Sunday, May 8, 2016

San Antonio Missions 0 at Corpus Christi Hooks 2 (Texas League) - May 7, 2016


The final game of my Texas League trip took place in Corpus Christi, a resort town right on the Gulf of Mexico two hours southeast of San Antonio and three hours southwest of Houston. With weekend hotel prices surprisingly steep due to the beach crowd, I stayed an hour away, which allowed me to take a leisurely route from Round Rock, using TX-123 rather than I-35. These side roads are so much more appealing, as speed limits are still 70 or 75 MPH but there is almost no traffic, so you can actually drive at those speeds. Interstates might be more direct, but they are also more stressful with their left-lane lollygaggers, road work every few miles, and the same fast food restaurants at every exit. On your next road trip, consider avoiding the Interstates if possible and see more of the country, and enjoy some small town diners instead of another stop at McDonald's.



Anyway, Corpus Christi is home to the Hooks, Houston's AA affiliate who moved from Round Rock in 2005. The Hooks play out of Whataburger Field, with naming rights belonging to the Texas burger chain that used to be based in Corpus Christi before it moved to San Antonio. You can't miss the 18-foot tall statue in front of the main gate, known as "For the Love of the Game" and considered to be the largest bronze statue of a baseball player in the world. It was Jose Altuve bobblehead night, which meant a large crowd, so I decided to arrive early so I could find some free parking. There are parking lots right across the street that cost $5, but a bunch of uncontrolled free parking can be found just on the other side of those lots, underneath the Harbor Bridge as it descends. There was a festival going on just on the other side of the bridge which added to the traffic but parking was not a problem.



There were already big lines at both gates as many fans wanted to guarantee their bobblehead. I went to the box office and overheard a lady at the window asking "What do I do with my extras - just give them away?" Yes, that is exactly what you do. When she had completed the transaction, I played dumb and asked her if she had any extras and she handed me a GA seat ($8 value). She had four others and she asked me if I wanted to try and get rid of them. I agreed, and so I stood in front of the box office trying to give away these tickets. Nobody wanted general admission though, so I was about to give up when another guy came up holding a bunch of tickets. I asked if he needed any more, and he said he was trying to give his tickets away. These were season stubs and so I took one of those instead and it turned out to be directly behind the plate (view below). You can see the Harbor Bridge below, which is the iconic feature of this ballpark backdrop.



I entered on that ticket and noticed that there were people entering to get a bobblehead, then immediately exiting only to re-enter on a different ticket for another bobblehead. I gave one of these guys my five GA tickets which he was happy to receive. I guess that there is a thriving market in giveaway memorabilia but I can't see how you could make a living at it.



Inside the ballpark, there is quite a bit to see. Note the Citgo sign above, reminiscent of the one behind the Green Monster at Fenway.



The design is similar to most ballparks of this size with a single seating bowl and suites above the spacious concourse. Food choices are very good; of course there is a Whataburger stand with hamburgers for $4.75 and onion rings for $2.50, and the Nolan Ryan Grill (Ryan is one of the owners) but I opted for a beef fajita wrap for $6. It was quite good, with generous helpings of beef, but the wrap concept eluded the server, who just folded it in half so that all the fillings fell out when you picked it up.



The Astros have had a great farm system over the past few years and current major leaguers are recognized on banners around the ballpark.



You can walk around the entire venue, and there is quite a bit to see in the outfield area.



There is a children's diamond, again with the bridge in the background. Other areas include a trampoline and a rock climbing tower.



Corpus Christi is a thriving port town as well, and the ballpark is right next to the basin and you can see ships passing beyond the outfield. As well, the ballpark makes use of abandoned buildings such as below. I'm not sure if those broken windows are the result of home run balls or not.



The stadium is also next to a waterpark, so you can spend the whole day there with the family as the waterpark closes at 6, just in time for the evening game.



One nice touch is a statue honouring a fan who had passed away in 2009. Every ballpark has its regular attendees and it is really thoughtful that the Hooks recognized their #1 fan.



Overall, I was very impressed with Whataburger Field. Gates opened 90 minutes before first pitch, which really gave me time to explore. They've thought of a lot of unique additions here, with the bridge behind the outfield fence the obvious highlight. Corpus Christi is not as remote as it might at first appear, so if you are in the Houston or San Antonio area in the summer, check out the Hooks schedule and make the short drive to enjoy an afternoon at the beach and an evening with the Hooks.



The Game

San Antonio (San Diego) started Bryan Rodriguez while Corpus Christi countered with Keegan Yuhl (35th round, 2014). Both pitchers were very sharp, with Yuhl throwing 5 scoreless innings, while Rodriguez made one mistake in the 4th inning. Unfortunately, it was to MLB vet Evan Gattis, who was down on rehab. Gattis launched a home run over the left field fence that scored Alex Bregman (2nd overall pick in 2015, and the Astros top prospect) who had walked. Joe Musgrove (drafted 46th overall by Toronto in 2011, traded to Houston in that 10-player deal in 2012, now Houston's #8 prospect) pitched 3 scoreless frames for the Hooks and Brendan McCurry (who melted down the previous Saturday in Frisco) struck out the side for the save as Corpus Christi won 2-0 in a game that took just 2:01.



A great game to end the trip. It was fun to sit directly behind the plate for a change and see the pitch movement and the umpire's consistency.

Notes

Whataburger Field was my 8th and final active Texas League ballpark. Overall, I have seen 116 of the 160 active parks.

With such a quick game to end this portion of the trip, I skipped the Texas State ballgame on Sunday morning. The 11 am start time was not conducive to me getting some much needed rest, but I guessed that a Sunday game between two non-power teams would be a snooze. As it turned out, it was as visiting Georgia State won 10-9 in a game that took 4:22 despite lasting only 9 innings. I can't believe that anyone enjoyed watching that. I am attending 1 or 2 College World Series games in Omaha next month, but after that I am going to cut back on college baseball as too many games are just not that interesting.

Next Up

I'm on my way to San Francisco for the Blue Jays series against the Giants. I'm then returning to Dallas for the three games between the Jays and Rangers. I'll be hanging out with friends, so I won't be updating here until I'm back in New York next week. Until then, Let's Go Jays! And Raptors!

Best,

Sean

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