Whoever gets my old seat in the press box better take tender loving care of it.

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I’m not asking for it to be sectioned off by purple velvet rope and declared an Astros shrine (although if you want to, who am I to stop you?), but I do hope whoever snags the area previously known as my press box seat will at least treat it as part of the family. Or, if that’s too much to ask, just appreciate it for what it is/was — the single best vantage point you’ll find at Minute Maid Park.

In my opinion, press box seats were better than Drayton’s comfy seats behind the plate, because when something happened on the field that made you want to roll your eyes and slap your forehead in disgust, it helped being tucked away in the press box, away from the cameras that could otherwise capture you in all of your exasperated glory.

Anyhoo, the dearly departed press box is being renamed the Astros Press Club, and by Opening Day next year, the venue will be fully functional and available to the public. (They’re taking orders now — read more about it here).

press club 2.jpgThis whole redesign thing has made me pretty nostalgic. After all, we’ve witnessed some pretty spectacular moments from those precious press box seats, ranging from historical (first World Series game ever played in Texas) to hysterical (Mike Hampton throwing Brad Ausmus a cookie of a pitch during Ausmus’ last game as an Astro, which Ausmus “muscled” to the first few rows of the Crawford Boxes).

But what moments were the most unforgettable? After doing a mental sweep of the last 11 seasons in this ballpark, two instances stand out to me more than any other.

Jeff Kent’s home run that ended Game 5 of the 2004 NLCS and gave the Astros a 3-2 lead in the series has to be one of the most memorable moments, ever. I just remember thinking how those types of plays in the postseason were so opposite from what we were used to in Houston. Not to knock the franchise, but let’s face it — at the time, the Astros were on their fifth postseason in eight years, and very little had gone right up until then.

So watching Kent throw off his helmet as he approached home plate, hold up his index finger and say to his ecstatic teammates, “One more” was just really awesome.

But even more than that game (or Chris Burke’s 18th inning walkoff the next year), there was only one time, as memory serves, where I actually said out loud, “This is by far the coolest thing I’ve ever watched here.” And that happened while we were watching Lance Berkman lob home run after home run over the Crawford Box seats, over the facade behind the seats, and out of the ballpark during the Home Run Derby during the 2004 All-Star week.

I know it was a meaningless event in terms of standings and playoffs, which really are the only things that ultimately matter to ballplayers. And I would never suggest this was the best moment, or the most impactful. But watching Berkman in such a groove, doing his thing in front of 42,000 screaming hometown fans, was something I’ll never forget. I think it was the second round where he really started going off, and at some point, a few of us in the press box just had to sit back and laugh because of the wonderful absurdity of it all. The baseballs were actually leaving the ballpark, one after another after another after another. For a while, it seemed like Lance was going to be able to sustain that pace until the next morning.

So while it wasn’t as impactful as the postseason clutch home runs or as emotional as Craig Biggio’s 3,000th hit or as entertaining as watching Jimy Williams kick dirt on home plate while jawing with the umps, the 2004 Home Run Derby gets put in a separate category to be filed under Things I’ll Never, Ever Forget.

Now let’s hear from you. Was there one moment at Minute Maid Park that stood out to you more than any other?

That doesn’t necessarily mean it has to be the most exciting game, or a game that was historic for one reason or another. Maybe it was the first game you went to with your kids. Or a game where you caught a foul ball. Or a game that Junction Jack laid a big furry kiss on you. Whatever the game, whatever the circumstance…what is your best memory?

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In today’s From the Photo Vault segment, we step back in time to Spring Training 2006, when the Astros hosted a bunch of kids for their Read Across America program. The event takes place on March 2 every year, Dr. Seuss’s birthday, and celebrates the simple joy and importance of kids reading books.

Dr. Seuss is obviously the inspiration behind the program, a notion clearly not lost on Fernando Nieve, Chad Qualls or Steve Sparks.

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 Or Milo.

