Astros announce Community Leaders program and explain the structure in left field.

Throughout the homestand you’ve probably noticed a new structure that went up behind left field at Minute Maid Park.

The Astros have announced a new partnership with Houston-based corporations to build or refurbish youth baseball and softball fields in disadvantaged neighborhoods throughout the city.

The companies that have currently committed to this program are National Oilwell Varco, Halliburton, Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Texas, Calpine Corporation, Champion Energy Services, Schlumberger and Nabors Industries. The Astros plan to have 12 corporate partners in the Community Leaders Program, which will ultimately contribute $18 million to the City of Houston over the next five years.

To recognize the Community Leaders, the Astros are building a large structure on the left field light tower at Minute Maid Park that is scheduled to be completed by July 20. The pennants currently located on the left field wall will be moved to another location inside the ballpark.

Astros Owner and Chairman Jim Crane personally developed the plan with Houston Mayor Annise Parker, who has offered the club and its corporate partners many viable options of parks that need refurbishment. Over the last few months, Crane, Mayor Parker and Houston Parks and Recreation Director Joe Turner have visited these neighborhoods and parks to select the best options, which will have the most lasting impact on youth baseball and softball.

The Community Leaders program has offered corporations the opportunity to partner with the Astros and the Astros In Action Foundation to become part of a team that will improve these neighborhoods through the game of baseball.

Community Leaders is a five-year program, which matches the corporation’s employees along with wounded veterans as volunteers in the build, refurbishment, and guest services that go along with the plan. Their employees will also volunteer as coaches or mentors at the park, some of which will also be providing wellness and education programs for their patrons.

Crane: “Baseball was very important to my own development. Playing baseball made me a lot more confident and comfortable in my ability to achieve things. I”d like to be able to help more kids get the opportunity I had through baseball.”

Major League Baseball Commissioner Bud Selig: “I applaud Jim Crane and the Astros for partnering with so many fine local organizations and impacting the future of youth baseball in Houston. The Astros’ efforts will help us reach our next generation of leaders, players, coaches and fans. Major League Baseball is a social institution, and I am delighted that the Astros’ new Community Leaders Program will help us meet our important social responsibilities in the communities of Houston.”

The Astros will break ground on the project this summer and will complete construction of the fields at the start of the 2013 baseball season.

The Citgo sign that used to hang in that area will be moved closer to center field. Citgo and the Astros have renewed their partnership for three years, and a larger sign will go up in the near future.

47 Comments

So, move the pennants, block the train to put up a giant billboard. Really??

Looks like the train will probably never be used again.

So what it boils down to is they are adding more advertising, great.

So we are talking another form of advertising. The program is a great idea, but adding more advertising space is ridiculous. Don’t we have more space on the outfield walls or how about all of those empty seats?

WON’T IT BLOCK THE VIEW OF THE TRAIN? THAT IS ONE OF MY FAVORITE THINGS ABOUT OUR BALLPARK!!!!!!!

Hey. Don’t complain. Have you seen the amount of fans in the stands over the past few years? Gotta get money from somewhere because it is not coming from the fans.

True. The last few nights it looked like they had about 1,000 fans in the park. I believe every game of the Padres series was, “Guaranteed Foul Ball Night.” If you did not obtain a foul ball during the course of the game it was likely because you weren’t ambulatory.

Ripping down our meager collection of ‘championship’ banners to put up more halliburton and blue cross signs. Oh wait, those were NL banners. What would Crane care about those?

How ugly is that going to be? Sure it’s for a good cause but does it have to block the view of the city, the train and the pennants? Might as well get rid of the train, no point now. By the way, who needs that pesky scoreboard in front of the Crawford boxes? That’s prime advertising space!

So Crane is going to pinch pennies on getting players yet will sell every inch of space around the field for advertising? Some owners own to have a winning team, other (Pirates…and now the Astros) just own to make money. It should be a fine line of both.

Man – while the motives are great, the implementation of these banners seems pretty dumb to me. Block the view out of the stadium; block the view of the train; move the banners. I agree with the other posters – there has to be a better place for this “advertising”. Crane has been doing a great job so far – this might be his first bonehead move.

What about the train? Will we still be able to see it? Will it still run for every Astros home run?

