Tag Archives: Minute Maid Park

Fate of Tal’s Hill at Minute Maid Park Decided by Astros

After threatening to bulldoze over a unique feature of Minute Maid Park for the past few years, the Houston Astros made their threats official yesterday when they signed the death warrant for the quirky little incline in center field known as Tal’s Hill.

Tal’s Hill, named for former Astros executive Tal Smith, and a feature of Minute Maid Park since it opened in 2000, will be leveled at the end of the 2015 season and replaced by a $15 million redesign that will be ready in time for Opening Day 2016.

Highlights of the redesign that were announced by the Astros include, field level seats in center field, a new section of seats atop the field-level boxes, an observation tower with a winding staircase as well as a see-through elevator equipped with LED lights with the Astros’ name and logo, and adding a smaller, self-contained section of mezzanine seats to replace three sections of current seats that will be removed as part of the redesign.

Tal's Hill, a fixture in Minute Maid Park since it opened in 2000, will be removed at the end of the current season to make room for more revenue generating areas. Photo R. Anderson

Tal’s Hill, a fixture in Minute Maid Park since it opened in 2000, will be removed at the end of the current season to make room for more revenue generating areas.
Photo R. Anderson

Additionally, as part of the makeover the Astros will move the center field fence in from 436 feet, the deepest in Major League Baseball, to 409 feet while reducing seating capacity by about a hundred seats.

From the ashes of Tal’s Hill’s 30-degree, 27-foot-long incline will arise more space to entertain fans at premium prices.

While not coming right out and saying it, it is pretty obvious that as long as the are corporate sponsors and business willing to pay for premium seating areas teams will continue to build them while reducing the number of seats for the working class fan.

A few years back the press box at Minute Maid Park was moved up a level to make room for a lounge behind home plate. While reporters still cover the team I guess the real estate they previously occupied while doing their jobs was deemed to valuable to waste on media members.

A few years back the press box at Minute Maid Park was moved up a level to make room for a lounge behind home plate. While reporters still cover the team I guess the real estate they previously occupied while doing their jobs was deemed to valuable to waste on media members. Photo R. Anderson

A few years back the press box at Minute Maid Park was moved up a level to make room for a lounge behind home plate. While reporters still cover the team I guess the real estate they previously occupied while doing their jobs was deemed to valuable to waste on media members.
Photo R. Anderson

So now where the press box once stood is a super exclusive seating area where tickets likely are $600 to $1000 a game, if not more.

So if even a press box is not sacred why let a unique feature such as Tal’s Hill get in the way of revenue generating opportunities?

After all, much to the chagrin of team officials while it was popular with the fans for 15 years all Tal’s Hill did was sit there and grow grass.

Marcel Braithwaite, the Astros’ senior vice president of baseball operations was quoted in the Houston Chronicle as saying that, “Communal areas like this are what the fans want. They want to watch the games with their friends and family, they want to see what other game are going on. We are looking to create destination areas, gathering places that enable you to enjoy the game with a good vantage point while enjoying some good food and drink and spending time together.”

It very well may be a generation gap thing but I have always felt that the main reason to go to a baseball game is to see the game on the field and take in the sights and sounds of a Ballpark experience while snacking on hot dogs and other baseball concession staples at my seat.

Through all of my years attending games in both a professional and strictly fan scenario I have never thought that I want to sit in a lounge or sports bar atmosphere at the Ballpark while a game goes on in the background.

Unfortunately the new trend in Ballpark design is creating immersive environments and mini bars where one can stay an entire game without actually seeing the action on the field.

Adam Jones and the Baltimore Orioles defeated the Houston Astros on the day it was announced that Tal's Hill would disappear at the end of the season. As a center fielder Jones had a close up view of the unique incline in the outfield whenever he visited Minute Maid Park. Photo R. Anderson

Adam Jones and the Baltimore Orioles defeated the Houston Astros on the day it was announced that Tal’s Hill would disappear at the end of the season. As a center fielder Jones had a close up view of the unique incline in the outfield whenever he visited Minute Maid Park.
Photo R. Anderson

Of course these areas need to include Wi-Fi hotspots as well to cater to the constantly plugged in fan of the 21st Century.

