Baseball withdrawal is serious for me and lots of other fans right now, and to have something baseball-related to attend and marked on my calendar felt NICE. That day was fanfest. Astros Fanfest. Saturday, January 23rd, 2016. Minute Maid Park. It had been 3 months since I’d been inside the ballpark for ALDS Game 4 back in October (which I will blog about eventually, but the pain is still strong from that game), and I was just simply itching to get back in to #smellbaseball once again.
Now, I attended Fanfest for the first time in 2015, and attendance wasn’t all too great, and I understood that, as they just finished 2014 with a 72-90 record. But now, after the amazing playoff 2015 season, I definitely expected a whole lot more people. I knew that success would bring people back just like in the last month of the season last year, attendance at Astros games were definitely up. I had read in the newspaper that morning that season ticket sales were up by 2,000 “units.” Wow. We were in for a big day.
We left the house around 10:25 am, and with the 20-25 minute drive, we arrived just before the gates were to open for the event at 11. There were so many cars in the parking lots all around (parking was free, hah) and by the time we got to the gate, holy moly. I was right. The lines all over the stadium stretched at least 200 people each line. I was pretty happy to be there though. We got in line towards the home plate gate. I was very anxious to get in. Thankfully, the lines went by smoothly and we got in quick. Our first stop was to the team store behind home plate in the concourse. Last year, they had so many stuff on sale like jerseys, hats, and great goodies. (I bought a brick red batboy jersey for $15 last year!) I was seriously hoping they would do it again. We started walking there and it was like heaven. Programs for sale, hats, shirts, game used bases, gigantic posters, old stuff, a HUGE HELMET BAG. Wow. Unfortunately, everyone else had the same idea as us to look for nice stuff as soon as we entered the stadium and the store was CRAMMED. Claustrophobic much? Hell yeah.
It probably took 30-40 minutes to look through the store, and go through the massive line but I walked away with lots amazing things such as: a BADASS batting practice sign ($3), a name sign (probably in their locker) from former Astro (I didn’t even know he was on the team at one point) Armando Galaragga ($3, and yes, the one who infamously almost threw a perfect game), a 2015 orange brim postseason hat for $10 (regular price: $37.99. What a steal.), a Mike Fiers No-Hitter poster (for $1, and hopefully to be signed some day), a Keuchel’s Korner shirt for $5, and the cream of the crop, a brick red Javier Bracamonte jersey for $20! (regular price according to oldest tag: $125. Wow.) I love Javier so much, he’s been the bullpen catcher for the Astros for a while now and he’s always been so nice to me. (by tossing me plenty of balls over the years and interacting with me) He’s just a really good guy to everyone in general. He’s the best. Best bullpen catcher in the MLB.
Yes, your eyes are not deceiving you, this was a jersey from 2004, the year that the Astros hosted the All-Star game (AL won that year, 9-4). It had survived 11-12 years!!! Wow. I couldn’t believe it. What a pickup. BEAUTIFUL. Even though it fits me quite big, I’ll see what I’ll do with it.
Anywho, after the store, there wasn’t much to do (I sadly didn’t get any autograph passes since they sold out quick) until I saw a photo booth in the right field concourse! There were players (rotating every 20 minutes) taking pictures with fans! I quickly got in line. When I initally got in line, it was infielder Marwin Gonzales who was taking pictures but by the time it got to us, Marwin had left and someone new had taken his spot. Who was it?
That would be the hard-throwing reliever, Josh Fields. Really cool guy. After the picture, before leaving, I told him that he had tossed me a ball last season (true story), and thanked him for it. He said no problem, with a nice smile on his face. Totally awesome. Hopefully he tosses me another ball in 2016.
After that, the field was open to run the bases, and take pictures in the Astros dugout (does any other team do that?) and of course, I took advantage of it. I hadn’t ran the bases since I was little, so I did that first, and I’ll admit I walked the bases, but that was because I wanted to enjoy the view and you’re damn right I enjoyed it.
Notice Tal’s Hill right behind me in my awkward selfie, as it’ll live another year! What a cool hill. After finishing my “home run trot” across the bases, we headed to take a picture in the Astros dugout, which resulted in me using the telephone to challenge a call. Really cool.
Making our way through the dugout, we noticed somebody in a uniform was there also. It was Astros infielder Luis Valbuena! There was a short line of people wanting to take a picture him and we managed to get a selfie with him!
Cool guy. After this, we went down to a fan forum in the luxurious diamond club behind home plate. I’d only been there once before, and that was for last year’s fanfest as well when newly-voted Hall of Famer, Craig Biggio was set to answer questions at a forum, and I’m happy to say I asked him something. Really, really cool. Anyways, why was I here again? Oh yeah, the Astros were set to reveal a new alternative jersey for 2016, and I wanted to see first-hand the reveal, and what it would look like. I think it looks pretty solid, a nice tribute to the past, and I’m looking forward to see the club wear it on Sunday afternoons. (Picture from @alysonfooter’s twitter.)
Now, even though I was in the diamond club, I’d never been in the seats outside of the club directly behind home plate. Throughout 100+ games that I’ve attended here at Minute Maid Park, this was the only place that I’d never been/sat in. Well after Saturday, I’m glad to say that it’s a false statement now. The seats were open, and I took advantage of it. I was truly sitting like a boss. Despite the people (kidding), the view was amazing in front of me. I never know when/if I’ll ever be back here in the Diamond Club, so I took full advantage of it. I’ll admit the seats were comfy, but I wouldn’t wanna sit here for a game. (Crazy, right? But ok, maybe a few innings.) I’d feel like a trapped animal. Before leaving the club, my dad got a pic that TRULY made me feel like a boss.
Oh yeah, living the good life. It was time to go after this as the event was nearing the end, and honestly I had a great day. To see the city of Houston and Astros fans rejuvenated again for baseball once again, is really really exciting. I can’t wait until opening day. Can April come any sooner? Before we official left though, my dad took an amazing pic which pretty much describes Houston & Minute Maid Park, and the word is beautiful.
Well, thanks guys for reading, make sure to follow my blog for WAY more excellent blog posts to come this season, like this post, comment what you thought, if you’re ready for baseball season, any purchases made at FanFests around the country, and what do you enjoy about your team’s FanFest? Baseball is nearing quickly, and who’s ready? EVERYONE. Tweet me @Angel__Arroyo, and as always, Go Astros!