This season has been filled with many ups and downs for the Astros team and fans alike. For the first time ever, I purchased a 28-game season ticket package which has given me many chances to interact and experience things that I never have before.
A few weeks ago, the Astros held their first ever “Picnic in the Park.” For those not familiar, on Father’s Day fans were given the chance to have a picnic on the actual field for the sum of $100 per ticket. My season ticket purchasing experience was full of false promises and honestly, outright lies, so I went into the Picnic in the Park with low expectations.
It was advertised as $100 per ticket, in which fans would receive a blanket to have a picnic on the outfield grass, interact with players, free food, games for the kids, running the bases, and more. I can say that this was less of a let-down than my season ticket purchasing experience, though there were a few minor things I had issues with.
The way I justified the price of the ticket was that I would get an Astros blanket probably valued at $30-40, and the free food and experience with the players would make up for the remainder of my money. I must say that I was let down when I was given about a 3’x5’ solid-colored blanket that still had a price tag of $9.99 on it and was probably purchased or donated from a place like CostCo or Wal-Mart.
On a positive note, they had almost the entire team on the field set up at tables for autographs. The line progressed at a nice pace. It wasn’t too slow that it took forever, but not so fast that we were not able to talk or interact with the players. I spoke a bit with Castro, Lyles, Blackley, Norris, among others. I probably had Blackley’s strangest autograph request, since I promised his autograph to my friend who is an A’s fan. I asked Travis to inscribe “2012 AL West Champs” onto the ball he was signing. Travis kindly obliged. For those who don’t know, Travis is from Australia and his response after my request was, “No worries, mate,” which made me chuckle for some reason.
After the signing, we went to get food and I went to walk around while my wife and daughter ate on the outfield grass. I meandered about until I came to the auction in the outfield for the Astros foundation. They had many things up for grabs – playing video games with Chris Carter, golf with Bud Norris, throwing out the first pitch (which was at a whopping $650 the first and only time I looked).
The item that grabbed my eye was “An Evening with Jeff Luhnow.” This consisted of dinner for 1-4 people in the Diamond Club with Mr. Luhnow which is then followed by on-field batting practice with him. After the game starts, the first three innings are sat with Mr. Luhnow in his personal suite and then move down to his seats behind home plate for innings 4-9.
I immediately got excited when I saw this once-in-a-lifetime experience, and I aggressively bid $400 MORE than the current highest bid and was honestly not comfortable with the sum of money, though I didn’t want to miss this. A day went by and I never heard from them, so I presumed that I had not won. Later in the day, I had a missed call from a Houston area code. I emailed my season ticket representative to find out that I had indeed won the auction. The event was to happen on a mutually agreed upon date, so I have emailed a list of dates to Mr. Luhnow and do not have a date for it to happen yet. When I do, I’ll surely be taking pictures and writing about my experience.
In the interim, yesterday we went to the Astros/Angels game. We were able to do the on-field batting practice which was a treat. It was amazing standing behind the cage watching players blast balls in excess of 400 feet. Of all the players, Mark Trumbo and Mike Trout easily put on the best show. The raw power and distance of their home runs was amazing. After the Astros practice ended, one of their coaches threw my little girl a ball, which would later come in handy. We were also able to get another ball from the Angels after their coach hitting infield missed a ball thrown back to him, and I was able to nab it and he allowed me to keep.
After players finished their rounds, some came over to talk and sign. I was able to get the autograph of my main target, Mike Trout. Josh Hamilton went in the clubhouse after his round ended, so I assumed we were going to miss him. However, shortly after he re-appeared and signed for quite some time. When Josh made it to us, we were one of the few left. He took the time to converse with my daughter and me. He told her how pretty she was and that he had four little girls at home. We talked for a bit more, and he graciously took a picture with us without me even having to ask. I also had his 2010 All-Star game jersey there with me, which he also took the time to sign.
The batting practice experience was actually much better for me than the picnic, though without the picnic I wouldn’t be meeting Mr. Luhnow. I look forward to doing the batting practice again and being so close to the players.
So far this season has allowed my daughter and me to experience things that I never had the chance to do in my almost 25 years as a fan. I look forward to seeing what else we can get in to, and I encourage other fans to find out what the Astros have to offer and try to experience some of the same things that I have.