Minute Maid Park celebrates decade
Four players, 10-year season-ticket holders recognized
HOUSTON -- Minute Maid Park is nearing its 10th birthday, but it still looks as shiny and new as the day the doors of this downtown facility opened in April of 2000.
But while it still looks brand new, the history that has been made in this sparkling facility tells a far different story. Three postseasons and an All-Star Game have been played here, and several players became superstars within the sprawling walls of the Astros' downtown home.
Many characters from some of the best Astros teams have been invited back to Minute Maid Park to celebrate the team's 10th season here, and the Astros wasted no time getting the festivities under way during an elaborate Opening Day pregame ceremony Monday.
The celebration began with a group of 10-year season-ticket holders marching onto the field holding a giant American flag. Hall of Fame radio announcer Milo Hamilton introduced the support staffs, coaches, reserves and starting lineups for both teams, giving a special shout out to Aaron Boone, who could not be with the Astros after undergoing heart surgery a couple of weeks ago.
Public address announcer Bob Ford took over from there, asking fans to "turn your eyes to the sky" to welcome four Apache Longbow Helicopters, flown by members of the Fourth Squadron, third armored Calvary Regiment from Fort Hood, Texas. The group recently returned from a 15-month deployment in Baghdad, Iraq.
The national anthem was performed by legendary crooner Lyle Lovett, who also performed the very first anthem when the ballpark opened in 2000. Lovett, a four-time Grammy Award-winning artist, is from nearby Klein, Texas.
The anthem was followed by the raising of the 10th season flag, located beyond Tal's Hill in center field. A group of 10-year season-ticket holders -- Katie White, Jeff Duran, John Luman and John Lindle -- helped raise the flag.
The Astros then recognized the four players who had more impact on the team during its 10 years in the downtown facility than anyone who had worn an Astros uniform -- current players Lance Berkman and Roy Oswalt, and retired stars Jeff Bagwell and Craig Biggio.
As the Opening Day starter, Oswalt was unavailable to participate in the pregame hype, but the other three stood with club owner Drayton McLane, who presented first-pitch balls to three more 10-year season-ticket holders: Thomas Lewis [escorted by his grandfather, Barry Lewis], Massey Villareal and Terry Ott.
The pregame ceremony ended with those three throwing the ceremonial pitches to Berkman, Bagwell and Biggio.
Alyson Footer is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.