Apr 6, 2012; Houston, TX, USA; General view of Minute Maid Park on Opening Day before a game between the Houston Astros and Colorado Rockies. Mandatory Credit: Brett Davis-US PRESSWIRE
Coinciding with game three off the 2012 season we'll look at the three stadiums for the Houston Astros.
The Astros have played in three different stadiums throughout their 50 year history. Their first home was Colt Stadium a one tier open air stadium. Their second home, nicknamed the eighth wonder of the world, was the famous Astrodome, a multipurpose domed stadium. Their third and current stadium is Minute Maid Park a retractable-roofed stadium.
The two million dollar stadium was built as a temporary home for the new Houston based baseball team, hosting them from 1962-1964. It seated 33,000 people in the uncomfortable Houston heat. Often when reading about the Astros first digs you'll find complaints about two things, the mosquitoes and the heat.
The dimension of the ball park were 360 feet down the lines, 395 feet power alley's and a 420 feet center field. Center field wasn't the deepest part of the park thought, it was the corners flanking either side of center field that measured 427 feet. As you probably guessed the stadium, according to park factors, favored pitchers.
The ballpark is actually still standing, just not in Houston. After the Colt .45's/Astros moved into the Astrodome they sold the stadium to a Mexican team.
Maybe the most beloved facility in Houston it was the first of its kind, complete with air condition and eventually AstroTurf. The stadium was the home of the team from 1965-1999. It opened with a seating capacity just over 42,000 and closed with a seating capacity of over 54,000 Houstonians.
Original dimensions were 340 to left, 330 feet to right and 406 to center. When the Astros moved to Minute Maid Park the dimensions were 330 feet to left, 330 feet to right and 400 feet to center. When the place opened it obviously leaned towards pitchers. When it closed, however, it was playing pretty close to neutral.
The stadium is still standing, but unused. In fact recently several members of the local media were invited to tour the facility that is in a state of disrepair. What to do with such a historic and beloved piece of Houston is a question yet to be answered. Repairing it will cost money, demolishing it will cost money. It certainly is a sad state for what many consider a piece of their soul.
Minute Maid Park
The Astros current digs may have the most interesting history out of all three stadiums. From Enron to the World Series to last years 100 loss season. The Astros have had the highest of highs and the lowest of lows in the stadium affectionately nicknamed The Juice Box. Built with a $250 million price tag, the stadium seats almost 41,000 Houston baseball fans.
It's dimensions are 315 feet to left, 325 feet to right, 362 feet to left center, 373 feet to right center and 435 feet to center. It pay's homage to some of the ballparks of the past with a hill and flag pole in center field and a short porch in left with a manual scoreboard. When it opened it gained a reputation as an offensive ballpark.
The ballpark factor for the 2000 season was 107 for both batting and pitching (over 100 favors batters, under 100 favors pitchers). It hasn't shed that assumption, despite playing more neutral the past few years. In 2011 it was slightly over 100 with a 102 for batting and a 104 for pitching. One explanation for the park playing more neutral is that pitchers have figured out they can't go in to righties or pay the price for a lazy fly ball to left. Instead they try to use the monstrous center field and it's quirky aspects.
From what I've heard about Minute Maid Park it's a wonderful facility and one of the best ballparks in the league to watch a baseball game. As a non-Houston fan I have yet to experience it, but I plan to remedy that at some point this season.
Baseball Reference for it's ballpark factors