Stadium Cheat Sheet
The Houston stadium tour cheat sheet Part 1: Minute Maid Park
I lived in Seoul, South Korea for a year back in 2011. Starved for my live sports fix, I decided I was going to go check out some sweet Korean soccer action. I asked my Korean roommate what team I should go watch.
“None of them,” He said. “They are boring and you will go to sleep.”
“Well, if they’re that terrible, I guess my next option was to go check out some Korean baseball.”
My roommate’s eyes lit up.
“You will love Korean baseball.”
“The fans are crazy, the tickets are cheap, and you can bring your own beer,” he explained.
He was an LG Twins fan, so naturally I picked their rival — the Doosan Bears — as my team to root for. My roommate was right. After one game I was hooked. I spent $10 for a front-row ticket on the first base line, unzipped my backpack full of Shiner Bock from the on-base commissary, and spent the rest of the season cheering on the Bears at Jamsil Stadium among a crowd of frenzied baseball fans. We may or may not have gotten the mascot drunk a few times that season as well.
After Korea I spent three years in El Paso, a decidedly less exciting sports town. Between UTEP Miners collegiate athletics and El Paso’s minor league baseball teams (Diablos, then replaced by the Chihuahuas), the town wasn’t exactly teeming with options in terms of live sports.
In the past two-and-a-half years since I’ve returned to Houston, I’ve done my best to make up for lost time. I’ve become fairly well acquainted with our city’s professional sports arenas and stadiums and figured I would put together a cheat sheet on how to get the most out of each venue. So, here we go. Part one begins with Minute Maid Park.
Of course I’m starting here. It’s my home away from home.
Best place to get tickets
Not online. Stubhub and MLB.com’s websites will gouge you with convenience charges. Go to the box office if possible, and make it a weekday game if you can. There is rarely ever a line for tickets unless the Yankees or Cubs are in town. If this is your first time at Minute Maid Park, avoid sections 132-156. You can’t see El Grande from these sections. We usually buy $10 nosebleed tickets, but we never go upstairs.
Take that last sentence however you want. I admit nothing.
Where to park
If you’re willing to walk (we’re talking maybe half a mile), the cheapest parking is south of Highway 59. Park Southwest of BBVA Compass Stadium and use one of the nearby bars as a rest stop. You earned it.
Where to pregame
It’s a best practice to meet your friends nearby and alleviate your in-stadium bar tab as much as possible. Both can be accomplished at nearby bars. Little Woodrow’s EaDo and Lucky’s Pub in a prime location (just a few blocks away), and they’re not too crowded. Hell, Lucky’s even has a shuttle that will drop you off at the park if you’re lazy.
There are bars across the street from the park, but they’re notoriously expensive. They’re also full of the dreaded bro-dude. These are, by definition, bros that finally got their monthly permission slip to leave the suburbs and hang out with their boys. They don’t get to drink anymore, so when they get out with their bros, they try to make up for lost time and become rowdy and insufferable. Don’t be a bro-dude. Just don’t.
Personally, I don’t go to either. I’m not telling you where I pregame. Trade secrets.
Where to get beer
So you’re in the park. Now comes the important part: finding a beer. If you have no palate (or self respect), go grab your Bud Light from literally any section in the park. Also, don’t make eye contact with me. For the remainder of us who enjoy real beer for the same price, your best bet is behind the Crawford boxes (section 104) at the Saint Arnold Bar. It’s just been remodeled this past offseason, so the lines are shorter and they won’t run out of kegs any more. Liquor is only available on the second level, and Karbach has an outpost on the third level near section 408.
What to eat
This upcoming season there will be plenty to eat in the park aside from the standard fare. The best place to start for something unique is Street Eats, located in sections 124 and 408. This stand is where you’ll find street tacos; Irish nachos (legit nachos, not those corn circles and yellow paste); and their “piece de resistance,” the chicken and waffle cone. That’s a waffle cone, stuffed with mashed potatoes, topped with fried chicken and honey mustard (what a time to be alive).
New this season out in center field is the addition of a Torchy’s Tacos and a Shake Shack. The jury is still out as to how they’ll tailor their menus to cater to the crowds, but on paper it sounds intriguing and worth, uh, investigating.
Finally, if you have more of a sweet tooth, stop by the funnel cake stand, specifically in section 104. During the 2016 season, Astros outfielder George Springer hit a foul ball that somehow landed in the fryer. Since then the victimized stand has been serving up what’s been dubbed the “Springer Splash,” which consists of a funnel cake topped with an ice cream “baseball” scoop. Remember: calories don’t count when the Astros win. Oh, and don’t forget about $1 Hot Dog Wednesdays. Arrive hungry.
Where it gets rowdy
The rowdiest spot you’ll find in the Juicebox belongs to sections 105 and 106, but there’s a catch: Astros pitcher Dallas Keuchel must be pitching. Whenever No. 60 takes the mound at home, these sections become known as “Keuchel’s Korner.” That’s about as rowdy as it gets really. Unless you’re sitting by me.
That should give you a jump start at Minute Maid. Next up, we’ll tackle the Toyota Center, where James Harden was absolutely unreal last season. You owe it to yourself to check that guy out.
Originally appeared on houstonsportsandstuff.com.