It seems to me that is someone is wanting to watch the game on a big screen television and eat pub food with their friends there are cheaper ways to do that then paying for a ticket to the ballgame if one has little desire to watch much of the ballgame.

Of course in this social media fueled Millennial madness I suppose they feel it is better to tag their Instagram posts with pictures from inside the Ballpark when they take a chance to remember that they are at a baseball game.

So like the press box before it Tal’s Hill will go to make room for yet another revenue stream in the form of gathering places and towers of light.

At least the outfield is not covered by large billboards that block the architectural elements of the Ballpark.  Oh wait, never mind.

Besides making room for more revenue streams, another reason given for the demolition of Tal’s Hill was concerns for the safety of players. In the 15 years that the hill has been there to my knowledge there have not been any major injuries.

Next season the outfield at Minute Maid Park will look very different. Photo R. Anderso

Next season the outfield at Minute Maid Park will look very different.
Photo R. Anderson

Or to put it another way, I can worry about 99 ways for a player to get injured, but a hill with a pitch ain’t one.

The removal of Tal’s Hill is unfortunate and I think that it is a mistake. It is not the first mistake that the Astros have made and it will not be the last.

Unfortunately each mistake adds fuel to the fire of me questioning how many more times I will visit Minute Maid Park.

I have already greatly reduced the number of games that I attend each year as I do not find the Ballpark experience as exciting as it used to be. That is not to say that I will no longer support the Astros if I stop going to see them in person.

I have never been the type of person who believes that the biggest fans of a team are determined by being the biggest spenders or the ones who attend the most games.

There are diehard fans in every sport who have never had the opportunity to see their teams play in person either through financial or geographic limitations.

That does not make them any less of a fan. In fact in some ways it might make them a bigger fan since they actually pay attention to the team more than an amenity such as a revenue generating lounge.

The Astros are winning more so that will bring in a new crop of fans so in the grand scheme of things I am sure they will not miss the hundreds of dollars that I used to spend in their facility.

With Tal's Hill disappearing the next unique feature that the Astros will likely want to get rid of is the train that moves and whistles whenever the Astros hit a home run. I am sure there is some revenue generating oprion up there on the tracks with the train out of the way. Photo R. Anderson

With Tal’s Hill disappearing the next unique feature that the Astros will likely want to get rid of is the train that moves and whistles whenever the Astros hit a home run. I am sure there is some revenue generating option up there on the tracks with the train out of the way.
Photo R. Anderson

The locomotive of baseball continues to chug along and people get on and off of the train at various stops along the way.

Speaking of trains I suppose the next unique feature that the Astros will want to get rid of is the train that moves and whistles whenever the Astros hit a home run.

After all, it is not like the site of the Ballpark is built on the grounds of the old Union Station railroad yard where it would make sense to have a locomotive as a tie to the past. Oh wait, never mind.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I am off to mourn the loss of a pile of dirt.

Copyright 2015 R Anderson

Wallet Lost, Good People Found

The other day I did something that I have never done at a Ballpark, and hope to never do again.

That something was becoming separated from my wallet.

Through the years I have attended games at many Ballparks from Little League to Major League and every league in between.

At each of those games my wallet and I remained attached at the back pocket from the time I entered the Ballpark until the time I left.

Sure the wallet would come out from time to time to purchase concessions or souvenirs but after each transaction was completed the wallet would return to the security of Mr. Pocket despite the discomfort of sitting on a wallet on a hard plastic seat.

