“NINETY PERCENT OF THIS GAME… IS HALF MENTAL.”Yogi Berra
Ah, Yogi Berra… clearly, I had to start with a Yogi-ism! He did spend the last years of his coaching career here, in Houston, after all. Plus, he’s pretty damn funny… Do yourself a favor and google “Yogi-isms.” You won’t regret it, just make sure you have some time to kill first.
I grew up in a baseball family. My dad played and my little brother was switch hitting before he could walk, or possibly talk for that matter. I, however, didn’t appreciate the sport until my brother was much older and was highly sought after by both MLB and University scouts across the country. He was drafted by the Arizona Diamondbacks as an outfielder in the ninth round (2001) right out of high school. Obviously, I was always quick to go watch him play. One time, I busted a radiator belt while driving cross country… resulting in half a day wasted in in a border town with his dog and best friend… only to find out, upon our Phoenix arrival, that he’d been pulled up and was leaving in the morning. So much for spring break or getting to watch him play… especially at that level, which was my favorite. I would have done it all over again for another day, another game, another win. Or just another chance to embarrass my baby brother with an overly loud cheer from the stands.
My brother and I with legendary coach, Art Howe, before a game. Guessing this was in the late 80’s based on my awesome self made shirt.
Being in a family that ate, drank, slept and lived baseball meant that I learned a lot about the sport and went to an awful lot of games – even if I didn’t want to. Which also included the Astros. Though I still had my favorite players; Nolan Ryan, Jose Cruz and of course my favorite, Craig Biggio. Who also happens to be Bryan’s favorite player too. Biggio also recently coached his alma mater, St. Thomas High School, through two consecutive state championships. Eagle Pride!
A few dates into our relationship, Bryan mentioned that he had several units in Minute Maid Park and worked closely with Aramark and the Astros Hospitality Group to provide a higher level dining experience in the park. To say he was excited that work also included food in the home of the Astros, his favorite team, would be an understatement. As he told me about this venture, his eyes lit up like a little boy opening up a pack of baseball cards to find the one, original, card he’d been looking for his whole life. Yet, I think he may have underestimated my affinity for the sport as that was more impressive to me than his award winning restaurant Reef or even the season he was on The Next Iron Chef.
Bryan was equally impressed with my baseball acumen and that I refuse to leave a game until it’s over. You never know what might happen in that last at bat when you’re down by only one run… much like the last game we went to that went into extra innings and we pulled it out for the win.
Still…. I couldn’t grasp good food and ballpark. Together. My last ballpark food experience was littered with stale nachos drenched in powdered cheese, dome foam and over cooked hotdogs.
That, my friends, is no longer the case.
Not to mention, they now serve some pretty tasty wines too. Which might contribute to why I consider the ballpark my zen space. Even though we have four season tickets, I rarely invite anyone to join me as I typically take that opportunity to zone out and watch the game while eating tasty food and enjoying a glass of wine. Even when the stadium is booming, it’s a familiar peaceful comfort and escape from some of our daily chaos.
When our catering company, Bryan Caswell & Co, was asked to serve a party for a previous franchise owner, you can bet I was the first to sign up to document it. Working from the dugout has been a career highlight… for Bryan too. Our team, co-lead by the amazing, Tony Guiterrez (Caswell & Co’s operating partner), plated each course in the dugouts and served all 600 guests along the baselines. 600 guests means over 2,400 plates. It was quite a feat and was made possible by the hard working crew at The Event’s Company and the staff from Crew Staffing.
It was a once in a lifetime event, even though I *might* have made Bryan promise that I can have the same for my 40th. I’ll keep y’all posted. In the meantime, here’s a little behind the scenes glimpse at the party of the year.