Ice House

Bowl Movements

The ’Stros’ new homes-away-from-home: an appreciation

By Jeff Balke March 14, 2013 Published in the April 2013 issue of Houstonia Magazine

We know you’re grumpy about the Astros moving to the American League. You hate the designated hitter. There is no way you’re going to stay up late for road games on the West Coast. Who are these teams, anyway? All you know about them is what you’ve gleaned from punch lines in Jay Leno monologues. 

That’s it, you say. I’m done. But then you see this article and think, there must be a bright side to all this league-leaving stuff, because when it comes to those rah-rah city mags, the glass is always half full, right? Not this time, fella.

Have you seen the ballparks in the ’Stros’ new division? Thinking about taking a road trip this summer to cheer them on? Get ready for the saddest stadium tour of your life, baseball fan.

When it comes to diamond domiciles, Minute Maid Park is something to be proud of — and the Astros’ home was just one of the National League’s standouts. Busch Stadium in St. Louis might be the coolest in all of baseball, what with those panoramic views of the Gateway Arch. Wrigley Field and its ivy-covered outfield walls? Also cool. And PNC Park (Pittsburgh), Miller Park (Milwaukee), and Great American Ball Park (Cincinnati) are no slouches either.

But the AL West? That’s where ballparks go to die.  

Rangers Ballpark, Arlington, TX. Sure, it’s fairly nice on the inside, but the only lovely view from the grandstands you’d have, if you weren’t deep inside the caldera of its crater-like interior, is of Six Flags next door. And what is that but a nagging reminder of the heartless thugs who tore down our beloved AstroWorld? Plus, you know, Dallas. Blech.  

Safeco Field, Seattle, WA. Okay, this stadium isn’t so bad, until you consider the fact that they’re still grumbling about cost overruns incurred during its construction more than 15 years ago. Oh, and those cost overruns? $100 million. For that price, the restrooms ought to have heated, fur-covered toilet seats next to solid gold bidets. 

Angel Stadium, Anaheim, CA. But the biggest disasters are in—where else?—California. This ballpark dates back to 1966, although it’s been renovated more times than the back lot of a movie set, which is fitting considering it’s been used in some truly awful movies, including Air Bud: Seventh Inning Fetch. That’s a real movie. Look it up. Coliseum, Oakland, CA. But the Angels’ garbage heap looks like the Taj Mahal compared to this crappy, dual-purpose stadium (the last one in the country to host both baseball and football). It sits astride a suburban freeway and positively reeks of urine and shame, thanks mostly to Raider Nation. If Moneyball left you with any doubt about the A’s ability to do more with less, you have only to visit this place. And if you’ve any doubt about their ability to do less with more, two words: Jose Canseco.

Bottom line: There’s both good news and bad here for ’Stros fans. The good: at last, you’ll appreciate Minute Maid Park, suddenly the undisputed El Dorado of the AL West (if only by default), a stadium so great you’ve no reason to leave home. The bad: if you change your mind, you’ll need a tetanus shot before getting on the road.

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