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.
As the Astros prepare to play their first game of spring training against the Nationals this Saturday, we're starting to see reports about how the players approached the offseason, and what tweaks they made to improve in the 2024 season.
Cristian Javier is a player Astros fans are hoping bounces back this year, as his ERA jumped from 2.54 in 2022 to 4.56 in 2023. Workload was thought to be one of the main factors causing his regression, he dealt with a dead arm last season and threw more innings than ever before (162).
Another explanation could be the pitch clock. This was another new element all pitchers had to deal with last year, and that also likely played a role in his struggles.
But according to The Athletic's Chandler Rome, Javier believes he was carrying some extra weight last season. Add that to some mechanical issues he was experiencing, and his struggles in 2023 make a lot more sense. And to be fair, he wouldn't be the first person to get a little fat and happy after winning a World Series.
Cristian Javier said he lost around 15 pounds this offseason. He acknowledged that some of his struggles last year could be attributed to some extra weight he was carrying around in addition to the already-documented mechanical flaws he had.
— Chandler Rome (@Chandler_Rome) February 22, 2024
In an effort to get back on track in 2024, Javier said he lost around 15 pounds this offseason. With the pitch clock not going anywhere, pitchers need to be in better cardiac shape than ever before.
Hopefully this modification helps Javier return to form and put up jaw-dropping numbers like he did in 2022. This rotation needs Javier to be the dominate pitcher we all know he's capable of being. With Justin Verlander behind schedule and Framber Valdez trying to bounce back from his own down year, Houston will depend on Javier like never before.
The Astros are certainly counting on it after giving him a 5-year, $64 million contract last season. Javier will definitely be a player to watch this spring.