Posts Tagged ‘Minute Maid Park’

Bob Dorrill: On Opening Day 2014

April 2, 2014
OPENING DAY 2014 Minute Maid Park by Bob Dorrill

OPENING DAY 2014
Minute Maid Park
by Bob Dorrill

Houston Astros 6 – New York Yankees 2

By Bob Dorrill

Bob Dorrill Manager Houston Babies

Bob Dorrill
Manager
Houston Babies

 Bob Dorrill is Chair of the Larry Dierker Chapter of SABR, an Astros season ticket holder, a writer-researcher of baseball history, manager of the vintage baseball club we call the Houston Babies, a Grade A+  baseball man in his own right, a terrific family man, and one of the nicest people you could ever hope to meet. As our guest columnist today, Bob  brings us all the sights and sounds of yesterday’s Opening Day at Minute Maid Park. Come back again soon, Bob Dorrill. Your words and pictures are great. And besides, we all like hanging out with you because, in your presence, it’s always baseball season. – The Pecan Park Eagle.

 

Nolan Ryan threw out the first pitch to Craig Biggio. All they needed was mike man Bob Uecker to call the location of the throw. - by Bob Dorrill

Nolan Ryan threw out the first pitch to Craig Biggio. All they needed was mike man Bob Uecker to call the location of the actual  throw.
– by Bob Dorrill

Last night was every Astros fan’s dream of how Opening Day should be. First there was the celebration outside Minute Maid Park where an abundance of orange was observed. Everyone, and I mean everyone, was decked out in their best Astros garb with only a few Yankee fans thrown in.

When entering the ballpark the first thing you noticed was the signs, yes those high flying signs hanging over left field have been moved and placed along the left field wall so that the view of the Houston skyline has been restored. Thank you Reid Ryan and Jim Crane for listening.

The park itself was filled early and the area down the left field foul line was jammed 15 deep with Yankees fans trying to catch sight of and maybe securing an autograph from one of their own. When Derek Jeter stepped out of the dugout to take batting practice the ballpark went wild. Jeter has that magnetism and is an imposing sight.

The Crawford Boxes Openig Day 2014 by Bob Dorrill

The Crawford Boxes
Openig Day 2014
by Bob Dorrill

When Astros season ticket holders brought a huge American Flag on the field it was all they could do to hang on to the flag. At least one person was lifted off the ground by the swirling winds with appropriate crowd reaction. Because of the high winds the promised skydiving was cancelled.

Next came the beautiful Clydesdale horses pulling the Budweiser wagon, another imposing sight as they circled the field. What beautiful animals.

No, that's not Phil Nevin warming up in the Home of the Astros. It's future Hall of Famer NY Yankee Derek Jester. - by Bob Dorrill

No, that’s not Phil Nevin warming up in the Home of the Astros. It’s future Hall of Famer NY Yankee shortstop Derek Jester.
– by Bob Dorrill

Player introductions were made by our own Bill Brown after a few remarks from Hall of Fame Broadcaster Milo Hamilton. How Milo loves to perform in front of an audience. It should be noted that when Carlos Beltran was introduced he must have felt right at home as he received a very loud “Bronx Cheer”. We never forget.

The first pitch was executed by none other than Nolan Ryan pitching to Craig Biggio. Let’s just say that Mr. Ryan’s pitch was slightly “high and outside”. It was also wonderful to see President G.H.W.Bush and Mrs. Bush in their front row seats near the Astros dugout..

Then came the game. After a scare, when Derek Jeter was hit by a pitch his first at bat, Scott Feldman went to work and so did the locals. The Astros played like the Yankees used to play and the Yankees played like the old Astros. In the bottom of the first inning Dexter Fowler blasted a pitch to Tal’s Hill for a double, advanced to third on a fly ball by Robbie Grossman, and scored on a Jose Altuve single. Altuve then stole second and advanced to third on sloppy Yankee play and scored on a fielder’s choice by Jason Castro. Jesus Guzman then ripped a two run homer and the score was 4-0. For all practical purposes the game was over but we didn’tknow that then.

The Clydesdales Opening Day 2104 by Bob Dorrill

The Clydesdales
Opening Day 2104
by Bob Dorrill

The second inning was equally exciting with L J Hoes hitting a long home run, Fowler went 2 for 2 with another double and Altuve brought him home building the score to 6-0. It was amazing how quiet the New York fans were, especially with their ace, CC Sabathia on the mound. CC never threw a pitch over 88 mph.

Scott Feldman was masterfully before tiring a bit in the 7th inning, giving up only 2 hits in 103 pitches. As he left the field Scott received a well deserved standing ovation that included Mrs. Bush. Both Jose Altuve (that guy again) and Jonathon Villar made sparkling fielding plays.

Kevin Chapman, Chad Qualls and Matt Albers finished out the game with only Chad having to work out of a small Yankee uprising in the 8th inning.

