Longtime pals play for 'Bucks' at Astros tilt

Hit MLB.com trivia game challenges pair during group outing at Minute Maid Park

Longtime pals play for 'Bucks' at Astros tilt

Jenny Johnson and Nadia Garza met while working a summer job at a jewelry store in Houston before heading off to separate colleges; the former to Southern Methodist up in Dallas and the latter to the University of Texas School of Dentistry. They graduated and stayed in touch, and one day this season, Johnson had Garza come along to an Astros game while hosting an SMU alumni event there.

They had great seats at Minute Maid Park in the bullpen boxes on the Astros' side, Section 154. Johnson was holding all 50 tickets for her large group, and all the others were waiting at Union Station for her to bring them the tickets. That's when the hit MLB.com game show "Bucks on the Pond" appeared, our crew asking the pair to stop and answer trivia questions.

"We had a blast doing 'Bucks on the Pond,' but we almost missed out," Johnson said. "Keith [Wilson, the show's producer] had to insist that we stop. We said no about three times, because I had all of the tickets from my group. We decided it was a rare chance, and since we both grew up in Houston and have stuck by our Astros, we might as well play.

"Another reason we almost passed was we thought it might be strictly baseball trivia, but when he explained it was sort of a fun general quiz, we were on board. I was really glad we stopped. It was kind of surreal to tape at the park. Both of us had rushed from work and fought traffic to make the 7 o'clock game, it was raining, we were tired. Taping 'Bucks on the Pond' was really exciting; it totally made our night. And the Astros decimated the Rangers that night, so it is now our favorite outing at Minute Maid Park and probably always will be -- until the Astros win a World Series here."

"Bucks" is hosted by Jeremy Brisiel, and you might be a part of this season when you least expect it. Fans at the ballpark interact with MLB.com's studio through the magic of technology in conjunction with game action inside, and new episodes are posted each Tuesday and Friday.

Contestants are asked a trivia question -- general knowledge and baseball -- on each pitch during a half-inning of baseball. Get the question correct and win money. Get the question wrong and it's a strike. Three strikes and you're out.

The questions' difficulty and value increase with the number of outs in the on-field action: $5 easy questions to start, $10 medium-difficulty questions after one out, $20 hard questions after two outs. If the contestant lasts longer than the team's at-bat, they win the bucks in their bank -- and Ford matches those winnings with a donation to Wounded Warrior Project.

Cross the $100 mark during the show, and it's time for "Say the Word" powered by Ford SYNC. You can wager any part of your bank on that next question, which is asked each episode by Hall of Famer Frank Thomas. Answer correctly and you win, answer incorrectly and you lose that amount … and it's another strike.

Topics included in this episode include: The Simpsons, customer service, Astros managers, U.S. cities, song titles, Columbus, Rolling Stones, Minor Leagues, MTV awards, Oscars, no-hitters, Astros saves, Egyptian tombs and monster trucks.

You'll have to watch the show to find out whether the two friends from Houston added to the big cash payout from MLB.com over the years or whether they whiffed. You'll also see why Johnson is sometimes torn between two in-state rivals, due to her roots in Houston and her college days up I-35.

"I grew up only loving my Astros. My dad is a hardcore loyal fan of over 30 years," she said. "Games at the Astrodome and then Minute Maid were always a dad-daughter date. When I moved to Dallas for college, I ended up going to a lot of Rangers games, just for something to do. Now I have really fond memories of the team, because a lot of friends were made at those games, we were young and living in a new city, and we'd just get really cheap nosebleed tickets and watch the game and talk. It was an easy way to get to know people.

"Rangers games just became the standard way to hang out. There were a lot of first dates there, too. They're a great team and I saw some great games there. When I got back to Houston, I still rooted for the Rangers as long as they weren't playing my Astros, but Dad doesn't like that since being an Astros fan is really tied to being a Houstonian. He's like, 'It's great you had fun, but we're Houstonians, and we'll always be an Astros family.' There's not much he forbids me on, so I can comply and only back the 'Stros."

In addition to the Astros, teams visited by the "Bucks" crew include the Angels, Athletics, Brewers, Cardinals, Cubs, D-backs, Dodgers, Giants, Indians, Mariners, Marlins, Mets, Orioles, Padres, Phillies, Pirates, Red Sox, Reds, Rockies, Royals, Tigers, Twins, White Sox and Yankees. Bookmark MLB.com/bucks and be on the lookout for the "Bucks" crew at your ballpark.

Mark Newman is enterprise editor of MLB.com. Read and join other baseball fans on his MLB.com community blog. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.