Saturday's Houston Astros game started with three astronauts throwing out ceremonial pitches and ended with a frantic search for a lost wallet. Photo R. Anderson

Saturday’s Houston Astros game started with three astronauts throwing out ceremonial pitches and ended with a frantic search for a lost wallet.
Photo R. Anderson

For some unknown reason during a recent visit to Minute Maid Park my wallet decided that it no longer wanted to be in my pocket and decided to venture out on its own.

I did not realize that my wallet had gone on a walkabout until I was standing on the lower concourse after leaving my seat on the upper concourse.

Upon first realizing that my wallet was no longer tucked safely inside my pocket, my first thought was that perhaps I had been the victim of a pick pocket since several people had bumped into me during my trek through the mass of humanity within the facility.

My next thought regarding my lost wallet was that perhaps I was not the victim of a pick pocket and instead it had fallen out somewhere along my journey between the highest point of the Ballpark and the lowest.

Shortly after watching George Springer cross home plate after a solo home run I was greeted by the sinking feeling of an empty back pocket where my wallet should have been. Photo R. Anderson

Shortly after watching George Springer cross home plate after a solo home run I was greeted by the sinking feeling of an empty back pocket where my wallet should have been.
Photo R. Anderson

I decided that the only course of action was to retrace my steps and hope that the needle that was my wallet could be located within the hay stack that was Minute Maid Park.

As I began my sprint back to the upper deck I allowed my thoughts to drift to the worst case scenario that at that very moment someone had my wallet and was up to no good.

While I was certainly not hoping for a worst case outcome, I knew that I needed to prepare myself in case that turned out to be what happened.

I knew that in this scenario whatever cash I had in the wallet was gone along with my driver’s license and credit cards.

There was nothing I could do about the lost cash, so I focused on the credit cards and who I would need to call to report the cards as stolen. While it would be a hassle to call them I knew that it was the only way to protect myself in the event the cards were stolen.

Ironically it was not the potential loss of cash, nor the loss of the credit cards that had me the most upset.

The view of the grounds crew raking the field was nice. Sprinting from the lower bowl to the upper deck in record time was not quite as nice. Photo R. Anderson

The view of the grounds crew raking the field was nice. Sprinting from the lower bowl to the upper deck in record time was not quite as nice.
Photo R. Anderson

The thought that troubled me the most as I ran up the three sets of escalators, was that I was going to have to go to the Department of Motor Vehicles to get a new driver’s license.

It is sad that the DMV was the place I most dreaded, but as anyone who has spent an afternoon waiting in line can attest it really is a fate worse than lost cash or credit cards.

Speaking of the escalators, as I approached the usher at the top of the last one he looked briefly like he was going to tell me not to run but I must have had a look of either shear motivation or madness that told him to step aside and let me through.

Clearly I was a man on a mission.

About a hundred or so paces from the escalator was the tunnel that led to the section where my seat had been.

After turning the corner and entering the tunnel I saw another usher holding something brown that looked surprisingly like my walkabout wallet.

As I got closer I could tell that the light at the end of the tunnel, or in this case the brown object in the usher’s hand, was in fact my wallet.

The view from the top where a kind stranger helped ensure a wallet lost would be a wallet found. Photo R. Anderson

The view from the top where a kind stranger helped ensure a wallet lost would be a wallet found.
Photo R. Anderson

Although I was out of breath from my multilevel sprint I managed to utter the words, “That is mine, thank you.”

Without a word in return the usher gave me my wallet and I turned around to head back to the lower concourse.

All of the worst case scenarios that I had feared, including that trip to the DMV, were no longer in danger of coming to pass.

My wallet, complete with cash, credit cards and driver’s license was once again safely in my pocket.

I still do not know how my wallet managed to extradite itself from my pocket, nor do I know exactly who found it and gave it to the usher.

What I do know is that someone in Section 410 of Minute Maid Park did the right thing and turned a situation that could have been very bad into something very good.

While I certainly don’t wish the stress of a sprint to find a lost wallet on anyone, sometimes it is those things that are needed in order to see the big picture.