April 1, 2014: Astros 6 - Yankees 2 on Opening Day. No April Fool's Day joke, but now we only have to win 62 more games to avoid a 4th straight 100-loss season. -Photo by Bob Dorrill; Attempt at Humor by The Pecan Park Eagle and the Howling Wolves of Reality.

April 1, 2014: Astros 6 – Yankees 2 on Opening Day.
No April Fool’s Day joke, but now we only have to win 62 more games to avoid a 4th straight 100-loss season.
-Photo by Bob Dorrill; Attempt at Humor by The Pecan Park Eagle and the Howling Wolves of Reality.

The evening ended with lots of fireworks lighting up Minute Maid Park. When leaving the park I overheard one fan say “You can’t win them all unless you win the first game” How long has it been since we’ve heard those words spoken with any kind of confidence?

 

The Minute Maid Park Malaise

September 27, 2012

THEN: Prior to the new ownership, this was the kind of western view that was possible from the interior of Minute Maid Park. It was pretty much everything that the designers and architects of this beautiful structure had intended and a quality contribution to the aesthetic ambience of downtown life in Houston.

NOW: Sadly, this is how things look inside Minute Maid Park today after a single season under the new Astros ownership. In an ironic display of “uglification,” the club has decided to honor the companies contributing to the team’s inner city youth program by turning our beautiful ballpark into an eyesore that is only rivaled by those Houston street corners with all the cardboard business signs that have been hammered into the ground on sticks.

Look, Mr. or Ms. Corporate Advertiser at Minute Maid Park, please allow us/me to ask you something? Do you really want your company to be best remembered as one of those who turned our ballpark into one of the ugliest edifices in major league baseball? If not, then please extend your desire to help the quality of life in Houston to include protecting the architectural integrity of Minute Maid Park by asking the Astros to remove your sign from the blight of advertising garbage that now clouds our once spaciously grand western window,

It’s pretty obvious now that the current ownership mostly sees every inch of wall and ballpark air space as an opportunity for some new revenue stream. And, on one level, who could blame them? Look at the big money they paid for this franchise!

On the other hand, if this is what it’s coming down to, that baseball is only affordable if we turn our parks ugly for the sake of finding some new sources of support for the principal activity, than maybe, just maybe, it’s time for some of us who have loved the core game all our lives, just for itself, to move on.

I personally don’t need to sit in the middle of a commercial for so many other things to enjoy the game for itself alone. If my Astros game attendance now falls off in 2013 to nothing, or just moves down Highway 59 South to Sugar Land, I assure you, it will not be because the team is moving to the American League. It will be because of the way the ballpark and its architectural beauty is being dismantled.

Mr. Crane, in all respect for the financial  pressure that rests upon your shoulders alone, we fans still implore you to act for baseball, the history and future of the game in Houston, and for the architectural integrity of our community’s Minute Maid Park – that you lease from us.

In the words and spirit of Ronald Reagan, we must ask: “Mr. Crane, will you please take down that wall!”

 

Tal’s Hill: The Bigger View

August 18, 2012

Minute Maid Park: It may be quirky, but that’s baseball. And it’s ours.

Yesterday’s column here on the eminently approaching decision about Tal’s Hill stimulated some of the best real discussion we’ve had in some time on one of the built-in anomalies on the Houston baseball venue we now call Minute Maid Park, In fact, it spilled over into several other recognizable peculiarities of our base, most notably, the presence of the Crawford Boxes in left field.

The Issues Beyond Tal’s Hill

(1) Pitchers have learned over the total 13 seasons in residence to play MMP as it is. What happens next isn’t simply about Tal’s Hill – or the Crawford Boxes, for that matter. It’s about: Do we really want to alter the ballpark to the extent that it wipes out all the training pitchers have gone through in learning how to perform successfully in Houston?

That was the underpinning thought behind my too brief comment on the throwback similarity of MMP to the old Polo Grounds and its ridiculously short foul lines and impossibly deep center field. Mike Vance picked up on it exactly as I intended it. Beyond the hill itself, pitchers need every one of those 436 feet in dead center to make MMP the park they have all learned to play.

Move those fences in to 390-400 feet, and you create the band box that frightened all of the Astrodome courage out of Jose Lima and a few others back in that first 2000 season. It was learning how to force batters to hit the ball into the big center field pasture that separated the successful Astros pitchers from those who needed to seek work elsewhere.

Do we really want to change that anomaly now? It is my hope that someone from within the coaching and playing membership will get Mr. Crane’s ear on that one. As a former ballplayer himself, he certainly must understand what I’m talking about here.

(2) New “owner” Jim Crane is under great pressure. He has both the need and the right to run things on the Astros his way from stem to stern, as long as he does it under a 24/7 assault of suggestions from everyone, including little people like me, on what he should and shouldn’t do – and as long as his own needs to imprint the franchise with his own brand doesn’t hurt the fans of Houston in the long term.

