Blogging from the FiveSeven Grille. Text messaging about Jio. Bob Booooone salutes Pudge (as do the Astros).
On Saturday, I decided to abandon my seat in the comfortable (but often boring) press box and venture into the masses at Minute Maid Park. My destination — the center field area; more specifically, the FiveSeven Patio bar and FiveSeven Grille.
Saturdays are targeted as “Bud Light Young Professionals Pack” night, where instead of having to reserve an entire table, fans can purchase individual tickets to be in the seating area that overlooks Tal’s Hill, right next to the bullpen. The cost is $48, and includes a ticket, eight wings or an order of nachos, a 16-ounce beer or soda and an Astros souvenir mug.
The bar area, as I expected, was packed. I also was struck by how close the fans are to the bullpen. I then remembered that back in 2001, Jose Lima used to have the people from the center field restaurant deliver food to him out there. I’m guessing that tradition probably left when Lima did later that season, but still, if you’re listening, Jose Valverde…
Best part of the experience: twittering from my seat in the Grille, watching the game on TV and eating a delicious chicken caesar salad (my server, noting my computer, IPhone and camera, said, “You’re not on of those secret shoppers, are you?”). Worst part: having to answer, “no thanks, I’m working,” every time someone offered me a cool beverage.
The view from the Patio Bar:
A glimpse of the bullpen:
Received a couple of text messages from Assistant GM Bobby Heck, who was passing along information he received from Director of Baseball Research and Analysis Charlie Norton:
“Jio in lineup — 1st at-bat — 1st pitch — 1st hit.”
And then, this:
“And his second ab too.”
Translated, this means that first-round Draft pick Jiovanni Mier, who signed his contract Friday and was in uniform as the starting shortstop for the Greenveville Astros less than 24 hours later, logged his first professional hit in his first professional at-bat, on the first pitch he saw in his professional career. Then he did it again in his next at-bat.
Pudge Rodriguez received a great deal of fanfare after he broke Carlton Fisk’s all-time games caught record during the Astros recent trip to Arlington. He was saluted by Rangers fans and was even paid a visit by former president George W. Bush. The Astros, however, had to wait until the team returned home to properly recognize Pudge’s record-setting game.
They presented Pudge with a nice memento during a pregame ceremony attended by club owner Drayton McLane, GM Ed Wade, Pudge’s wife, Claudia, and former All-Star catcher Bob Booooone, who flew to Houston just for this occasion.
Pudge knocked Boone from second to third on the all-time games caught list, and Boone, remembering his own record-setting day more than two decades ago, wanted to be part of Pudge’s celebration.
Boone was once the record-holder for games caught, a mark he reached on Sept. 16, 1987, when he passed Hall of Famer Al Lopez with his 1,919th game behind the plate.
“Al Lopez came to the game when I broke his record,” said Boone, who pushed his record to 2,225 games before Fisk passed him in ’93. “My dad (Ray Boone) had played for him. I was honered. He didn’t travel, ever. But he went from Tampa all the way to Anaheim for it. I wouldn’t have missed this (ceremony for Pudge) for anything.”
Boone and Pudge:
Pudge and Drayton
Boone, Drayton, Pudge and his wife, Claudia.
Pudge and Brad Horn from the Hall of Fame. Pudge’s jersey that he wore during the record-setting game will be on display in Cooperstown, as soon as Brad gets home, I’m guessing.
Pudge is congratulated by his former manager, Tigers skipper Jim Leyland.
Pudge tips his cap to the crowd.
Th Astros gift to Pudge — a shadowbox with the lineup, home plate (signed by the entire team) and pictures from the record-setting game.