HOME RUN GRUB

Home run lineup of stadium eats for Astros 2020 season revealed

El Mariachi Tots, Jalapeño Tots, El Presidente Tots, and Buffalo Chicken Tots. Photo courtesy of Aramark

This article originally appeared on CultureMap.

The Houston Astros held their annual welcome back luncheon for the media Tuesday and rolled out a new slogan for 2020, a long menu of new concession food items and a bigger-than-ever schedule of bobblehead and American League pennant ring giveaways. (I even got to meet Geoff Blum, finally.)

Let's deal with the slogan and giveaways before we get to what's really important: this season's food lineup at Minute Maid Park.

The new slogan is "For the H," a rallying cheer for Houston. We've been through some pretty tough challenges lately — a few natural and one man-made disaster. It's time to play some baseball.

There will be 38 giveaway nights. This time, every fan will get the bobblehead or T-shirt or ring, none of that "first 10,000 fans" limit. Fans won't have to line up outside the stadium at noon for a bobblehead at 7 pm.

I have a suggestion for the Astros: It's always disappointing when the team sells 40,000 tickets to Justin Verlander Bobblehead night, people pick up the bobblehead upon entry and turn right around and leave. There's lots of empty seats and it looks crummy. Solution: when fans enter, they get a coupon for the bobblehead, which they can pick up on their way out, after at least the fifth inning.

Bobbleheads or T-shirts will be given away on 31 nights. Opening night is Thursday, March 26 (wow that's early) at home against the Angels, with Mike Trout and Lamar High School alum Anthony Rendon. ESPN will carry the game and the Astros will unfurl their 2019 American League pennant.

Weekend games will feature a pennant ring giveaway and Jose Altuve bobblehead honoring his American League Championship Series MVP.

The Astros will post their promotions schedule each month online. Early season bobbleheads will celebrate Verlander's Cy Young Award and Yordan Alvarez's Rookie of the Year Award. June 24 will be Astros Pride Night in support of LBGT fans ("baseball is for everybody") and August 7 will commemorate the 20th anniversary of Minute Maid Park. (Stadiums, they grow up so fast.) The Astros will be wearing uniforms made by Nike this year, so the gift shop will be packed with new styles of jerseys and hats.

Enough of that, let's get to the food, glorious food. Here's Mat Drain, the Yokozuna of Yams for Aramark, which handles all the concessions at Minute Maid Park: "Hot dogs, Cracker Jack, and peanuts will always be baseball staples, but our fans expect variety in the stadium, too. We have taken the approach of taking some old favorites and dressing them up to add an array of different looks and flavors," says Drain.

"This season we've partnered with wildly popular Killen's BBQ. Each year, fans ask me what is new. I think our staff has come up with lots of things that will keep them happy and well-fed all season, though October hopefully."

Here are some of the new items for Astros 2020. Don't worry, the time-honored classics, like regular dogs, burgers, popcorn, ice cream, and beer will never leave.

Continue on CultureMap for a list of the new items for 2020 and more photos.

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A WEEKLY REVIEW OF CRENNEL'S COACHING

Now my job: Texans feast on Lions

Photo by Getty Images.

Thanksgiving is full of tradition. There's the typical family gathering, large meal, and of course, football. Sometimes, new traditions are added and old ones are retired. I think the Texans did both in their impressive 41-25 win over the Lions in Detroit. Old traditions were carried on (Lions losing on Thanksgiving), some were put to rest (Texans not being able to get turnovers), and new ones were started (multiple passing touchdowns by Deshaun Watson in six straight games).

The fact that this defense got three turnovers in the game was unbelievable! They got all three in the first quarter within the span of eight plays. JJ Watt's pick-six was insane. He went for a batted ball, ended up catching it, and ran it in. They forced Jonathan Williams to fumble on the Lions' very next play from scrimmage and recovered it. On the Lions' next possession, the Texans recovered yet another fumble after the challenge was reversed. Great call by the coaching staff to challenge and win. The defense looked good. Tyrell Adams stood out because he was in on those two fumbles, made 17 total tackles with 14 of them being solo tackles. They also brought pressure that seemed to make Matthew Stafford very inaccurate and resulted in four sacks. I give defensive coordinator Anthony Weaver credit for knowing he needs to blitz to get pressure, but the run defense has to improve.

The offense kept the tempo up in this game as well. The spread and hurry-up were used to keep the Lions already staggered defense off balance. Knowing the Lions were without a couple defensive backs, I thought it would be the perfect marriage of their defense and the Texans' offense. A buddy asked before the game about the line (Texans -3.5) and the over/under (52.5). I told him bet the Texans and the over because neither team can play defense and both have good quarterbacks. Offensive coordinator Tim Kelly put together another good game plan and Watson executed it flawlessly. One route combo I saw later on in the game I particularly enjoyed. Two receivers were tight to the left side. Cooks ran a hook/curl and settled in the middle of the zone while Fuller ran a vertical route. Duke Johnson ran a swing route to that same side. It left Cooks wide open as the attention went to Johnson in the flat, Fuller deep, and the action to the other play side. Route combos are important because it gives the quarterback different reads as he goes through his progressions and lets him pick apart the defense based on what he sees. Combine that with Watson's play and the way Kelly has changed his play calling now that he's liberated from he who shall not be named, we're seeing a beautiful thing.

As good as things were, there's still room for improvement. The defense gives up way too many easy yards, both run and pass. They can't get pressure bringing only four and will often give up big plays if the blitz is picked up. Plus the run defense is still an issue as evidenced by the Lions' first possession of the second half. The Lions ran the ball 10 plays straight for a total of 58 yards on that drive. Utterly ridiculous! Watson was good (17/25 318 yards and four touchdowns), but he missed two more touchdowns with passes slightly off, and continues to hold onto the ball too long at times. The difference between these two issues I've presented here is the fact that Watson has so played well, his "issues" are minor and very correctable, while the defense is terrible and there's no easy fix in sight. But let Romeo Crennel and Anthony Weaver tell it, they're getting the most out of these guys and they're playing disciplined.

The thought that this team may actually creep into the playoff picture may take shape better after next week if they can beat the Colts. I doubt it, but it is getting interesting. Let's see what else happens around them because they need help getting there.

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