Editor’s note: Paul Muth is an Army vet who tends to talks a lot, so when his friends tell him to stop, he either writes or talks to a microphone and calls it a podcast. He writes better with a beard and looks better with a beer. Or something like that. Follow him on twitter at @abumnamedpaul
By PAUL MUTH
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 1st base line, unzipped my backpack full of Shiner Bock from the on-base commissary, and spent the rest of the season cheering the Bears on at Jamsil Stadium amongst 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 sort of cheat sheet on how to get the most out of each venue. So, here we go. Part one of the Houston Sports & Stuff Stadium Cheat Sheets begins below:
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 always 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 are set up located in prime position just a few blocks away to handle just that, 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 menu’s 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 number 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.
So there you go. That should give you a jump start at Minute Maid. Next up, we’ll tackle the Toyota Center, where James Harden has been absolutely unreal this season. You owe it to yourself to check that guy out.