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LONE STAR STATE. | metsgrrl.com

LONE STAR STATE.

This team remains an enigma. They lose to teams they shouldn’t lose to and when they win, it is valiant and dramatic and makes you believe again… until they lose to, say, Randy Wolf.

*cue annoying wolf howl that Houston pipes through its ballpark that I hope I never have to hear again*

I am not going to talk about the games very much besides that sentence. But if you want to hear about the rest of our southern sojourn, read on.

We arrived in Houston early Friday morning. We were at the airport early (LGA on a Friday in the summer? You’d do the same) and since the security line was zero and we don’t check bags, we were able to get on the 6:30am flight. We picked up our car, and proceeded to kill time until check in with trips to Target (water, drinks, snacks, photographs), the House of Pies (breakfast), and the Galleria (travel sizes). We checked in around 1pm at a lovely 4-star boutique hotel about 7 blocks from the ballpark. We had enough time for a nap and a shower before walking down to Minute Maid Park for the 4pm tour.

It was during our walk through downtown when an old unused courthouse caught my eye and I stopped to take out my camera. That’s when I realized that the battery was sitting in Brooklyn, and D40 batteries aren’t sold in the team store. TBF had his point and shoot, which he kindly allowed me to take possession of, but it’s just not the same thing. It’s funny how in the course of a few years taking photos of baseball games, and the people and the places, has become so important. I kept trying to console myself that I could just enjoy the game, but when we settled in just off of the first base side later and I watched Jose Reyes jump back to base again and again and again from an angle I never get to see, it hurt.

The tour sucked (more on that later). It got us into BP early, which was another cause for no-camera-battery agony. I see Ryan Church in the dugout and immediately yell, “Hey Ryan! You’re looking great!” only to be pounced on by two security guards who tell me that there is NO YELLING AT THE PLAYERS and that I need to go over to the other side, closer to the Houston players. I immediately protest: “I have been to BP dozens of times in multiple stadiums. No one has ever told me that I need to be quiet.” (TBF would tell me later that I totally shocked them with the response. They weren’t expecting me to do anything more than move along quietly). Considering that this is the ballpark where there’s a group of fans who dress up in lion costumes every home game, yelling encouragement to a player in the dugout didn’t exactly strike me as crazy fan behavior.

Following the tour, we collected our Lance Berkman bobbleheads and made our way to our excellent seats on the field level. More than a few fans would ask us later in the evening if we wanted our bobbleheads, which we actually did. Also, no one actually went about it in a fashion that would have made us give them up. If someone had come up to us and said, “Hey, I didn’t get here in time and I’m a huge fan. I was wondering if you really wanted both of your bobbleheads. I’d be happy to buy both of you a beer in thanks if you were willing to give up one,” we might have considered it. Perhaps that was too opportune and too New York of us to expect. And truthfully, we would have been too New York to actually believe that the bobblehead was for them, and they weren’t going to turn around and sell it on eBay.

Minute Maid is a nice cross between cozy and expansive. There’s enough light so you don’t feel like you’re inside, and it doesn’t suck to not be a sticky clammy mess by the third inning. We met up with Dan from Lone Star Mets and his wife for a few minutes, and I made plans to meet up with MG reader April after the game (carefully sending her two plans, one if the Mets won, and one if they didn’t).

Our seats were along the first base line and MUCH nicer than we had previously thought, based on our initial read of the seating chart. Our M.O. on these trips is to buy really good seats for one game and pick up anything for the other game. These were supposed to be our ‘anything’ seats but if we had them at Shea we would be thrilled. There were a few Mets fans in our section, most of whom seemed to be local, and completely unable to start a decent “Let’s Go Mets” chant. (For the record: it’s a crisp “LET’S – GO – METS”. Each word is one syllable. Not “LET’S GO MEEETTTTS, LET’S GO”. I don’t know whose cheer that is but it’s not ours.) They were so annoying that TBF considered going back at the half inning to instruct them on the correct syntax, except for the fact that it became unnecessary later.

