World Series pressure has Minute Maid Park concessions working overtime with new food items

With sellout crowds ready to cram Minute Maid Park this weekend for the World Series, Mat Drain and his crews are putting in serious OT getting ready.

Originally appeard on Culture Map/Houston.

The World Series isn’t only the biggest thing ever for Astros players, the pressure is on Minute Maid Park’s No. 1 popcorn popper, too.

“This weekend, with World Series games in Houston, will be the most important event of my career, and I couldn’t be more excited,” said Mat Drain, Head Honcho of Hot Dogs for Aramark, which runs all the food concessions at Minute Maid Park.

“I’ve been a supporting manager at big events during my career with Aramark. Most recently, I worked the Super Bowl at NRG Stadium here in Houston, NCAA Final Fours and NBA Finals, but nothing comes close to hosting the World Series in your own building."

With sellout crowds ready to cram the stadium, Drain and his crews are putting in serious OT getting ready.

“This is a career milestone and I’m having the time of my life. I’ll be working 18-hour days this weekend. We’re working 12-hour days preparing for the World Series. Working those other events was fun, but Minute Maid Park is our home. I would rather be working long days and nights than the alternative, which would be watching the Yankees play the Dodgers on TV at home. My off-season can wait another month,” Drain said.

The Minute Maid Park test kitchen has been in overdrive creating new items for the stadium’s World Series menu.

“Because the gates will open earlier than usual, and fans will stay until the final out, we expect fans to eat and drink big time. Don’t forget, this is only the second time in the Astros’ 55-year history that they’re in the World Series, so fans will want to savor every moment,” he said.

It also will be Drain’s job to deliver champagne and beer to the winning team’s clubhouse should the World Series end in Houston.

“My fingers are crossed that it’s the Astros clubhouse, otherwise it won’t be a happy delivery,” Drain said. 

So you know: there won’t be any fireworks following the game Friday night, like during the regular season. The only fireworks will be Jose Altuve and Carlos Correa swatting home runs into the Crawford boxes and Lance McCullers making Dodgers whiff at curve balls in the dirt.

You like predictions? Astros in 5 sounds about right. And if Dallas Keuchel out-duels Clayton Kershaw in Game One, possibly an Astros sweep.

Here are the new food items awaiting World Series crowds at Minute Maid:

“Earn History Burger” – A two-patty bacon burger with Cheddar cheese and a split brisket sausage served on a fresh-baked Challah Bun with crispy jalapeno strips.  ($18.25, Texas Legends stand behind Section 134)

“L.A. Queso Stak” – Fresh-cut fries topped with house-made green chili queso, pork carnitas, fresh-made pico de gallo, fresh-cut jalapenos and drizzles of sour cream. ($12, Brewhouse Fries stand on the concourse behind centerfield)

“Green Chili Chicken Stak – Fresh-cut fries topped with green chili chicken, pico de gallo and cotija cheese. ($12, Brewhouse Fries stand on the concourse behind centerfield)

“Street Taco & Salsa Bar” – Featuring Suckling Pig Pulled Pork Tacos, served with pineapple chunks and mango habanero glaze. ($13, FiveSeven Market behind centerfield and several locations on the Honda Club Level)

“Braised Brisket on Flour Tortillas” – Served with pickled red onions, fresh jalapenos, cilantro and chipotle aioli. ($13, FiveSeven Market behind centerfield and several locations on the Honda Club Level)

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The Astros suffered a heartbreaking loss to the Yankees Thursday. Composite image by Brandon Strange.

After an impressive two-game sweep of the NL-best Mets at home earlier in the week, the Astros took to the road to begin a four-game series with the league-best Yankees on Thursday night. To little surprise, the series started with a bang (no, not a trash can bang) in more ways than one, confirming that this series should be a must-watch this weekend.

New York's comeback proves no lead will be safe

Right from the get-go, the loud Yankee Stadium faithful had their chance to rain boos down on Jose Altuve before showing some pleasure as he led off the series by being hit by a pitch. They were quickly, though only temporarily, quieted as Altuve would come in to score two batters later on a three-run blast by Alex Bregman.

Three-run homers seemed to be a theme, as New York would get one of their own to tie the game off the bat of Giancarlo Stanton to tie the game, then Yordan Alvarez continued his dominant June by pushing the Astros back in front by three with another three-run bomb in the third, making it 6-3. That lead held through to the bottom of the ninth, where instead of holding it, Ryan Pressly issued two walks to set up the fourth homer of the game to tie things again before Aaron Judge would get a walk-off single to complete the impressive comeback.

Not only will we get to sit back and watch the slug-fest between Yordan and Judge this weekend, but it looks like with Alex Bregman swinging well again to round out the top of Houston's order, the Astros may be getting closer to their full power. So far in June, these two teams sit third and fourth in on-base percentage, with the Astros at .351 and the Yankees right behind at .350. That means we should continue to see scoring opportunities on both sides that can tilt momentum one way or the other as these lineups try to battle against the opposing pitcher.

How will the aces fare

Verlander vs. Judge, and Cole vs. Alvarez, need I say more? Although we won't see Justin Verlander go up against Gerrit Cole in the same game in this series (they should go head to head next Thursday, however), they will pitch on back-to-back days, with Houston's ace going Friday night and New York's on Saturday afternoon. Verlander is coming off his worst start of the year, a three and two-thirds inning outing where the White Sox put up seven runs, four earned, against him and knocked him out early to give him his third loss and increased his ERA from 1.94 to 2.30.

The last time he faced the Yankees was in the Bronx in the 2019 playoffs, in ALCS Game 5, where he went seven frames while allowing four runs, all on two homers in the first inning, which is all New York needed to grab the 4-1 victory to make it a 3-2 Houston lead in the series, which the Astros would go on to clinch in Game 6. So, with the double dose of bad taste in his mouth, it will be interesting to see if he can use that as the fuel to get back to the phenomenal form he's had this year or if the Yankees try to jump on him early like they did nearly three years ago.

Cole, meanwhile, is fresh off of two quality starts in a row against the Rays, where he allowed just one run on six hits with nineteen strikeouts over 13.1 innings of work. He's had his share of strife this season, though, including a seven-run shelling by the Twins earlier this month, along with a start in April where he couldn't make it through two innings against the Tigers. He's had success against his former club, most notably a complete-game shutout in Houston last July with twelve K's and holding the Astros to just three hits.

If the series opener was any indication, we are in for the treat of a playoff-caliber matchup, if not a potential ALCS preview that we may see in October. The Yankees showed why they have the best record and are the hottest team in baseball on Thursday night, but the Astros were only a good outing from their closer away from having a relatively lopsided win. The rivalry is real; the competition is close, and we get to enjoy the show.

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