Even though newspapers and television newscasts seem to be filled with only the stories of all of the bad things happening in the world, now and then it is important to be reminded that there are still good people in the world.

So to whoever found and returned my wallet last Saturday night I say, “thank you,” not only for the return of the wallet but for also showing a complete stranger an act of kindness and compassion.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I am off to buy some shorts with a Velcro closure on the back pocket to keep my wallet from further unapproved walkabouts.

Copyright 2015 R. Anderson

Hooks to Host Missions in Futures Game at Minute Maid Park

Tomorrow the Corpus Christi Hooks, who are celebrating their 10th year of existence, will play their first home ever game away from Whataburger Field when they host the San Antonio Missions in a Texas State League Futures game at Minute Maid Park.

While Minute Maid Park is usually home to the Houston Astros of Major League Baseball, the facility will transform into a Minor League Ballpark for one night as the Double-A Hooks of the Astros farm system play the San Diego Padres farm club the Missions.

Of course there are some people who might think based on the performance of the Astros the past few 100 plus loss seasons that Minute Maid Park was already playing host to a Minor League ball club.

Despite appearances at times the Astros are in fact a Major League ball club.

Even though the Houston region is home to the Sugar Land Skeeters of the Independent Atlantic League, tomorrow’s game will mark the first affiliated regular season Minor League Baseball game played in Houston in over half a century.

The Corpus Christi Hooks will play their first home game outside of Whataburger Field tomorrow night at Minute Maid Park against the San Antonio Missions. Photo R. Anderson

The Corpus Christi Hooks will play their first home game outside of Whataburger Field tomorrow night at Minute Maid Park against the San Antonio Missions.
Photo R. Anderson

Although there are three Ballparks that the Hooks normally play at within four hours of Houston, for those unable to travel to Frisco, San Antonio or Corpus Christi the Futures Game will be their first chance to see them play in person.

For many years I have traveled to Frisco, Texas to see the Hooks play the Rough Riders at Dr. Pepper Ballpark.

I even ventured out to see the Hooks at their home Ballpark a few years back but bringing the team to the base in Houston is an excellent way to build the brand while giving fans a chance to see the future of the big ball club.

Staging a Minor League game in Houston is also a great way to gauge potential interest in moving one of the team’s clubs closer to the home region as has been a recent trend among the relocation of Triple-A clubs.

Besides market research another thing the Futures Game has going for it is rarity since the chance to see a Minor League Baseball game within a Major League Ballpark does not come along that often.

It is likely that the atmosphere within the Ballpark will be a cross between the intimacy of a Minor League game and the spectacle of excess of a Major League game.

The trick with any event like this is striking the right balance between the two.

The players will also need to strike the balance of not getting overwhelmed at the prospect of being inside a Major League Ballpark and just play their game.

The Corpus Christi Hooks have called Whataburger Field home for all of their 10 seasons of play as a Minor League affiliate of the Houston Astros. Photo R. Anderson

The Corpus Christi Hooks have called Whataburger Field home for all of their 10 seasons of play as a Minor League affiliate of the Houston Astros.
Photo R. Anderson

While the stands may be larger the distance between the bases and from the pitcher’s mound to home plate remains the same between a Minor League and Major League diamond.

As noted before I cut my in person baseball watching teeth mostly in the Minor Leagues and have a special place in my heart for the game at that level.

While there are always exceptions, the game at the Minor League level always seemed to be more about the players and less about the pay check.

While every Minor League roster includes high paid prospects for the most part the rosters are filled with guys just trying to make a living playing the game that they love for as long as they can.

Minor League Baseball is also very much about the fan experience. From the kids running after foul balls to the people filling out their score cards there is a certain atmosphere that makes the Ballpark come alive.

In recent years the corporate aspects of the Major League game have made their way into the Minor League system so it will likely not be too long until the Minor Leagues become just as corporate driven as their MLB counterparts.

One can only hope that Minor League games remain affordable to the point where families can continue to go to experience the game in person and pass that love of the game on to future generations.

