This past weekend Account Executive Chris Dawson and I made a trip to Minute Maid Park in Houston, the first time we had ever been to Texas. We met at “The Joe” early Thursday morning and began the trip to New York City where our flight was leaving from JFK International Airport.
After sitting in traffic on the New York State Thruway for a bit longer than expected, we did make it to the airport with reasonable time to spare. Then we boarded our Jet Blue flight sitting across the aisle from one another.
The flight from JFK to Houston’s Hobby Airport lasted approximately 3 hours and 27 minutes, but felt much shorter due to the on-board Direct TV which allowed us to watch our favorite shows (ESPN) during the flight. They also served Dunkin’ Donuts coffee, something I live on.
Upon arrival in Houston we picked up our bags and hailed a cab to downtown, about a 15 minute cab ride. The one noticeable difference between New York and Texas, as expected, was the air temperature. It was 67 degrees when we left and 92 degrees when we arrived. Here is a photo of the downtown Houston skyline as we made our way in:
We stayed at the Club Quarters Houston, which is located about 7 blocks away from Minute Maid Park. Easy walking distance for us who didn’t have a car to get around. Try to disregard the bright sun and notice the banners on the light pole outside of the hotel. It’s a photo of Minute Maid Park.
After checking into the hotel we went down the street to a place called the Tejas Grill to have our first meal in the state of Texas. We’ve heard nothing but great things about the popular Tex-Mex food and couldn’t wait to taste it. I ordered Chicken Fried Chicken and Dawson ordered a Mexican Sampler including a taco, chalupa and rice. We were not disappointed! Not only was the food good but the friendliness of the staff was remarkable, which was a common theme on our entire trip. As we entered we were greeted with a “How Y’all Doin’?” and a bright smile. This is a very common phrase used in Texas and one that you can pick up quick if you hear it enough.
After our meal we made a quick pit stop back at our hotel and then began our seven block walk to Minute Maid Park. Experiencing a ballpark for the first time is an amazing feeling. Each one is different in it’s own regard and has many nuances that make it stand out from the rest.
Here are our first photos as we made our way to Minute Maid Park:
Minute Maid Park was built directly next to the old Union Station, a railway hub in Houston from 1911-1975. The Astros team store and the administrative offices are both located in the building.
The Astros won the game 9-6, with the help of many former ‘Cats in the lineup:
There are many other photos from around the park that I’d like to show you, but I will first recap what happened on Saturday night. In a pre-game ceremony the Houston Astros recognized their Minor League Players of the Year. They are former ValleyCats infielder Jose Altuve (’09) and pitcher Jake Buchanan (’10). Altuve made the jump from Double A Corpus Christi to the Houston Astros in July.
Buchanan was an instrumental part of the ValleyCats 2010 New York-Penn League Championship and got to check out Astros batting practice from the field. Buchanan (far right) is standing next to Astros Player Development Coordinator Allen Rowin and Astros beat reporter for the Houston Chronicle Zachary Levine. Zachary is actually a Bethlehem, NY native that has made numerous visits to “The Joe.” On Friday morning he graciously drove us around the Houston area and brought us to lunch.
After batting practice, Buchanan and Altuve made their way to the concourse to sign autographs for the fans:
Here are some photos from pre-game awards presentation:
Charlie Taylor currently serves as the Gulf Coast Astros pitching coach and was honored as Player Development Man of the Year.
I’ll provide a more in-depth look at our trip to Houston in the next blog post, including a behind-the-scenes tour of Minute Maid Park. Thanks Y’all!
Media Relations Manager Chris Chenes and ‘Cats Account Executive Chris Dawson are going to be making a trip to Houston this weekend. It will be the first time that both of them have ever been in Texas and they will be taking in all of the sights and sounds of the area and Minute Maid Park.
In a pre-game ceremony on Saturday, the Astros will be honoring their Minor League Players of the Year including infielder Jose Altuve (made the jump from Double A to the big leagues in the middle of July) and pitcher Jake Buchanan. Buchanan, a member of the 2010 championship ValleyCats, posted a 5-10 record with a 3.80 ERA in 26 starts between the Class A and Double-A levels. He finished his season ranking second in the league in WHIP (1.21), fifth in ERA (3.91) and tossed one of only three shutouts in the California League this season. Buchanan is also the first Lancaster pitcher to start at least 20 games with the club and end the season with an ERA below 4.00 since Brandon Webb did so in 2001.
They will post a complete recap upon the return of their trip on Monday, so stay tuned!
The ValleyCats 2011 season ended on a bittersweet note as they were swept in a doubleheader by the Lowell Spinners, leaving the ‘Cats with slim hopes for a playoff berth.
However, the ValleyCats set a single-season attendance record for the eighth straight season drawing 156,279 fans to “The Joe”, up from 155,315 in 2010.
Also, throughout the 2011 season, the ValleyCats partnered with numerous organizations for unique season-long promotions to help local charities.
Below is a recap of the donations made:
The Tri-City ValleyCats are proud to have teamed up with BlueShield of Northeastern New York to strike out bullying with the K’s for Kids program. For each strikeout ValleyCats pitchers have recorded at home, BlueShield donated 10 dollars to the Capital District YMCA to help fund the Y’s Reach Out For Youth Scholarship program, which provides access to Y programs and services for children in need in the Capital Region.
On the field during the last regular season home game, BlueShield made a donation of $3,110 to the Capital District YMCA.
Following the 2011 season, Dunkin’ Donuts donated 100 pounds of coffee to the Regional Food Bank of Northeastern New York. The donation – the equivalent of more than 5,000 cups of coffee – was fueled by a season-long partnership between the reigning New York Penn League champions and Dunkin’ Donuts.
Dunkin’ Donuts pledged to donate one pound of coffee to the Regional Food Bank for every double play turned at home in 2011 by the ValleyCats. Led by a cast of infielders, the ValleyCats averaged nearly a double play per game while generating 30 pounds of Dunkin’ Donuts coffee for the food bank during the regular season.
Dunkin’ Donuts and its Capital Region franchisees tripled the donation to bring the final total to 100 pounds of fresh brewed Dunkin’ Donuts coffee.
In 2011, the Tri-City ValleyCats, JCB Specialties and the Regional Food Bank partnerned once again for the “Pass the Plate” promotion in which JCB Specialties would donate $20 for every run the ValleyCats scored at home during the season.
The ValleyCats scored 196 runs at home in 2011, and JCB Specialties donated a total of $3,920 to the Regional Food Bank.