Stadium Cheat Sheet

The Houston stadium tour cheat sheet Part 1: Minute Maid Park

Minute Maid Park is one of Houston's iconic stadiums. Photo by Ronald Martinez/Allsport/Getty Images

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.”

Damn. OK.

“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.”

“Why’s that?”

“The fans are crazy, the tickets are cheap, and you can bring your own beer,” he explained.

“Sold.”

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.

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TOP LANDING SPOTS FOR 3 TEXANS

3 players the Texans must trade before the deadline

Trading Mercilus would be a big win from a cap perspective. Photo by Bob Levey/Getty Images

Strapped for cash and no picks within the first two rounds of the upcoming draft, the Houston Texans should consider having a fire sales ahead of the NFL trade deadline. With the team going nowhere and the uncertainty of the future, J.J. Watt has dominated the rumor mill with the Texans doing the unthinkable of departing from their franchise star.

But despite sitting at 1-6 on the season, the idea of trading Watt has become less probable following Aaron Wilson's appearance on Locked On Texans. During the interview, Wilson — Texans beat reporter for the Houston Chronicle — said it would be hard for ownership to sell the idea of moving on from Watt seven months after the untimely departure of DeAndre Hopkins.

So with the Texans holding on to their future Hall of Famer, that should not hinder the organization from exploring trade options with the other 52 men on the roster not named Deshaun Watson.

The Texans are in desperate need of a rebuild to repair the destruction caused by former head coach and general manager Bill O'Brien. Houston has several tradeable assets on their roster — some of which a contender may overcompensate for in hopes of obtaining the Vince Lombardi Trophy in February.

To get a jumpstart on what could be a two-year rebuilding project, here are three players the Texans should consider moving ahead of the Nov. 3 trade deadline.

Whitney Mercilus

If the Texans elect not to move on from Watt, the organization should have a 180 approach to Whitney Mercilus. The 30-year-old outside linebacker is scheduled to make a projected $35.5 million over the next three seasons, and his on-field production does not match the big payday coming from the Texans.

Prior to his massive $54 million contract extension awarded last December, Mercilus was on a roll in 2019. He recorded 7.5 sacks — five coming within the first four weeks of the season — to go along with 48 total tackles and four forced fumbles. Seven weeks into the 2020 season, Mercilus is nowhere close to matching his 2019 output with only 3.0 sacks, 14 total tackles and no forced fumbles.

But despite his decline as of late, multiple teams around the league can use Mercilus' services to enhance their pass rush. The Green Bay Packers and the Tennessee Titans are two championship-contending teams who desperately need to upgrade their front seven in their attempt to represent their respective conference in Super Bowl LV. The Packers are dead last in quarterback pressures, and Jadeveon Clowney is far from the disruptive force the Titans expected.

Mercilus' arrival to any of the two teams may not be a bona fide game-changer, but an upgrade nevertheless. Perhaps a change of scenery could be the key to unlocking the Mercilus who logged a career-best 12 sacks in 2015.

The Seahawks could also use the talents of Mercilus to enhance their linebacking corps, but their recent trade to acquire DT Carlos Dunlay could leave Seattle short on their trade offer to Houston.

Best trade partner: Titans

Duke Johnson

The Houston Texans' run game has been nonexistent throughout the season, and it's time for the organization to experiment with a younger prospect — preferably Scottie Phillips — during the second half of the season.

While it would be nice if the Texans could find a trade partner for David Johnson, no team would be willing to take on the near $8 million base salary he is due next season for his lack of production. Which leaves the better half of the Johnson Brothers up for grabs in Duke Johnson.

Duke has experienced a significant decrease in his touches when compared to last season and could be more beneficial to a playoff team seeking help in their backfield.

The Chicago Bears are the one team where Duke's talents could be beneficial and properly utilized. Chicago lost their Pro-Bowl running back Tarik Cohen for the season due to a torn ACL and has since struggled in the run game. David Montgomery has done a moderate job filling in for the injured Cohen, but the second-year halfback has yet to prove himself as an every-down back.

Duke's skill set as a pass-catcher coming out of the backfield is the most suitable attribute he would be able to provide to the Bears. Cohen is one of the most dynamic dual-threat halfbacks, and Duke would be able to give the Bears' offense a sense of normalcy in his absence.

The New England Patriots may explore the market to enhance their backfield. But one can imagine that Bill Belichick is more interested in adding a receiver in an attempt to salvage the remainder of their season.

Best trade partner: Bears

Will Fuller

Next to Watt, Will Fuller has been the second most discussed Texan in the rumor mill. Fuller could survive the trade deadline and become a foundational piece to the Texans' rebuilding project, but Houston may not be willing to tie long-term money into the Notre Dame product given his injury history.

Several teams around the league have their eyes set on a potential deal for Fuller, but none more so the Packers.

Green Bay is seeking a receiver who they can pair alongside Pro-Bowler Davante Adams. A potential deal for Fuller would give the Packers a quality second-tear receiver, while reprising his role as a team's No. 2 option — similar to his early days playing alongside Hopkins.

Fuller would also be a tremendous upgrade to the Patriots. New England does not have any quality receivers on their roster, and their depth has become more vulnerable after the team placed Julian Edelman on IR following knee surgery.

While the Patriots are in dire need to add a receiver, Belichick may hesitate from giving up too many assets — especially draft picks — that could be valuable to their own rebuilding process should the Cam Newton experiment fail. While on pace for a career-year, the Texans should look to cash-in on Fuller while his trade stock is at an all-time high.

Best trade partner: Packers

Coty M. Davis is a reporter for ESPN 97.5 Houston/SportsMap covering the Houston Texans. He is also the co-host of Locked On Texans, a part of the Locked On Podcast Network. Follow Coty on Twitter @CotyDavis_24.

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