At its core the game of baseball will always be best experienced live. There are certain elements that even the best surround sound high definition television cannot replicate.

Besides, one cannot catch a ball or a free t-shirt from the comfort of their couch.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I have a game to get ready for.

Copyright 2014 R. Anderson

Championships are Not Won in April but They Can be Lost in April

It has been said that championships are not won in April but that they can certainly be lost.

That is to say that a team’s early success does not always carry over throughout the course of a full season as many things can happen between Opening Day and Game One of the World Series to shape a team’s fortunes and in some cases misfortunes.

While a team winning the bulk of their games early in a season does not guarantee continued success, a team that loses most of their games early on will in most cases continue that trend throughout the season.

While it is certainly neither the time nor place for celebration or despair in any of the 30 Major League Ballparks this early in the season it is certainly worth looking at some early trends in terms of expectations met and expectations that have not been met.

In the American League East few should be surprised that the New York Yankees are leading the standings during the Derek Jeter Swan Song Tour.

With the  New York Yankees in first place in the American League East very few people are likely to bet against them going deep into the postseason during Derek Jeter's Farewell Tour. Photo R. Anderson

With the New York Yankees in first place in the American League East very few people are likely to bet against them going deep into the postseason during Derek Jeter’s Farewell Tour.
Photo R. Anderson

Some may go so far as to suggest that the baseball stars will align so that Jeter’s last game occurs as a World Series Champion. That is not to say that baseball is rigged but there are certainly odd occurrences now and then. I am looking at you Boston Red Sox.

The rest of the American League East offers a few surprises.

Few would have thought that the defending World Series Champion Boston Red Sox who famously healed an entire region last year with a title following a terrorist attack at a marathon would be in last place in the division.

The Tampa Bay Rays who many predicted as a World Series bound team are also struggling a bit due to injuries to their starting rotation but it is likely that they will bounce back from the early season struggles and become the playoff team that many predicted them to be.

While the New York Yankees may be the current frontrunners in the East, one cannot discount Joe Maddon's Tampa Bay Rays since no team has done more with less over the past five seasons. Photo R. Anderson

While the New York Yankees may be the current frontrunners in the East, one cannot discount Joe Maddon’s Tampa Bay Rays since no team has done more with less over the past five seasons.
Photo R. Anderson

The Toronto Blue Jays and Baltimore Orioles certainly cannot be ruled out as well in what is often the most hotly contested division in all of baseball.

Traveling further down the geographic standings brings the focus on the American League Central where the usual suspects seem to be doing the usual things early on.

The Detroit Tigers will likely continue their reign atop the division while fighting off the advances of the Kansas City Royals who continue to improve each season.

The Chicago White Sox, Minnesota Twins and Cleveland Indians will likely string together some impressive victories throughout the season but it is unlikely that they will rise to the top of the standings based on their early sample of work.

Out in the American League West the Oakland Athletics are in first place and the Houston Astros are in last place.

No real surprises there.

While the Texas Rangers will look to return to postseason play in the post Nolan Ryan era a more intriguing thing to watch in the division will be whether the Astros can break their streak of consecutive 100 loss seasons.

Early indications point to another long season for the Houston Astros. Fans can take comfort in the return of the view of the skyline however. Photo R. Anderson

Early indications point to another long season for the Houston Astros. Fans can take comfort in the return of the view of the skyline however.
Photo R. Anderson

Early indications certainly point to it being another very long season in Minute Maid Park but at least fans have a view of downtown again to entertain them during lopsided losses by the home team.

The Seattle Mariners and Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim will look to get some bang from their hefty payroll bucks and should easily finish higher than the Astros but it is doubtful that they will break the grasp the Rangers and Athletics have atop the division.

With the American League shaping up with few surprises it is time to look at the National League and any potential surprises or unexpected trends from the early parts of the season.