I’ve always seen it this way when it comes to the real ownership of the Astros: Our fan-passion for the game is your business, Mr. Crane. Please handle both with care – and please maintain a respect for the past while your eye is on the future. The important heritage of Houston Baseball is much older than any single ownership of the current major league club.

Good luck with your practiced balance on these issues too, Mr. Crane. As with everything else, we are all ultimately judged by what we do.

(3) Baseball is a timeless game played on a field of randomly expressed configuration anomalies. As we all know, and very unlike football, baseball is not played by the clock on a field that is invariably the same size. Once we get past the right angles that configure the infield diamond and its four infield stations at 90 feet apart, and a pitching rubber that is 60 feet six inches from home plate, the far away outfield walls appear at random distance from home. At 1912 Fenway Park in Boston, the short wall in left was due to the limitations on additional space – and that led to the latter construction of the Green Monster as one big deterrent wall to  cheap home runs. At 2000 Enron Field in Houston, however, the short porch in left was by design.

Call it gimmicky, if you like, but that’s baseball. By requirement or design, baseball has been building these anomalies into ballparks for ages. During the era of the cookie-cutter multi-purpose stadiums that cities built in Houston, Pittsburgh, Philadelphia, Cincinnati, and St. Louis, among others, during the 1960s and 1970s, people briefly liked, then rebelled against the sameness. As the world’s first domed stadium, only the Astrodome maintained any unique charm over time, but even that smile had faded by the turn of the 21st century.

Enron Field, now Minute Maid Park (MMP), was a product of planned anomaly, and these included Tal’s Hill, what came to be known as the Crawford Boxes, the train, and the rambling column style of its interior architectural face. If the ball park is now reconfigured into something closer in resemblance to a band box sized cookie-cutter field, it’s not going to be very pretty – and it is going to be boomer baseball for whichever team brings the biggest bombers to games here.

A lot us don’t like a constant dose of bomber baseball, but the Astros are going into the AL WEST in 2013 as opponents of the Rangers and Angels, two of the biggest bomber squadrons in the game. We will need every inch of that 436 feet center field wall – and I’ll take the Hill and flag pole with it  too. As for this kind of ball, only the park is sort of ready, via our pitchers’ abilities to “play it like the Polo Grounds.”

We aren’t close to winning any slugfests any time soon. The Astros don’t have an air force. Right now, they don’t even own a plane.

Our Downtown Baseball State of Mind

March 24, 2011

 

Downtown Baseball. Most often, it's an easy drive, in and out.

 

My barber asked me the other day if I had gone to the rodeo this year. Beyond the fact that I am not now, and never have been, a rodeo guy, the thought of the drive from the west side to that congested monster site next to the Astrodome alone is enough to steer me away from such a trip. My barber admitted to the same feelings about the bottle-neck traffic that still controls Kirby at the 610 Loop South area. That problem was one of the same reasons I was happy a few years ago when plans materialized for the downtown baseball park at Union Station. I don’t know how many times I got caught in one of those one or two gate exit traffic clogs at the Astrodome parking lot and went away mumbling “never again.”

Of course, the call of baseball for people like me was strong enough to get me back on a temporarily erased memory of the last traffic jam, but the general effect of Astrodome parking lot and area street congestion was impacting how often I attended games as the years went by. It was just awful. And there wasn’t really any way for it to get better. Texans football fans have the same problem in 2011. Only the tailgaters escape it by arriving early and leaving late. Baseball isn’t a tailgater’s game. At least, the last time I looked, it wasn’t.

So, why is downtown so much better for auto traffic?

The big difference is easy to see. Downtown offers a far more diffuse traffic  situation, one serviced by the same freeways that all serve downtown for daily business, but without the density impact from all those other cars that are involved in our weekly morning and afternoon rush hour traffic. Downtown is a grid of about twelve streets moving north and south and a like number moving east and west –  and they all connect, one way or another with freeways departing downtown in every direction. When baseball schedules itself for a game downtown in the evening, or on weekends, the traffic infrastructure is set up to make the drive to and from the ballpark as easy as it can be for fans coming from and going to all points on the compass.

I can’t help but think of the one condition that would make going to a major league baseball game in Houston even easier – and that would be to live downtown in one of the overdeveloped high rises that sprouted up faster than the area could develop the other kinds of residential services for the neighborhood that are needed to make the downtown residential life an attractive option. For now, there aren’t enough grocery stores and convenient shopping centers and other entertainment/eatery places, not to mention medical, dental, and veterinary services, and gas stations, to get people to cut the cord on their present suburban area dependencies.

Change is big. It comes in parts of letting go of the old and grabbing on to the new. Today, downtown needs a few more amenities we can grab onto and finally say, “That’s it. That’s all I needed. Downtown, here I come.”

For me, for now, the easy ride, to and from the west side out either I-1o or Memorial Drive will have to do. It’s worked for me, so far, since the year 2000.