So much for bringing my kids to see the train. I was excited to see the Citgo sign go, but I wish it would go in the dumpster instead of another place in the ballpark. I’ve liked most all of Crane’s decisions so far, but not this one. If I want to see billboards I can drive the freeways.

Great cause, joke of a display. The park is starting to officially look embarrassing.

The Astros: What a train wreck. Lord, where is the bottom?

that’s one hell of a structure…. and I feel like there’s much better places that couldve gone to.

Too late. Greedy-Crane already took the money bribe for the move to the AL if I am not mistaken.

What an eye sore. I understand the role of advertising in baseball but Minute Maid Park is looking less and less classy. Mr. Crane…get rid of Tal’s Hill, the “Eat More Fowl” signs, the sad Landry’s video screen that no one looks at and think about moving that advertising to the walls above the nosebleeds or somewhere else. Don’t block the view of the skyline.

I’m afraid to see what they’ll come up with when it’s time for Astros logo/uniform changes that will usher in the AL era.

Speaking of the AL move….Hey Commissioner Selig…didn’t know if you were aware of this but the San Diego Padres are trying to find a buyer and they just so happen to be on the West Coast……where the majority of the AL West plays. Why not postpone the new 15 team league structure, wait for the sale to go through and leave Houston alone? It makes much more sense. Then again….your track record has shown little of that.

You can couch as a way to develop ballparks, but this is all about maximizing profits at the expense of the baseball experience and it’s pathetic. There’s plenty of other spaces at the juicebox where Crane could put up these signs. Instead, he has decided to cover up the one part of the stadium that makes Minute Maid unique.

Great project, not good planning to recognize those involved. No one could come up with ANY other ideas? This monstrosity not only covers the pennants it also blocks out the skyline and does away with one of our most unique features, the moving train. Again, wonderful community project, horrible recognition method!!!

I’m all about helping out but what a monstrosity. Too bad they couldn’t have come up with a better placement.

This totally stinks. I guess the train doesn’t matter anymore, it’s all about the money.

Way to ruin the look of the park! The cause is just. The structure is just stupid.

The CITGO sign over at the left field has been pretty much of an icon here at MMP -Just like Boston’s historic Fenway Park. I hope it’ll come back and would like to see it all lit up.

What a great thing the Astros and corporate sponsors are doing for the youth of Houston so many more kids will be able to play the great game of baseball and softball. Having played professional baseball myself (one year in the Astro organization) I wouldn’t have gotten there without the life lessons the game taught me as a youth. Bet many of the Astro players, CEO’s and employees of these companies would tell you the same thing.

Wow and I thought the Marlins new structure was hideous – WE WIN! Sure hope that awful thing doesn’t come crashing down onto any fans

Maybe you’re not aware but the significance of the train is that the corner of MM Park at Texas & Crawford is built around Union Station, the old original Houston train station, hence the choice for having the train there. It’s extremely relevant to Houston’s history and a very unique feature of our ballpark. I’ll agree the cart full of oranges is a cheesey touch, but the train itself will be sadly missed once this new obstruction is built over it. Horrible, horrible idea!

I hope that train is the next thing gone. Nothing says Astros like a replica coal burning train pulling a boxcar of oranges that look like pumpkins. Fans have been complaining about that train since the Enron Field days, now everyone loves it? These companies that are apart of this new program employ a ton of people, people that may now pay attention to the Astros now that the business they work for are associated with the team. It’s something that has to be done to get more attention on the team and more people in the stands.

You couldn’t be more wrong. The only way the team will get more attention is if we start winning more games. You could have every business in Houston advertised in Minute Maid Park and it won’t get more people in the seats unless we are winning more games. Fact.

You nailed it. Winning solves all problems for any team!!

I also am all for promoting youth baseball, but blocking the view and the trainis horrible, place the advertisements somewhere else!

What a way to ruin the fan experience. It’s going to look like a Japanese ballpark (covered in advertisements) with no attractive features (skyline and a train in UNION STATION).

Ridiculous!! I thought the days of selling every inch of advertising space (foul poles) went out with Drayton. The park is losing its classy retro look. First mistake Crane has made since he has taken over. Get rid of train, change uniforms, move to American league but lets build a winner and the fans will bring in the money not the advertising space.

Another huge billboard…how very Houston.