The National League East has the Atlanta Braves in cruise control atop the standings. With their days in Turner Field numbered it would be nice to see the Braves give the Ballpark a final taste of postseason play before it is reduced to a pile of rubble.

The Atlanta Braves look like the team to beat so far in the National League East. Photo R. Anderson

The Atlanta Braves look like the team to beat so far in the National League East.
Photo R. Anderson

The Washington Nationals, New York Mets, and Philadelphia Phillies will try to keep things interesting but the division does seem to have a heavy “tomahawk chop” feel to it with the Braves going the distance.

The Miami Marlins hold their familiar spot at the bottom of the standings showing that a Ballpark without payroll can lead to a very long couple of seasons.

The National League Central is shaping up to look like the division normally looks with the Milwaukee Brewers and St. Louis Cardinals near the top and the Pittsburgh Pirates and Chicago Cubs near the bottom.

It is likely that the 100th Anniversary season at Wrigley Field will end like many of the previous years with the Cubs shut out of the postseason.

The Cincinnati Reds will likely hold their familiar spot in third place in the division although Billy Hamilton will certainly give the Reds’ fans something exciting to watch as he scorches the base path with his base stealing speed.

Current Cincinnati Red Billy Hamilton stole a record number of bases in the Minor Leagues  and became immortalized as a bobble head. The real life version is likely to entertain Reds fans for years to come. Photo R. Anderson

Current Cincinnati Red Billy Hamilton stole a record number of bases in the Minor Leagues and became immortalized as a bobble head. The real life version is likely to entertain Reds fans for years to come.
Photo R. Anderson

As for the National League West the Los Angeles Dodgers are leading the pack with the Arizona Diamondbacks currently having the worst record in all of baseball.

The Colorado Rockies, San Francisco Giants and San Diego Padres will keep things competitive but the West has a feel of Dodger Blue as long as they don’t implode down the stretch.

While the standings in all six divisions are likely to change through the course of the season early indications do seem to point to a postseason filled with the usual suspects.

Of course there are no guarantees in baseball. Teams will need to battle through injuries and other factors as they approach October.

The only peak the Astros are likely to see this season will come in the form of Tal's Hill in center field. Photo R. Anderson

The only peak the Astros are likely to see this season will come in the form of Tal’s Hill in center field.
Photo R. Anderson

The teams that peak at the right time are the ones that win it all in the end. For some teams that peak occurs on Opening Day and lasts the whole season long. Other teams are more slow burners and need to build up to their peak.

Then there are the teams who are stuck in the valley where the only peak they see is the pitcher’s mound or in the case of the Houston Astros, Tal’s Hill.

Now if you’ll excuse me, all of this talk about peaks and valleys has me craving a mountain view.

Copyright 2014 R. Anderson

 

Journey to 30 Ends Tonight

Tonight at Minute Maid Park the New York Yankees will face the Houston Astros for the first of three games to end the regular season.

Minute Maid Park Photo R. Anderson

Minute Maid Park
Photo R. Anderson

Having been eliminated from the postseason Wednesday night with a loss to the Tampa Bay Rays the Yankees will end their season Sunday afternoon and prepare for next year.

With losses at an all-time record setting pace the Houston Astros will end their season Sunday and will most likely prepare for more of the same next season.

So with two teams facing off with really nothing to play for tonight it makes for an interesting combination of seasons that did not go as planned.

On a personal note when I take my seat for the game tonight it will complete a 12-year journey to see all 30 Major League teams in a single ballpark.

While many in Houston have complained about the Astros moving to the American League the change in scenery allowed me to cross off the Mariners, Athletics, Orioles, Twins, Angels, and Yankees this season.

Although I had already seen all of the National League teams and some American League teams during Inter-league play over the years it would have taken many more seasons to be able to see all 30 teams had the Astros stayed in the National League and I waited for the teams to come through on the regular Interleague schedule.

