Whoever gets my old seat in the press box better take tender loving care of it.
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).
This 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?
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.
Follow Alyson Footer on Twitter
Check out Astros witticisms at PumaOneLiners
Questions? Send to firstname.lastname@example.org