Attending Houston Astros game with daughter brings back lots of memories of softball years

By John Toth / Editor and Publisher

We were watching the Astros play the Indians at Minute Maid Park on a cloudy Thursday afternoon. It was a special occasion because there was only the two of us – daughter Stephanie, and I.

When we go to a game, it’s usually a big group – brothers/sister, mom, dad, perhaps other family, and friends. But this time it was just the two of us, and Stephanie even volunteered to drive.

That’s a big plus, because I hate driving in Houston traffic. I do it when I have to, but I prefer the open space of a Farm-to-Market road, where all I can see ahead are trees, pasture and pavement.

How could I resist such an offer – free tickets, free ride, one-on-one time with daughter for an entire afternoon? She only had two tickets; that’s why her mom didn’t go.

We have not been to a ballgame, just the two of us, since she stopped playing softball. Those were some crazy weekends for us, with 8 a.m. games and 9 p.m. games, attended and played in rain, freezing cold and suffocating heat. There were games in good weather also, but I tend to better remember the ones when we were suffering.

I don’t know how she ever functioned on that field on days when I was shivering in the stands. I usually found someone with one of those propane blower heaters and became their best friend. I don’t care what team your kid plays on. Just let me stand here for a while.

The heat was not all that bad. I could get used to that easier than the cold. One morning, following a horrible night of freezing softball, we were scheduled for an 8 a.m. game. It was torturous just to get out of bed and head to the freezing field.

When we arrived, a blanket of frost covered the ballpark, but there was no wind, which was quite an improvement from the night before.

The girls went on with warm-ups, and the parents continued their tight grips on their hot coffees. I know that I was gripping mine really hard, trying to squeeze every degree of warmth out of it.

It was a beautiful sight. The field was totally blanketed in white, and none of us had a camera to record this momentous occasion. That was in the days when most cell phones were just that – cell phones. Plus, were were preoccupied with trying not to freeze.

Another time, the skies opened up above us, and in the middle of the game, the field started flooding. As one of the coaches, I felt obligated to try to save the equipment from floating away and made a valiant effort to recover everything, although me and another coach had to wade through ankle-deep water.

Then I asked the other coach why were all the parents standing under a canopy, staying nice and dry, while we were dragging all this equipment around and getting soaked to the bone.

Because they were smart, she responded.

So, Stephanie and I had our share of adventures in softball, spending long weekends at tournaments, but that was years ago. Now she is busy, doing her thing that is not softball-related, and I am working on this paper, writing columns about the good old softball days.

We planned to eat at the ballpark as part of the whole Astros baseball experience. After paying $20 to park, we ordered a hot dog, chicken strips, two fries and two soft drinks for $40.

Wait a minute. I don’t want to buy the concession stand, just lunch. This is outrageous. I know I wasn’t paying, but still... I can get two great meals at a sit-down restaurant with a server for this much. This is just junk food.

We wanted junk food. That was part of the experience. And peanuts. I forgot that we also got peanuts. If I pay that much for junk, it makes me feel good to mess up the area under my seat with peanut shells.

Of course, we took the mandatory selfies to commemorate the event, and, of course, I posted them on Facebook.

Astros tickets: Free; Junk food cost: Outrageous; Parking: Outrageous; Traffic jam: Of course; Minute Maid Park: Fantastic (except for the food cost); Time spent with daughter: Priceless.