Game #12....Minute Maid Park and the Houston Astros.
Updated: Oct 14, 2022
Minute Maid Park (or it's nickname "The Juice Box") is home to the Houston Astros since 2000. The previous names that it went by was "The Ballpark at Union Station", Enron Field (We all know what happened there), and Astros Field. These 3 names all were used for the first 2 1/2 years of it's existence and then Minute Maid signed a 30 year $100 million naming rights contract. The stadium cost $250 million and was built right in downtown Houston.
A new stadium was designed and was originally was set to be built next to the old Astrodome. Those plans changed when Houston's Union Station received a $2 million grant for renovation in a separate project and the stadium location changed in response from Enron Chairman Kenneth Lay's input and pledge to contribute funding if placed downtown. In November of 1996 a referendum was on the November ballot and it passed 51% to 49% for the new downtown stadium.
The design of the new ballpark integrated the former Union Station main concourse and using the space for a clubhouse, team store, cafe, and office space. A large model train was also included in the design. Part of the design was a flag pole that was in centerfield on the playing field.
Groundbreaking took place on November 1, 1997 and the first Regular Season game was played on April 7, 2000. In 2006, the Chick-fil-A cows were added to the foul poles with wording stating "EAT MOR FOWL". If an Astros player hits the pole, all fans in attendance get a coupon for a free chicken sandwich. The foul pole was hit for the first and second time by Hunter Pence during the 2007 season. For the 2009 season, new turfgrass was installed which was call "Chemgrass". In 2011, a large Dakronics HD screen, "El Grande", replaced the original board coming in at 54ft high and 124 ft wide. Fourth largest at the time. For the 2017 season the centerfield walls were moved in front of the flag pole that had been in fair territory. The centerfield wall moved in from 436 feet to 409 feet. In 2022 Amazon put in 2 concessions with the "Just Walk Out" technology, a first for a MLB stadium.
There are no stadium parking lots there. There are an estimated 25,000 parking spaces near the stadium that are available to use, of course you have to pay for parking in these lots and garages. We stayed near by in an RV park. We used Uber to get to the stadium and it was easy and was dropped off about 100 feet from the gate. The ride back to the RV park with Uber was a different story (partially my fault). I set up the ride and when doing it, I thought it looked like we were in the pickup area where we were standing. Didn't know this at the time but Houston has set up one specific location for Uber pick ups after the game. We were on the wrong side of the stadium. Uber driver was really nice and waited for us to get to the other side to get our ride.
Once we got in the stadium, which was pretty quick, we noticed a few things. First the concourse on the main level is very narrow and with people in line for concessions on both sides of the concourse, it makes it very tight to walk through. Probably the most narrow concourse we have been in. Signage is really bad. We were sitting in the 300 level for this game and we needed to find the escalators to go up on. Signage pointed us in the direction but after that original sign there wasn't another about where to go. Found an elevator put there were too many people waiting for it. Turned back to head the other way and saw another escalator sign pointing in the opposite direction, so we went that way......and kept walking. Found out that there are only 2 escalators in the whole stadium. One in left field and one in right field. Out seats were on the first base line near home plate. So had to walk to left field to use the escalator and then walk back from left field to get to our seats.
Food was nothing spectacular. They had all the usuals.....Hot Dogs, Hamburgers, Pretzels, Popcorn, etc.. With their association with Chick-fil-A, there was one there. They had some Mexican and Asian Foods stands. Nothing really that you would call a Houston Specialty. Like the Texas Rangers they did have a BBQ baked potato but we did not see them when we were there. We just had chicken tenders and fries. Nothing exciting for us.
First pitch of the Texas Rangers vs. Houston Astros. This was the first of a 4 game series. We had just seen the Rangers a few games before in Arlington. Starting pitching for Houston was Framber Valdez and he pitched very well. He pitched 7 innings and allowed 6 hits, 2 walks, struck out 7, and only allowed 1 earned run. The bullpen finished the next 2 innings with 6 straight strike outs. The Astros won by a score of 5-1. Jose Altuve went 4 for 5 with 2 doubles and 2 infield singles and Martin Maldonado hit a bases loaded clearing double in the 8th for 3 rbi's.
Glenn Otto was the starting pitcher for the Rangers and pitched well also but he took the loss. Otto went 6 innings allowing 7 hits, 3 walks, striking out 2, and allowing 2 earned runs. In the 7th Josh Sborz pitched a quick inning and came back for the 8th. He unraveled in the 8th by giving up 3 walks and then the bases loaded clearing double. Matt Moore had to come in after that and he was able to get the final 2 outs via strike outs.
Overall I would give the stadium a C. The stadium wasn't fancy or had anything special. The very narrow concourses and the lack of access to the upper levels were horrible. This was our 4th retractable roof stadium and like the others nothing original about them and they are pretty bland. Still have 4 more roofed stadiums to see.