Texas has quite a few professional baseball teams. Though there are some teams not affiliated with MLB or MiLB, there are several that feature “futures” games every night in the summer. One of the reasons I like attending college in San Antonio is being able to watch the stars of tomorrow further develop their skill sets. Near the end of the spring semester I had the opportunity to visit the Astros Double-A affiliate Corpus Christi Hooks at their home ballpark: Whataburger Field.
The Texas League currently consists of 8 teams. Four of the teams are actually situated in Texas. The Midland Rockhounds (OAK), Frisco RoughRiders (TX), San Antonio Missions (SD), and Corpus Christi Hooks (HOU) comprise the Texas League South Division. The Rockies, Royals, Cardinals, and Angels class-AA affiliates are represented in the North Division.
Perhaps not really a coincidence, given the small size of the league, the Missions were visiting Corpus Christi that weekend. A familiarity with that team combined with the Hooks’ being the Astros affiliate were two reasons that weighed toward deciding to visit the park. The Texas League Debut of Kyle Smith was probably the factor that led me to take the approximately 8-hour day trip from San Antonio. Unfortunately his debut did not go as if it were scripted. Smith took the loss, yielding 6 runs in 5 innings of work, in a 6-4 loss to the Missions. The scoring was concluded with a four-run rally from the Hooks in the bottom of the fifth.
This piece is not a game recap. For a while, via Twitter, people have expressed their pleasure when visiting Whataburger Field. This is my story of why I fell in love with this ballpark and encourage everyone to visit when opportunity knocks. In recent years I have developed a passion for visiting baseball parks throughout the major leagues and some of the minor league ballparks. Being from Houston, Minute Maid Park is one of my homes away from home. I will admit that I am too young to remember what the Astrodome looked like from the inside. Sure, there are pictures that give me an idea, but I cannot personally describe the stadium like I can with some others that I love.
I strongly recommend visiting Camden Yards, home of the Baltimore Orioles. Fenway Park and Wrigley Field are also historic cathedrals of major league baseball. Each of the 30 MLB teams have a farm system with many minor league teams. In my opinion, many of these are overlooked for various reasons.
Whataburger Field is cradled between the USS Lexington and the Corpus Christi Harbor bridge. American history and man made marvels. I was already surprised with the atmosphere before ever setting foot in the ballpark. Upon arrival there was approximately an hour to walk around and discover ballpark treats. After walking up a set of stairs, a Whataburger in-stadium restaurant waited for customers to the right. Proceeding forward was section 119, behind home plate, with a water park beyond the right field fence. With the port of Corpus Christi in left field, the ballpark was certainly different than most parks I have visited in the past.
While walking around the park I heard the sound of balls being hit off a bat. I walked in that direction to discover that OF Marc Wik was receiving a batting cage session with the Hooks’ hitting coach Tim Garland. Eventually my nose could press against the cage while I listened to Garland’s advice for Wik. I will admit that since I have been out of baseball for a while, I lack the in-depth knowledge of mechanics. Tim was stressing that a relaxed posture in the batters’ box would help drive the ball better. Apparently Wik had been too tense trying too hard to hit the ball with authority. Wik’s lightbulb went off after Garland bet that he could not hit the ball out of the cage. Certainly $1 million is a large wager for many people and a deal that would have been won by the hitting coach.
The lesson made me realize a couple of things. Sometimes I personally try too hard to make things happen. Most of us are concerned with the outcome. The session I got to experience was unexpected. In a way, Tim Garland and Marc Wik served as a microcosm of the Astros philosophy to build a winning ballclub. Results happen through a meticulous process.
Whataburger Field has much more to offer. The game on the field is the main attraction. But the food, drinks, and the social environment help establish an atmosphere that I find memorable and enjoyable. The hometown fans will continue to enjoy that field as their home away from home. Though the Hooks lost the game I attended, Whataburger Field hosts more than a game. Visiting should be on your bucket list.