When the chance to watch a baseball game in Houston came up, I jumped at it. Experiencing something so traditionally American, as well as enjoying an afternoon of entertainment made for an enticing invitation. It wasn’t until I was sitting in my seat, snapping pictures of the highly manicured green field that I realised it counted towards my Life List goals as well - watching sports live.
The thing about baseball is, it’s long and there’s no way of predicting when it will finish. When you go to see a football match, you know exactly how long you’re going to be there. Two forty-five minute halves, an interval midway through, and a couple of minutes here or there for injury time. Job done. With baseball, you have no clue how long it’s going to take so you have to come at it with a different approach.
It’s more of a social gathering, you know you’re probably in it for the long haul, and can get up to get snacks or visit the rest rooms whenever you need. Your attention can flit around and doesn’t have to be on the action the entire time because, let’s face it, the action is few and far between. Of nine innings, only four had runs in them. The sparse nature of such results meant that when there were decent hits or a flurry of action, it was really exciting to watch.
I’m also impressed because these guys, particularly those in the outer field, don’t have to do very much, but when they do, they have to be on it within seconds. Quick reactions, and intense concentration are required, even though the game is a slow process.
I absolutely loved it. I was with a handful of other people, some of whom departed halfway through to go and watch the England World Cup match instead. The rest stuck it out and said afterwards that it grew on them. I was hooked almost instantly. It made so much more sense seeing the game in real life than it has done in the past when I’ve watched it on TV, and we had such great seats that we could see all that was going on.
It also helps a lot to have a team to cheer for. We were rooting for the Houston Astros as they played against the visiting Tampa Bay Rays. Cheering for the good hits on our side, and groaning when our guys were caught out made it all the more interesting. We won, as well, which made it even more special.
The Astros have a great mascot, a green alien called Orbit. I’ve seen mascots with really the wrong attitude but he was very funny. He ribbed some of the players as they did their stretches, and went up into the crowd to sit with people and watch the game. They even caught him on Kiss-cam.
The big screen was full of little sections and commercials, this prize brought to you by so and so, and this section courtesy of someone else. It was loud and there were little musical chimes played occasionally to rile up the crowd. There was also a sing-a-long halfway through “Deep in the Heart of Texas” but I wasn’t too bothered about that.
Talking of singing, I found the National Anthem very moving. I’ve scoffed a bit about this in the past, the sheer volume of patriotism at US sporting events, but when you’re there, and the whole crowd around you are so focused on this one song, well, it gets to you.
When I was talking to Mr C about my visit to the Minute Maid Park, he asked how it compared to the football. I said it was better. The atmosphere is welcoming and less intense, the action is great, and once you have someone to cheer for, you can really get into the game. I loved it, and as I tweeted at the time, I wish I could go back every week.