HOUSTON ASTROS 2018

Score a home run at Astros biggest opening day ever with these hot tips

Today should be one last chance to celebrate the 2017 title. Bob Levey/Getty Images

Steven Devadanam is editor of CultureMap/Houston. This article originally appeared there.

The day that Astros fans have been waiting for is here. Houston's opening day 2018 downtown promises to be packed, with the massive Astros Street Fest which runs from 1-5:30 pm (you must have a game ticket to gain access), not to mention the myriad watch parties happening all over town. 

If you're headed downtown, here are some last-minute reminders and tips to help you make the most of your opening day experience. 

Parking, parking, parking

If you're driving in, remember that the tens of thousands of downtown parking spaces — including on-street spaces, garages and surface lots — will get gobbled up quickly close to game time. This Downtown Interactive Parking Map shows visitors the best places to park according to destination and preferred lot type, and even offers parking reservations for some garages. Expect prices on opening day to be higher than those posted online.

Parking gets considerably more expensive the closer you get to Minute Maid Park. Garages and surface lots located west of Main St. will most likely be cheaper. Join the crowds and walk a few blocks to the stadium.

There are 3-hour time limits as well as some restrictions for on-street parking during weekdays, so make sure to read the signs before you park. (Street parking is free after 6 p.m. Monday through Saturday, and all day on Sunday.)

Hitch a ride

Expect a swarm of fans to use taxis, Uber, or Lyft — which is offering a promo code for the Astros opener, through April 8.

To get 20 percent off your LYFT rides (up to $5 off), use promo code ASTROSOPENER.

Greenlink
Take advantage of free rides to and from Minute Maid Park, and other downtown game day spots, with the Greenlink bus. The Orange Route, which runs Monday-Friday from 6:30 pm-midnight, Saturday from 9 am-midnight, and Sunday from 9 am-6 pm, has a stop located across from Minute Maid Park near Crawford and Texas, and picks up riders every 10 minutes.

METRORail

Speaking of buses, you can can hop on the METRORail to and from the game, with stops along the Green and Purple lines.

HoustonBCYCLE

The Houston BCYCLE bike share is a convenient transportation option when attending Astros games, with 15 stations downtown. The two stations are Crawford Island, four blocks south of Minute Maid Park (925 Crawford St.), and Rusk & Emanuel, just a few blocks east of the stadium (736 St. Emanuel St.).

Pre-game

There's no shortage of restaurants and bars close to Minute Maid Park, especially along Main Street and at Avenida Houston near the George R. Brown Convention Center — offering up stops for pre-and post-game meals and celebrations.

The no-frills Eighteen Twenty Lounge offers a low-key setting before the excitement of the game with comfortable couches, classic games and a wide selection behind the bar.

Across from Minute Maid Park, the ideally located HTX Fan Tavern boasts three bars, an abundance of televisions, and a state-of-the-art sound system for an immersive game day experience.

Stylish Italian restaurant Osso & Kristalla is not your average pre-game location, but fans can find ample patio seating, $5 Astros game day specials on select beers, and an assortment of delicious game day foods—plus it’s just steps from the park’s Union Station entrance

Downtown watch parties

For Houstonians who don’t have tickets to the game, several downtown hotspots are hosting watch parties.

Named after the Astros legend and Hall-of-Famer, Biggio’s is a two-story fan favorite inside the Marriott Marquis, boasting two 30-foot HD screens, leather recliners and ballpark-inspired fare. Saint Arnold Brewing Company kicks off this celebration at 11 am. Christian’s Tailgate on Congress is home to more than 40 televisions, and 30 beers on tap. La Cantina is downtown’s newest sports bar, with multiple 82-inch televisions, adjacent street taco specialists La Calle across the hall, and plenty of margaritas.

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Composite photo by Jack Brame

Former Astros manager Andrew Jay Hinch is on a short list of candidates to become manager of the Detroit Tigers in 2021.

