I had the opportunity to come here twice, the first time back in ’05 and most recently in July of ’08. My first trip here I did not have the chance to catch a full game here as my buddy and I were here on a stopover on the way back from St. Louis via Amtrak. Since we had a few hours to kill, we decided to check out MMP and we’re able to catch 7 innings worth. On this night, 5/13/2005, Friday the 13th, the Astros would take on the Giants. And of course, as some of you may know by now, being the Dodger fan I am, you can pretty much guess who I was pulling for on this night.
GIANTS VS. ASTROS, 5/13/2005
Later on, you’ll notice a change here on a later visit
On my first visit here, there would be no need for the roof on this nice Texas evening. From what I gathered, the roof isn’t really in use much in April and May. From June on, it is a necessity. For the most part, I am a traditionalist. I like baseball outdoors. Then again, I am also fortunate to live in L.A., where the weather is hardly an issue here. And after having gone to MMP and a visit to Bank One Ballpark ( now Chase Field ) back in ’03, my stance on indoor baseball has somewhat lightened. Especially when the locals must deal with 100 plus degree weather and the high humidity that comes with it.
My expectation’s here on my first visit I can say really exceeded what I expected. MMP had to be one of the more intimate ballparks I had ever seen a game. When the roof is open, it is possible for a right handed hitter to hit one over toward Crawford St. , behind the left field seats dubbed as the Crawford Boxes. During Game 5 of the ’05 NLCS, had the roof been opened, the sliding glass that accompanies the roofs opening, would not have been there and Albert Pujols mammoth shot would have probably landed somewhere out beyond Crawford St.
Minute Maid Park sits on what used to be where passenger trains once picked up rail passengers, thus explaining the many rail references you may see here. To the left of the CITGO sign you’ll notice a red brick building. That building is where UNION STATION once resided. Today the Astros offices are located in this building. The lobby in this building is used today as one of the main entrances to the ballpark.
ALL ABOARD !!!!!
Fans enter MMP through the lobby of old Union Station via Crawford St.
To the left, the Astros team offices. The teal awning below is the entrance that leads to the lobby. The baseball diamond you see outside MMP is part of the meeting plaza out there on Crawford St. As I stated earlier, when the roof is opened, like it is on this night, there’s a good chance a tape-measure shot can land here. Hey, check out that train filled with oranges !!!!!
For those who like that bird’s eye view of the action, a la Wrigleyville
Here Comes the Train !!!!
HI MR. CONDUCTOR !!!!
One of the many bells n’ whistles you’ll find here. The train rolls along the tracks as the Astros take the field to start the game, and for every Astros homer. Speaking of homers, yeah, that number you see above the train indicates how the distance of the building from home plate.
The View From My Original Seats
You didn’t think I sat here the whole game did you ?
The Conoco HR Porch
For those of you on the cheap, if you don’t mind standing room viewing areas, this porch is a unique way of seeing the game, you’re actually above the left field warning track. You will also notice a replica retro gas pump behind you that counts the amount of Astros HR’s hit dating back to the stadium’s debut back in 2000, when it was then under another name. ( We wont mention the E word…. ) .
The Conoco Home Run Porch
Where fans can watch the game on the cheap. It’s also a great place to socialize and talk baseball with other fans too. It was here where in ’05 I was talking to a visitor from San Antonio, just talking, then for whatever reason, I decided to mention Derek Fisher of the Lakers, to which I got a response with the Texas drawl included…. ” He did NOT git that shot off in .4 seconds !!!!! ” . ( Yes he did….:) ) .
The View From the Porch
Named after longtime team president Tal Smith. Located in center field the hill is a nod to old Crosley Field in Cincinatti. Also, the pole there on the hill is a flagpole that also is a nod this time to old Tiger Stadium in Detroit. There are mixed feelings here in Houston about the hill and the pole. If a fly ball goes here, yes the outfielder must go up that hill and chase after it.
