When I told my son that we had tickets to Orbit's birthday party, he asked three questions, one after the other.
"How old will Orbit be?"
"Will the mascots play the game instead of the players?"
"Will there be cake?"
He decided to go to the game despite those less-than-inspiring answers.
As we drove to the game, he wanted to play a game called, "Tallest Building." The way you play is simple: call out "Tallest Building" every time you see one over three stories high. Needless to say, this didn't help the nerves any as I tried to merge onto 59 amid traffic.
As we passed the Houston Chronicle building, I tried to point it out to him, telling him that was a newspaper building. He dismissed it out of hand, saying, "That's not a tall building." Sorry, Chron. I still like you.
We got to the park in time to get the last of the Orbit Antenna giveaway. Of course, the kiddo didn't want to wear them, so our charming photo was taken with me donning the ears. He thought this was pretty funny; I did not.
After finding our seats, we went to the Minute Maid Squeeze Play, so he could work out some energy before the game and, hopefully, not be so crazy when we went to watch the game. He really likes this area, especially the game where you can swing a bat at jets of water that pop up from the ground.
He also loves the giant playground that he can climb into and stay in for hours. As a parent, it's hard to enjoy this as much, since you completely lose track of your child for half an hour at a time (seems like, anyway). Last time we went there, I struck up a conversation with a dad who had a kid similar in age to mine. We both agreed this section was crucial for active kids.
They also have a TV in the corner, where you could watch the game. I kept an eye out here for the opening festivities, with mascots doing their thing. Eventually, I was able to wrangle the kid out of the giant playground in time to get to our seat for first pitch. He was not too happy, but we got him cotton candy, so he didn't complain.
A word on cotton candy, though. Do not buy it from the Squeeze Play store. It's $1.25 more than the rest of the park. I think you can figure out why.
We get back to our seats and he starts devouring the red cotton candy. Soon after, the Astros media intern showed up with a camera, photographing all the people wearing Orbit Antenna. I am happy to report she looks quite normal when not in the sway of Jose Altuve's hypno-presence.
The only problem was that the kid didn't want to wear the Antenna for a photo. Later, the intern came back by when he was wearing the ears, but as soon as he saw her, he took them off. Yet, the entire game, he told me he wanted to be on the big screen. No, it didn't make sense to me, either.
At this point, the mascots began doing their thing. In addition to Orbit, there were plenty of other mascots there, including Clutch (Rockets), Mr. Met (Mets), some bobcat thing (D'Backs), a Sea Dog (Rays), a fox (Dynamo), Dinger (Rockies) and another one I feel like I'm forgetting.
The first thing they did was a sketch, where Orbit came out to swing at a piñata. He was blind-folded and, of course, ended up hitting Raymond the Sea Dog in the stomach instead of the piñata. So, Clutch and the fox ran out with a stretcher, which they used to carry off the piñata instead of Raymond.
This killed the kid. Five-year-old humor at its best.
After this, Clutch walked up into the stands near our section. The boy wanted to go up to him, but got super-shy when we got close. He hid behind me and wouldn't even high-five Clutch. After what we saw later in the game, this was probably a good idea.
Not two innings later, the Kiss Cam popped up. Clutch ended it by ripping off his jersey and revealing a hot pink thong and mauling some poor girl he was sitting beside. The boy saw this and yelled, "That's dis-guuusting." I said, " I know, he's crazy," but the boy corrected me. He said, more empathetically, "No, he's dis-guuuusting."
According to Ryan, the bear does this sort of thing a lot. Good thing we don't go to more Rockets games.
The kid's favorite player is Jose Altuve. He's pretty sure Altuve is the best hitter ever, even after I showed him FanGraphs and explained WAR to him and everything. He told me that the only autograph he wants is one from Altuve, instead of one from Orbit or Mr. Met or someone at the park.
At least his priorities are in the right place.
Rob Foldy-USA TODAY Sports
At one point, Altuve came up to bat and the kid started cheering for him, chanting, "Go, Altuve, Go." A guy sitting in front of us heard him and, after Altuve picked up his third hit, tried to give the kid a high-five. Yet, much like the Clutch encounter, the kid got shy and left the dude hanging. It's obvious we also need to work on the Guy Code.
Sea Dog also walked right past our section. The kid's comment about him? He kept calling him "that pesky bird." I have no idea why, since Sea Dog looks absolutely nothing like a bird. As soon as I pointed this out to him, Sea Dog put his arms out and pretended to be an airplane. The kid delighted in proving me wrong so quickly.
We stayed to the bitter end, watching Sipp strike out Austin Jackson to end the game. The kid's only disappointment was that he wasn't lucky enough to catch a foul ball. I tried to assure him that I'd been to hundreds of games in my life and never gotten one. He was still pretty bummed.
But, overall, we had a good time. Minute Maid Park is one of the more kid-friendly ballparks I've come across and Orbit's birthday bash was definitely worth the trip. As we left the park, the kid told me that we needed to do this again next time Orbit had a birthday.