I’ve always considered baseball to be a dumbed-down version of cricket, but after going to my first-ever MLB baseball match at Minute Maid Park in Houston, I’m all in, baby!
After just one game, I’m a Houston Astros fan for life. Of course, it helps that the team is currently first in the American League West, with a 70-40 record at the time of writing (although they haven’t been doing so well lately).
To be fair, I could probably only name, like, three of their players… Correa, Springer, Orbit.
Only joking. I know Orbit is the Astro’s mascot, because he’s pretty much the best mascot ever. In New Zealand, sports mascots mostly just walk around and wave to kids, but Orbit gets up to all kinds of crazy hi-jinks, including messing with the opposition (it’s probably all pre-planned, of course, but he’s still lots of fun to watch).
And what about that stadium? From what I’ve read, Minute Maid Stadium isn’t even the best stadium in major league baseball, but it’s the best stadium I’ve ever been to. I love the retractable roof (in a country where cricket is routinely rain-delayed or called off completely because of precipitation, why don’t we have roofed stadiums?). It would have been too hot otherwise.
Then there’s the massive range of things to eat and drink, which includes craft beer and its own taco joint (check out my taco travel count).
In New Zealand, we have half as much choice about what to eat, and the beer is almost always mass-produced, over-priced, watery bullshit. It’s the same in England, too, where I’ve been to my fair share of football, rugby, and cricket matches.
Other things I enjoyed about my first MLB game include the home-run petrol pump (pictured above), which keeps a record of how many homers the, um, home side have hit at Minute Maid Park, the train that runs along its track when the Astros score, and the insane range of supporter merchandise (my wife and I bought t-shirts, and an Astros baseball cap for a mate back home).
I enjoyed singing “Take Me Out to the Ballgame” during one of the innings breaks, but found it slightly jarring when we had to stand up and sing “God Bless America”. Back home, we normally save the patriotism for the anthems, which is sung at the beginning of the game.
It was also a bit odd that administration felt they needed to have a sign up outside Minute Maid Park, warning people not to bring their guns to the game.
It was an awesome experience and I recommend it to everyone visiting Houston. Tickets were cheap – we just rocked up to the front gate on game day (the lady behind the glass was absolutely lovely, and made us feel very welcome) – and the awesome atmosphere was uniquely American.