MY MINUTE MAID PARK EXPERIENCE, FIRST TIME 5/13/2005
As I mentioned earlier my buddy and I were on a stopover here so we we’re not able to catch the full game. However we did squeeze in 7 innings even getting in a round of ” Deep in the Heart of Texas “, sung after Take Me Out to the Ballgame. One of my favorite highlights of the night was when fans chose Mike Scott’s division clinching no-hitter against the Giants in ’86 to win the NL West. ( One of the other two choices was the Astros winning the one-game playoff against the Dodgers at Dodger Stadium in 1980 . Also of note, prior to 1994, the Astros were in the NL West, thus explaining their West Division titles of ’80 and ’86)……. I was so impressed by the park’s intimate settings that I told my buddy Josh that we had to come back. I also liked how they incorporated old union station into the yard . If you have a chance you should enter through the old station’s lobby behind the Crawford Boxes in the left field entrance. As for us coming back, it would be 3 years before we would return…….
BACK TO H-TOWN……
We would return and this time we would take in 3 games here and see our Dodgers take on the locals. The highlight of this trip this time aside from MMP would be our trip to the Johnson Space Center. As you may notice, Houston’s some of the local teams are named after Space Program themes, you know, Astros, Rockets, Comets…… I’m not gonna pretend to be an expert in our space program, but here are some pics from the Johnson Space Center…
And now, our return trip to the Juice Box
We would catch the last 3 games of a 4 game series between our Dodgers and Astros on 7/1 to 7/3/2008. One of the things we would do before one of the games was the stadium tour. If you should do the twilight tour, you get to enter the stadium 3 hours before game time before the rest of the public. You meet up at the lobby of Union Station, but as for the tour, aside from entering before the rest of the public and catching early BP, there really wasnt anything spectacular about the tour. We didn’t even get to go in the clubhouses. If you’re ever going to take the stadium tour here, from what I’ve gathered, take one of the standard tours during the day, you’ll even get to walk up Tal’s Hill .
As for our 3 games here, this time, we would be watching the games with the roof above us. As I mentioned earlier, games from June on you’ll have the roof over your head, thanks in large part to the oppresive heat and humidity during the summer months.
We would definately enjoy our return trip here and even notice some changes here too. The highlight would be watching our boys in Blue win all 3 games we would attend here. What was it like being a Dodger fan here. In the 80’s it may not have been apreciated because both teams we’re often fighting for the NL West. But today, the hostility is not there at all. In fact, there was a good contingent of Dodger fans here, especially from the Latino fans, no doubt due in large to the popularity of Fernando Valenzuela back in the 80’s.
Back to the Porch
Notice the felines ? They are The Little Pumas, the devoted folowers of Astros first baseman Lance Berkman, dubbed, The Big Puma. They’re college students who are at pretty much all the games during the summer, at least as of ’08.
Hangin’ With the Pumas
Josh and I kickin’ it with the Pumas after the Dodgers had defeated the Astros 5-2, 7/3/2008
The Scoreboard, 3 Years Later
I did mention earlier there was a change in that scoreboard from my first visit in ’05. The retired numbers of Astros glory are now up there. Previously, the we’re located above the upper level stands down the left field line. This current set-up is much more attractive.
It’s previous set-up in 2005.
MMP EXPERIENCE, PART 2
The second time around would be just as nice as the first time. One thing I did notice about crowds in Houston is that there we’re many who were dressed up in the Astros retro colors of the Astrodome days, remember, when they wore the Rainbow Guts jerseys, those pull-overs that had like 500 hues of orange. Even their 45th anniversary logo for this season gives homage to the old unis of the past….
Perhaps when the ‘Stros due their next uni change, they will find a way to incorporate the use of orange in their new threads, whenever that may be. Houston, like Atlanta, is a town of many transplants so on any given night, you may see a good portion of the crowd pulling for the visiting team. However, on most given night, you should be able to walk-up and buy a ticket for that nights game since most games do not sell out here. And since the stadium does allow for free-movement throughout, you can always wander around and experience the many viewing points. Should you get a chance, catch an inning or two out in the Conoco Home Run Porch for a unique view of the game. MMP was one of those parks that truely exceeded my expectations.
Me reppin’ the Blue outside MMP. Another feature that was added is that actual locomotive located across the street from the home plate entrance. GO DODGERS !!!!