Our row was empty until not long before game time, when a family of cowboys came and sat down. As soon as the gentleman in the carefully creased Wrangler jeans and real cowboy hat had settled into his seat, he offered me a polite “hello,” and then a few minutes later, he looks at me carefully again.
“Oh, no,” he says, out loud.
“I told you,” says his wife.
“How did you end up rooting for the wrong team?” he says.
“That’s not quite how I see it,” I say.
“Where are you from?”
“Brooklyn, New York.”
“You down here on business?”
“No, we came down to see the Mets.”

Well, that made all the difference in the world. We told him about our trips to ballparks and about Shea and how many games a year we go to. He took one look at TBF’s scorecard and prounouced it “high-tech”. It was his anniversary and they had decided at the spur of the moment to “come on down and see the ‘Stros,” him, his wife, his son and his son’s girlfriend (or wife, can’t be sure on that).

It is an unfortunate circumstance that since a lot of people elsewhere in the country don’t normally meet people from New York in the normal course of their day that a portion of the conversation ends up being about 9/11. In Texas, especially, this was not a conversation I wanted to be having. (A t-shirt we saw the next night read OFFEND A LIBERAL, THINK FOR YOURSELF.) Luckily, that was the time the Astros pitcher got that HR and so the conversation took another tack.

Houston fans cannot heckle.
“PEDRO, YOU SUCK!”
“HEY REYES, YOU SUCK!”
“THE MEETTTSS SUUUUCCCCKKK”
“I’m sorry,” TBF said, turning to me. “What place are the Astros in?”
“Why, I do believe they’re just below the Pirates,” was my answer.
“THE MEEEETTTTSSS SUUUCCCKKKKk”
Ad nauseum.

Carlos Beltran. When I think of Beltran, I think of a quiet, shy, soft-spoken guy with a wife and kid who is deeply religious and makes plays seem easy when anyone else would do some unnecessary dramatic dive to get to the ball. I know we paid a lot of money for him and everyone thinks he underperformed at the beginning. I know I’m in a minority who has no problem with Carlos Beltran simply because of the defense he provides. I think it is greatly undervalued because he makes it look so easy. It makes people think he isn’t trying hard enough because he is so good at what he does.

Houston, however, hates Carlos Beltran with a venom that neither of us anticipated. We’re talking Roger Clemens coming to Shea level boos. A guy behind us kept yelling ‘We don’t take that kind of crap here, Beltran’ and that made me wonder, “What crap, exactly?” A kid on Sunday had a sign that read BELTRAITOR and that was when TBF went over to have a conversation. TBF’s line of reasoning: he didn’t choose to come here, it’s not like he’s a prospect that you brought up through your farm system. He played his heart out for you. What more do you want?

Fan line of reasoning: he left us for a few million dollars.

In Houston, in a park that was once named after Enron, this distaste of capitalism seems just a tad out of place.

There are fireworks at Minute Maid Park on Friday night. They open the roof and it’s supposed to be a sight to behold. We were all in favor of staying for this spectacle until the game ended the way it did. We chalked it up to an anomaly and knew that Johan would redeem us the next day, when we were in Arlington.

*sigh*

After a stop at Best Buy in the suburbs to replace my camera battery, it was about three and a half hours from Houston to The Ballpark At Arlington. The Ballpark is located in the middle of nowhere, adjacent to a couple of hotels, Six Flags, and the monstrosity of a new football stadium (that looks like the set from Thunderdome). We booked the 2pm tour in advance, and were there by 1:30. The tour entitles you to go through their Hall of Legends, which is a museum with one floor dedicated to the Texas Rangers, and another floor with an exhibit from Cooperstown. It was wonderful. They celebrate their team and their legendary players in a way the Mets will never, ever do.

The tour went everywhere except the clubhouse and the weight room, and I am told that you don’t get to go that far into either one anyway. The tour guide (an old Brooklyn Dodgers fan, who noticed my Brooklyn Cyclones shirt – which I wore as a way of saying WE’RE NOT YANKEES FANS – right away) answered every question we could have possibly come up with.

