HOUSTON, Texas (KTRK) -- A one-day, two-game series between two of baseball's best teams requires special attention. So much so that Minute Maid Park workers were given a task that they rarely have had to complete.
The high-stakes Astros vs. Yankees doubleheader on Thursday marked the fourth time in the downtown Houston ballpark's 22-year history that it has hosted a double dip.
At other MLB venues that lack a roof, the two games of a doubleheader day are treated as separate contests in the record books, typically born out of a postponement due to inclement weather.
It would be easy to just keep the same crowd and same conditions for a quick turnaround.
But that's not the case over the decades upon decades of baseball.
The stands were cleared of all 36,225 spectators at MMP immediately after the completion of the first game at 3:25 p.m. Then, venue workers cleaned the joint, typically given a deadline of up to three hours, and almost as if it wasn't even touched on that same day.
The stadium then admits paying customers with separate tickets to Game 2.
The Game 1 first pitch was tossed at about 12:10 p.m. The first pitch for the second game was slated for 5:40 p.m., barring, of course, an unanticipated extra-inning first contest. Luckily for fans and workers alike, Houston walked the first game off in the standard nine innings.
Incredibly, workers at the Juice Box were able to work fast enough for a 4:30 p.m. gates open time. That's 65 total minutes!
The Mayo family drove 12 hours from Huntsville, Alabama, to attend both games of Thursday's doubleheader because their young son Cohen is an Astros fan in Atlanta Braves country.
"I'm impressed they cleaned the stadium as quickly as they did," Dustin Mayo admitted.
"Everybody is super nice, too," added Jennifer Mayo.
While roughly 30,000 fans were quickly ushered out of the ballpark within 15 minutes of Game 1 ending, some 7,000 fans remained inside the ballpark. Those folks had tickets to both games 1 and 2, so they were able to huddle - inside - while their seats were cleaned.
"Everyone has been helpful with telling us where to go," explained Astros fan Patrick Plata. "They're moving. You can see the cleaning crews down on the field and up in the stands so we can enjoy another nine innings of baseball."
This season marked a return to nine-inning games on doubleheader days after the past two seasons reverted to seven-inning doubleheader contests. You can blame the pandemic for that.
As for the reasons behind MMP's other doubleheaders, Hurricane Harvey forced a day-nighter with the New York Mets on Sept. 2, 2017; Tropical Storm Laura's impact shifted two games with the Los Angeles Angels to Aug. 25, 2020; and an MLB-wide boycott in the midst of social injustice protests lumped together two Oakland Athletics games on Aug. 29, 2020. The latter two doubleheaders were played before a crowd-less ballpark.