2016 Major League Baseball Road Trips: AL West

Credit: ESPN

Houston’s Minute Maid Park

Opened in 2000 to replace the revolutionary Astrodome (the world’s first indoor ballpark), this retractable-roof ballpark was originally Enron Field but changed its name in 2002 due to, well, you know. Built downtown, it made use of the city’s long-abandoned but regal and landmarked Union Station, which now serves as the ballpark’s main lobby area. There is an actual choo-choo train high above the left-field wall, with its coal car filled with oranges in keeping with the park’s name (this is good, because it’s hard to fill a choo-choo train with falsified, shredded financial statements), and it moves along a train track whenever the Astros hit a home run. To put it mildly, that is something you will not see in any other ballpark. It is, however, a nice shout-out to the history of the ballpark’s site.

Minute Maid Park also features statues and tributes to the team’s two greatest players: Hall of Famer Craig Biggio and likely soon-to-be Hall of Famer Jeff Bagwell. The statues of the pair are in a plaza just outside the park and depicts them playing ball with each other. That same plaza also has pennants for the team’s division titles and their one pennant, coming in 2005 when they represented the National League.

The park was built with something called Tal’s Hill, a small incline in center field that was supposed to make the park more unique (and emulate a similar hill of old Crosley Field in Cincinnati), but players and fans have long criticized it as a gimmick that made catching balls more difficult. There was also a flagpole in center field, just in case a player wanted to get injured while chasing down a fly ball. The team responded to the criticism by announcing that renovations would take place that would remove both the hill and flagpole in time for this new season, so if those are your reasons for visiting the park then you are out of luck.

Check Out: A wall inside the park with 449 baseballs that commemorates Bagwell’s career home run accumulation.

Fun Fact: The visiting team’s bullpen is inside the left-field exterior wall, making it a completely indoor bullpen.

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