Trip to Minute Maid Park in Houston: Astros honor former ‘Cats

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.

photo-5After 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.

Flight

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:

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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.

Club Quarters Houston

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:

Hotel across the street from Minute Maid Park with a baseball touch to it.

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Hotel Lobby

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Minute Maid Park hosted the first ever All-Star Game in which the winning league received home field advantage in the World Series. Hence the "This One Counts" slogan.

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.

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Union Station's Great Hall

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Space between Union Station and Minute Maid Park, connected by a glass enclosure.

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Union Station

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Minute Maid Park

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Large baseballs line the outside of Minute Maid Park next to the ticket windows

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Bud Norris is "lights out"

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Chris Johnson

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Minute Maid Park's HD state-of-the-art video board is the fourth-largest in Major League Baseball, measuring 54 feet high and 124 feet wide

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The retractable roof opens and closes in approximately 13 minutes

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Former manager Art Howe (R) is a member of the FSHouston broadcast team

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A train sits on a track in left field, manned by a real life conductor, and moves back and forth at the beginning of the game, after an Astros home run and after a win. The back of the train is carrying "Minute Maid" oranges.

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Train track

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View from our seats behind the Astros dugout

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Former 'Cats Bud Norris, J.B. Shuck and Brian Bogusevic. How far they've come!

The Astros won the game 9-6, with the help of many former ‘Cats in the lineup:

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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.

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Buchanan talking to Astros manager Brad Mills

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Jake and his parents Buck and Sonda

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Jake with former 'Cat Jordan Lyles

After batting practice, Buchanan and Altuve made their way to the concourse to sign autographs for the fans:

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Farmstros creator Mike Tauser getting autographs with his son

Here are some photos from pre-game awards presentation:

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From left to right, Astros General Manager Ed Wade, Director of Player Development Fred Nelson, Player Development Coordinator Allen Rowin, Minor League Players of the Year Jake Buchanan and Jose Altuve, and Charley Taylor

Charlie Taylor currently serves as the Gulf Coast Astros pitching coach and was honored as Player Development Man of the Year.

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Award recipients Jake Buchanan, Jose Altuve and Charley Taylor

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Charley with his wife Pam and Director of Player Development Fred Nelson

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Jake with his parents Sonda and Buck

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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!

-Chris Chenes

6 Comments

Thanks Chris&Chris:

Excellent photo-journey. It’s always exciting to walk to a ballpark and you captured that. Looks like you had a ball.

Great experience, I would highly suggest visiting there.

It was a great time Jim! We’ll be posting more photos soon, so look for those.
-Chris C.

Wow! Great to see so many former Valley Cats made the team. Thanks for this report and the great photos.

Chris,

Great post. Glad ya’ll enjoyed Houston. Keep sending the good players this way.

Great blog. I was at MMP when it opened and it is great to get someone’s first impressions. great photos too

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