Please don’t block the view of our beautiful Skyline! What an eyesore this will be. I can name about 5 other spots this sign could go, or not exist at all. Perhaps place outside Minute Maid Park?!! I’m wondering if Mr. Crane bothered asking the Season Ticket holders or the fans for their thoughts before this decision was made? Perhaps I’ll just watch the games at home..ugh really!!

I am utterly sickened by this latest decision to clutter up MM Park and make it look like a box of signs. Since it was initially built the advertisement boards have been accumulating and giving it a very aesthetically displeasing look and this will now be the icing on the cake. I realize you have to have corporate sponsors, but it can be done with class as opposed to shoving it in our faces (literally) and ruining this once beautiful ballpark. There is nothing you can do to sugar coat this under the guise of “charity”. It’s a horrible decision by Crane and once again he is selling out, just as he did with the purchase of the team by allowing Bud Selig to extort and bribe him with $70M to purchase it by agreeing to move to the AL. This act was criminal. And now once again Mr. Crane in realization that he cannot make money by selling tickets to a cellar dweller team is going to whore out the whole park to advertisers, albeit advertisers for a good cause. Don’t get me wrong, I completely support the charity idea behind it, but the recognition with billboards covering the trademark feature of our ballpark will do nothing more than ruin the fan’s visual experience and make our park look like a claustrophobic box of signs. Maybe you can move all the NL championship penants inside the visitors team bullpen where no-one can see them anymore since they clearly don’t bring you any income.
Can’t wait to see your next signature decision when you change the uniforms and destroy one of the few remaining classy images this team had to show for itself.
At the rate you’re going you’ll basically have to paint the field with advertisements that can be seen on TV coverage because you won’t have any fans left in the stands buying tickets to support you.
Bad move Mr. Crane, bad, bad move!
PS – You might want to remember that the train you’ll now be covering up has historic significance in Houston with Union Station, the cornerstone of the ballpark.

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I think Mr. Crane needs to hire a new public relations firm. The move to the AL, a “fair” AAA team on the field, a GM that thrie to convince the fans that signing high school baseball players is the thing to make the Astros great. Now Crane wants to cover up the beautiful skyline with advertising billboards. A little advice to Mr. Crane, advertise by spending the money on putting a winning team on the field. Quit calling the team a “product”. Both Crane and his Gm are staring to look like poor excuses for used car salesmen in powder blue leisure suits.

I was disappointed to see this structure in place when we visited the ballpark over the weekend. Even missing the ads, it blocks the view of the train and the downtown skyline.

Those pennants belong to a long, sad, almost century long association with the NL. Astros fans had best forget that history as they make the Long March to the AL.

Those billboards will make a wonderful back-drop when the Astros play their bitter division rivals the Seattle Mariners.

Nolan Ryan and Bud Selig are happy, that’s all that matters.

These giant advertisements are going to define Minute Maid Park. The Citgo sign was bad enough. Nothing like the home town team partnering with a socialist born corporation, at least it was only ugly. This is a monstrosity worse than the foul poles..

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Minute Maid Park was a beautiful place for baseball. Why pander to a bunch of corporations who can’t donate with grace? It’s ruined the train and the spirit of the park. Shame on you.

This is outrageous. You cannot even see the train anymore – what a disgrace.

This new guy seems to have watched the movie Money Ball too many times.

The train is dumb. It has nothing to do with the Astros. Hopefully it will be gone.

HORRIBLE LOOKING! I understand and commend working with the community in every way. That is not the problem. The problem is when you look to left field and see this ugly wall of signs that take away the unique aspect of OUR park and blocks the once great view of downtown. When I go to the games with my kids I get seats with the view towards downtown and a perfect view of the train. My kids love it! Now we have this massive, messy billboard that looks terrible and looks soooo out of place, eyesore etc. It takes away from the design with a open left field wall. Mr Crane please give US OUR ballpark back. Memories have been made with many of our children in the Original design of this park and advertising in this way smells of desperation or worse…. not caring about how the ORIGINAL fans, the ones before you came on board, feel about OUR ballpark. Very very sad money grab.

More stinking ads and a lot of b.s. about ‘community organizing’ for hood rats. Hey Crane, we’re interested in getting a competitive team here again, not selling ads and making the stadium a hangout for Obama loving gangbangers.

Maybe not the most tactful way to express your message, however there’s no denying the truth behind it. Crane is whoring out the park to anyone and anything he can. He’s creating a trainwreck (pun intended)…!

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