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8 Comments

The Kent homerun is my greatest moment – of all of my baseball experiences – for me as well. Not just his homer, but that entire game: Backe’s 8 innings of 1-hit ball, Beltran’s diving catch, etc. I don’t think that moment gets it’s proper due in Astros lore because Kent wasn’t an iconic Astro along the lines of Biggio/Bagwell/Berkman. But the sheer excitement of that moment is something that will be hard to replicate again at MMP.
The only other thing that comes close for me is actually the Pujols homerun off of Lidge. Unfortunately that’s my second most remembered moment at Minute Maid…and that memory is not going to go away for a while.

My favorite moment being at MMP was a Saturday in August ’04 against the Cubs who I think were leading the Wild Card at the time. It was one of Brandon Backe’s first starts (might have been his first as an Astro after being in the minors) and he drove in the game’s first two runs before the Cubs took the lead 3-2 in the top of the ninth. Then the ‘Stros won the game on a walkoff hit by Jason Lane. Never been in attendence for walkoff win before or since and I’ll always remember Morgan Ensberg crossing home plate with his fist pumped. It takes even more significance considering the wild finish the team had that year in taking the Wild Card.

I was there for the Kent home run, and that was my greatest moment at MMP until out #2 in Game 5 of the 2005 NLCS. The Astros were one out away from going to the World Series, and I’ve never been that excited in my life. Then Pujols turned the greatest sports moment in my life into one of the worst all time moments in my entire life. I’ve seen alot of sports misery in Houston during my 40 years, but that moment surpassed any misery I could ever dream of. I still contend that playing game 6 ruined our rotation for the World Series, and I will NEVER forgive Brad Lidge- even if he’s a great guy.

I was at the game the day that Biggio announced his retirement and hit a grand slam. There was nothing else extraordinary about the game, but the coincidence of the announcement and the grand slam made this the coolest Minute Maid moment for me.

My brother and I (25 and 24 at the time) were in Sunday School at church on 10/9/05, when a friend of ours said that he had 2 extra tickets to the Stros game that afternoon. They were back row of section 430 (1st base side), but they were seats inside the stadium, so we scratched our lunch plans and headed downtown from Pasadena after church. Although Burke’s homer in the 18th was incredible, and Puma’s salami in the 8th was a momentum changer, it is Ausmus’ dinger with 2 outs in the 9th that I will never forget. We were going nuts, and everybody on our row was turned around and beating on the metal wall behind us. (Last row, remember?) I’ve seen many more games since and will go to Astros games for the rest of my life, but I will never forget that moment when the Astros (figuratively) and my brother and I (literally) had our backs against the wall as long as I live. 80 career homers for Brad, but none bigger than that in my book.

All the usual are favorites of mine too. But I remember Oct 2 2005 for several reasons. Oswalt allowed the Cubs to go ahead in the top of the sixth. But Jason Lane tied it with a home run, and then the Astros took the lead in the bottom of the 6th. We won, clinched the wild card, Oswalt won the game for his 20th win. What made it even more fun was sharing the game at MM with a friend I’d met at spring training. She is from Ohio, and was a huge Astro fan, and Ausmus was her favorite player, as he was one of mine also. She happened to plan a trip during the season to Houston to see MM for the first time – little did we know that we would see confetti reigh down on us as we were playoff bound once again! Still have that confetti BTW!!!

For me, it was the game between the Astros and the Tampa Bay Devil Rays back in June 2003. I had been going to Astros games for years (back to 1970 when my family moved to Houston), but this one is memorable for one reason: I caught a foul ball. Bottom of the first inning, off the bat of Jeff Bagwell. I remember that my bare hand hurt (forgot to bring a glove), and I had to go to the concession stand to buy a helmet sundae to dull the pain. The foul ball is proudly displayed in my faculty office–and, when Bagwell gets enshrined in Cooperstown, perhaps I can get him to autograph it.

Too many game moments to mention. However, a couple of pre-game moments come to mind: 1) Lyle Lovett singing the National Anthem on the opening night of Enron Field; our hometown boy’s understated rendition is still the best I’ve heard; and 2) watching the video tribute to Cammy after his death, realizing that a part of the Astros had died with him, and, unsuccessfully trying to hold back the tears.

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