The question is, after being suspended and later fired for his role in the Astros sign-stealing scandal, does A.J. Hinch deserve to manage again in baseball?

It's weird to think because so much has happened in 2020, but Hinch was suspended and fired only nine months ago. His banishment, however, ends in a matter of weeks with the final out of the upcoming World Series. At that point, he will be available to manage the Tigers or any other team. There's a possibility that the Mets are interested. Some were hoping it'd be the Astros, but the Astros are committed to manager Dusty Baker for next year. After that … never say never.

Shortly after getting the Astros ax, Hinch went on MLB TV and apologized for his role in the Astros cheating scandal. Although baseball's investigation said the garbage can banging scheme was "with the exception of (Astros coach Alex) Cora, player-driven and player-executed," Hinch took responsibility as manager and didn't challenge his punishment. No players were punished.

"I still feel responsible and will always feel responsible as the man out front," Hinch said. "As the leader, I was in charge of the team. I put out a statement to apologize. But there is something different to doing it on camera and putting a face to an apology, and saying I'm sorry to the league, to baseball, to fans, to players, to the coaches.

"It happened on my watch. I'm not proud of that. I'll never be proud of it. I didn't like it. But I have to own it. And the commissioner's office made very, very clear that the GM and the manager were in position to make sure that nothing like this happened. And we fell short."

In effect, while Hinch didn't authorize or participate in the sign-stealing scandal, he didn't do enough (really anything) to stop it. He is the rare case of being a guilty bystander.

To be clear, Hinch has not been offered the Detroit manager job. However, he has more experience and more wins under his belt than most of the other candidates being considered.

Hinch's reputation is blemished, but his credentials can't be disputed. During his five years as Astros manager, the team never had a losing season, won 100 or more games three times, including a team record 107 wins last year, made the playoffs three times and won a World Series.

Has baseball forgiven Hinch, and does he deserve another chance to manage in the big leagues? This is America, the land of forgiveness and second chances.

As Mahatma Gandhi said, "The weak can never forgive. Forgiveness is the attribute of the strong."

Hinch knew his team was cheating and didn't do enough to stop it. There's no defense for that. But I think he's paid enough of a price to get back in baseball.

Mike Tyson raped a woman, went to jail, and now he's practically America's sweetheart. Hillary forgave Bill. We not only forgave Confederate leaders, we built schools and statues to honor them. Martha Stewart went to jail for insider trading, now she's back on TV baking crumpets. Ozzy Osbourne was arrested for pee'ing on a monument outside the Alamo, there is no more sacred place in Texas, and now he sells out concerts at the Cynthia Woods Mitchell Pavilion.

Pee-wee Herman, well, let's not say what he was caught doing, but he's planning to tour the U.S. celebrating the 35th anniversary of Pee-wee's Big Adventure movie.

Remember, Hinch was suspended for a year. It could have been worse. Baseball commissioner Rob Manfred has the power to ban people for life. Since becoming the commish, Manfred has permanently banished two people: former St. Louis Cardinals scouting director Chris Correa for hacking into the Astros computer database, and former Atlanta Braves general manager, John Coppolella for signing international players illegally.

Manfred also has temporarily banned Astros assistant general manager Brandon Taubman for shouting inappropriate comments at female reporters last year. Taubman is eligible to apply for reinstatement after this year's World Series. However, if he commits one more violation of baseball rules, he will be banned for life.

Lifetime bans aren't as unusual as you might think. Since baseball's beginnings in the 1800s, dozens of players, managers and team owners have been banned, mostly, like Pete Rose and the Chicago Black Sox, for gambling-related offenses.

A.J. Hinch copped to his crime, suffered the consequences, now it's time for him to manage a baseball team again. It's not like he'd be landing a plum job with Detroit. The Tigers are out of this year's playoff picture. They lost 114 games last season. And were 64-98 the two years prior. Managing the Tigers will be punishment enough.

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