom is a bit of a fraternity (and sorority), but we're not picky about membership. If you find the game entertaining and are willing to learn a little bit about it, we will welcome you with open arms. And I promise we don't haze....much.
3. CHEER FOR THE GOOD GUYS
It's a rough day at the ballpark when the cheers of the visitor's fans are louder than those of the home team's. That's been the case for many a game at Minute Maid Park for the past few seasons and I can admit, it's hurt. Houston is a melting pot of a city and there are many many residents who come from other places. I still think it's nice to cheer for the home team. If the Astros are playing your guys, I get it, but when they're not, give the local nine your support. It's the classy thing to do.
4. THE WAVE
Don't do it.
Okay, okay, I hear ya. You've been doing the wave since you were a kid. The kids love it. It's fun to do in a long game. I've heard every argument FOR the wave since I last said I think we should kill it. My opinion has not changed. I think it's a ridiculous cheer because, well, it's not really a cheer. But I will reiterate this: if you MUST do the wave, only do it when your team is on offense. It's an offensive cheer and if you do it while your team's pitcher is on the mound, you're distracting him and essentially cheering for the other team. Stop that. Or better yet, don't do it at all.
5. ROOT ROOT DRINK RESPONSIBLY
I once had a guy sitting behind me that was so drunk he threw up...on the ground...right behind me and a group of friends. The title says it all, just be responsible so we can ALL have fun at the game.
6. BRINGING A GLOVE
Apparently I'm no fun at all. I still believe that toting a glove to a game is something that should be reserved for the 13 and under crowd, but it seems that a decent number of adult men believe that if you sit near the field you need one for safety. I've only ever had a ball come near me about a dozen times in all of the games I've seen in the many years I've been in and out of ballparks and I have never felt that I was in any danger. I think the glove toting to catch a fly / foul ball is still something that we should still leave to the kids. After all, adults have a beer to do that for us. *For the record, THAT is responsible drinking.
7. WATCH A GAME NOT AN INNING
If you've invested in a ticket and parking and carved the time out to come watch a baseball game and bought the world's most expensive beer, come for the whole game. I usually say that getting to the ballpark in time for "Play ball!" and staying until the final out is called is the best way to watch baseball. The outcome may not be what you want and sometimes games are slooooow or boring, but hey, it's still better than being at work, right? Be a baseball fan, not a three inning fan. Stay and watch the whole game. Besides, it's baseball, anything can happen until that last out is called. It's magical.
Lookie there, only 7 rules to follow. I even whittled a few off the list from last time. I gave you fewer rules to remember, so that should make it easier, right? I want to have a good time at the ballpark and I want everyone else to have fun too. After all, I'm going to need you there to high five me when the Astros make the post season one of these years, so let's just all agree to make Minute Maid Park a happy place to be.