I loved Arlington. I even loved that it was outside. I think the only thing I will ever agree on with George W. Bush is that baseball should be played outside (which is the explanation Ed, our tour guide, gave us about why there isn’t a retractable roof in Arlington). The tour was absolutely outstanding and stood in stark contrast to the tour at Minute Maid, that didn’t even take us through the retired numbers. We were done by 3:30 and didn’t know what to do. It was 106 so we couldn’t just sit around, and my purchase of a Josh Hamilton t-shirt and a stuffed Rangers Captain for the mascot collection took us 15 minutes.

me to TBF: “google ‘grassy knoll’. I’m driving.”

As I said in a text message over the weekend, I now have no moral high ground with the tourists who stop me at lunchtime and ask me how to get to Ground Zero. I don’t know if it will make us any better if I tell you that we approached it from the conspiracy theorist side of things (me: “God, I just love the First Amendment.”). We were in Dallas; we doubt we will ever be there again; we were tacky (although not as nearly as tacky as the families who were posing on the bullet locations painted in the middle of the street).

It was Faith and Family Day in Arlington, with a large Christian Rock concert going on outside the ballpark. It was the reason we had bought these tickets in advance, since our research online had indicated that these often sell out. I didn’t feel entirely comfortable going into the day, but I have to say that the extent of the ‘faith’ part of the day seemed to be confined to the concert and the 57 churches (we counted) that were welcomed by the Texas Rangers on the scoreboard during the game.

We made our way down to the field as the Blue Jays were finishing BP. I had printed up copies of this photo and this photo and had a hope of getting an autograph just based on pure originality. We were standing down front when we noticed a line of people standing down the steps and then a mother admonished her son that he was going to lose his place in line.

A LINE? To get player autographs????

We joined the line, but no long after that the fans at the front of the line came up the stairs telling everyone that they had just been told that the team was not going to be coming onto the field until game time, due to extreme heat (something our tour guide had mentioned earlier while we were in the indoor batting cages). We walked around some more, looking for Rangers Captain (it’s a horse) so TBF could add to his ‘photos with mascots’ collection, and as we were trying to figure out what to do next, since our seats were still very much in the sun, I realized I wasn’t quite feeling very well.

I sat in the concourse as TBF brought me two bottles of water, a wet bandanna, and an enormous lemon ice, and after consuming all of the above, began to feel somewhat more human again. He was a strong advocate of not getting to our seats until the sun had gone down, but I felt like a sissy, and we sat down right before first pitch. The mistake we made was that while we were drinking water all day, we just weren’t drinking enough, and because we spent almost the entire day from 2pm on outside.

Once the sun went down it was almost pleasant, although it had only reached 98 degrees by the time we bailed at the top of the 7th inning. Arlington has a manual scoreboard, and they were not keeping up – plus at our angle we couldn’t see the pitching changes. I finally pulled out the PDA.
“Who the hell is Dan Murphy?”
I ran out of battery life about the time we decided it would be better to not see what disaster happened around Billy Wagner this time. We drove about an hour back towards Houston and stayed there for the night, so we didn’t have to do all four hours the next morning.

We got back to Houston by 11:30 the next day. Sunday’s seats were 8 rows from behind home plate. It was Astros Family day, which had all the wives and children out around second base for a group photo. I refrain from yelling rude things at David Newhan and his family. Funnily enough, a guy in an orange Beltran shirt turns up not long after we arrived; the person we bought our seats from on StubHub had three, we remember, and guess who bought the third? Another Mets fan. We were also joined by two young boys in Mets gear (while their fathers had Astros shirts and were clearly local).

Sunday was just beyond painful. We would never leave early, but I had to question why on earth we were staying. I mean, it was RANDY WOLF, someone the Mets had beaten easily in the past. Oliver wasn’t Mr. Hyde but he wasn’t Dr. Jekyll either. As on Friday, too many ducks on the pond, no bats showing up when they needed to, no one coming in in the clutch, and NICK EVANS IS NOT A MAJOR LEAGUE PLAYER. <--- NEWS FLASH "While I know that we're going to get a hit in the next few minutes that will tie up the game, in order to bring in Carlos Delgado to hit the winning run in spectacular fashion," I said to TBF at the top of the 9th. "When we do leave the ballpark, we need to go out on this side of the park to be closest to the car." "Of course, that will be in many minutes from now," he says. Needless to say, we were at the airport by 4:30. Full ballpark reviews and photographs are forthcoming.

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