Tonight the New York Yankees come to Minute Maid Park for only the second time to take on the Houston Astros. When the first pitch is thrown it will complete my quest to see all 30 Major League Baseball teams at Minute Maid Park. Photo R. Anderson

Tonight the New York Yankees come to Minute Maid Park for only the second time to take on the Houston Astros. When the first pitch is thrown it will complete my quest to see all 30 Major League Baseball teams at Minute Maid Park.
Photo R. Anderson

So from a purely selfish perspective the Astros moving to the American League served me well in my quest to see all 30 teams at least once at Minute Maid Park.

It seems fitting in a way that the final team to cross off my list is the New York Yankees since they are both respected and despised among the baseball world.

The Yankees are making only their second trip to Minute Maid Park. I cannot recall why it was that I missed their last visit to town but I definitely knew I would not be missing this one despite the price gouging committed by the Astros.

My ticket that would normally cost $5 was “dynamically priced” to around $26 since the Yankees were coming to town and the front office knew people would likely pay more for the privilege of seeing them.

Of course with that ticket I will get to see the last game pitched by Andy Pettitte as well as one of the last three games pitched by Mariano Rivera assuming that the Yankees are not too far ahead of the Astros by the time the ninth inning rolls around for it to still be a save situation.

I missed the Yankees first trip to Minute Maid Park but I did not miss out on the souvenir cup. Photo R. Anderson

I missed the Yankees first trip to Minute Maid Park but I did not miss out on the souvenir cup.
Photo R. Anderson

Ironically near as I can tell this will be the first time that I have seen Pettitte pitch in person despite his two and a half seasons playing for the Astros.

I saw many Astros games during that time frame but never seemed to time those visits with nights he was pitching.

So making my first game to see Pettitte pitch correspond with his last scheduled career start seems that much more special. Of course since he has already come out of retirement once it will be interesting to see if the Deer Park, TX native stays retired this time or is urged to give it one more try Brett Farve style.

It is estimated that over 30,000 fans will attend each of the three games against the Yankees which would be more fans than have attended any games this season.

That tells me that there are way more Yankees fans in Houston than Astros fans. Of course it could also just mean that there are Astros fans that waited until the last week of the season to attend a game since all of the previous weeks were too painful to watch.

While the start of the end of the regular season begins today for the Yankees and the Astros it also marks the start of the Tampa Bay Rays last series in Toronto as they push to maintain their hold on the top Wildcard spot.

If all goes to plan I will be rooting for the Rays all the way to the World Series which would certainly make myself and DJ Kitty very happy.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I have a game to get ready for.

Copyright 2013 R. Anderson

One Down, Two to Go

With a Labor Day matinee day game today between the Houston Astros and the Minnesota Twins I inched one team closer to seeing all 30 Major League Baseball teams at Minute Maid Park.

I had seen the Twins in Florida many times for Spring Training but until today I had never had the chance to see them play a regular season game.

Later in the month I will see games against the Angels and the Yankees to complete the 30 teams in a single Ballpark quest.

Of course a larger goal of mine is seeing all 30 teams in their home Ballparks but having them all come to me is certainly a good first step.

The journey to see all 30 teams at Minute Maid Park started modestly enough with a 2001 game against the San Francisco Giants on October 4, 2001. It was also the only game at the Ballpark while it was called Enron Field.

With the Minnesota Twins officially crossed off of the list only the Los Angels Angels of Anneheim and the New York Yankees stand between me and my goal of seeing all 30 teams at Minute Maid Park. Photo R. Anderson

With the Minnesota Twins officially crossed off of the list only the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim and the New York Yankees stand between me and my goal of seeing all 30 teams at Minute Maid Park.
Photo R. Anderson

But, for any purists out there who say that it shouldn’t count for seeing all 30 teams at Minute Maid Park rest assured I have seen the Giants play during the Minute Maid era.

The game had originally been scheduled for September but was moved to October after a week of games was cancelled following the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001.

For those who may have forgotten October 4, 2001 was the day that Barry Bonds tied Mark McGwire’s home run record at 70.

The stands erupted in cheers when that record setting homer sailed over the wall. Of course it is not often that a home run hit by the opposing team gets such a response but this was history in the making. Or at least it was history tying in the making.

Bonds very well may have broken that record as well during the same game that he tied it aside from the fact that the Astros manager decided to give Bonds an intentional walk later in the game ending any chance that home run number 71 would occur on Houston soil.

I recall writing at the time that the history denying intentional walk was not in the spirit of competition and was manipulating records.

Of course, after having 12 or so years to reflect it occurs to me that not wanting to have the tainted home run occur on his watch was a wise move on the manager’s part.

Perhaps that Astros manager saw through the hype before the rest of us and realized that Bonds was likely using some pharmaceutical enhancements to crush those long balls.

Every journey starts with a single step, or in some cases a single ticket. On October 4, 2001 I saw my first game at Minute Maid Park which was known as Enron Field at the time. By the end of this season I will have seen all 30 Major League teams at least once at the Ballpark. Photo R. Anderson

Every journey starts with a single step, or in some cases a single ticket. On October 4, 2001 I saw my first game at Minute Maid Park which was known as Enron Field at the time. By the end of this season I will have seen all 30 Major League teams at least once at the Ballpark.
Photo R. Anderson

Since that night Bonds went on to be disgraced with many fans wanting an asterisk by his record to reflect that it was not earned cleanly and should not be the official record.

The record will stand until another player, perhaps Baltimore’s Chris Davis, breaks it the clean way without any attachment to performance enhancing drugs.

While not every game at Minute Maid Park was as exciting has my first there have certainly been other memories made by the various teams that have come through the visitor’s clubhouse. And of course from time to time the home team has made a few memorable plays.

Although lately it seems that many of the plays made by the Astros are memorable for all the wrong reasons.

I am sure there will come a day when the Astros once again fill the Ballpark with fans wanting to see great things from the home team.  Many fans are boycotting the move to the American League and the change in ownership.

While the new ownership has certainly made its fair share of blunders, and moving the team from the National League to the American League was highly unpopular among many in the Astros fan base, ironically it was the unpopular relocation of the Astros to the American League that helped speed up my quest to see all 30 teams. Without the Astros moving to the American League West I would not have been able to cross off Seattle and Oakland earlier in the season.

While all of the teams would eventually have rolled through town under the old Interleague schedule infusing some new teams into the mix was certainly a welcome rest from multiple games against National League Central opponents each year.

Barry Bonds went on to break Hank Aaron's career home run mark. Steroids or not, when one does that a collectible is made in their honor.  Photo R. Anderson

Barry Bonds went on to break Hank Aaron’s career home run mark. Steroids or not, when one does that a collectible is made in their honor.
Photo R. Anderson

I grew up on American League baseball with the Orioles and Rays and had not seen a National League game in person until the first one at Minute Maid Park. While I have now seen more National League games than American League games in my life I have to admit I still prefer the American League style with the designated hitter.

I know there are baseball purists who are cringing right now and crumpling up their felt pennants but I really would whether see 9 people that can potentially hit than 8 and a guaranteed strike out or sacrifice bunt from the pitcher.

I still think the Astros make a better National League team than an American League team but one does have to play with the cards they are dealt as opposed to always shouting at the dealer to reshuffle the deck until a hand that suits them is dealt.

So, like it or not the Astros are an American League squad. Granted, they are not a very successful one but they are one nonetheless. And with the constant presence of Interleague play now the lines between National and American League rules and playing styles will continue to get blurred until all of the teams are basically the same.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I am off to get some tickets to see the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim, or Burbank or whatever L.A. suburb they are including in their name these days. It sure was easier when they were just the California Angels but I guess too many people were getting lost on the Pacific Coast Highway trying to find them somewhere between San Diego and Sacramento so some better geographic indicators were needed.

Copyright 2013 R. Anderson