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Houston Astros : Junction Jack

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The Houston Astros are a Major League Baseball team based in Houston, Texas. They are in the Central Division of the National League. On October 17th, 1960, Judge Roy Hofheinz and the ownership group from Houston was awarded a franchise in the ten-team National League, called the Houston Colt .45s which begin play on April 10, 1962. On April 9, 1965, the Houston Colt .45s became the Houston Astros and inaugurated indoor baseball in the Astrodome. The franchise's first decade displayed some great hitters (Joe Morgan, Jimmy Wynn) and many great pitchers (Bob Bruce, Ken Johnson, Mike Cuellar, Don Wilson, Larry Dierker, Dave Guisti, Denny LeMaster). The Astros first donned the "rainbow uniforms" that stayed with them with some variation through 1992. Nolan Ryan joined the team in 1979.

The Astros made the playoffs in 1981, and again in 1986, culminating in a wild 16-inning loss to the eventual champion New York Mets. Nolan Ryan was sent to the Texas Rangers in 1989, considered too old by then-owner John McMullen. After pitching one for Houston, Ryan would pitch two more no-hitters for the Rangers in the early 90s to achieve a grand total of 7. This is three more than anyone else in major league history. In 2004 the Astros took the National League wild card title and finally got past the first round of the playoffs, beating the Atlanta Braves in five games of the National League Division Series to advance to the National League Championship Series for the third time (they were previously in the NLCS in 1980 & 1986), where they lost to the St. Louis Cardinals in 7 games.



The home ballpark of the Houston Astros is the Minute Maid Park located in Houston, Texas. Earlier named the Enron Field, it was later christened Minute Maid Park after Minute Maid, the fruit-juice subsidiary of Coca-Cola which acquired the naming rights to the stadium. The ballpark was Houston's first retractable-roofed stadium, thus enabling it to be hermetically sealed from hot or inclement weather like its predecessor, the Reliant Astrodome, or left open on more pleasant days. Its entrance is what was once Houston's Union Station, and one side of the stadium features a train as homage to the site's history. The train runs the length of the exterior wall beyond left field whenever an Astros player hits a home run.

The stadium is known for being particularly hitter-friendly down the lines, particularly in left field, where it is only 315 ft. to the Crawford St. Boxes. Conversely, it is quite difficult to hit a ball out in center field, though fielding is quite difficult there as well, due to the large hill, sometimes known as Tal's Hill, an element taken from Crosley Field and other historic ballparks, and the flagpole in play, an element taken from Tiger Stadium. The tiny size of foul territory does not help pitchers either.

In 2004, the Astros launched Wi-Fi throughout the ballpark, allowing fans to use the internet while attending the game. Standing at 7 feet, Junction Jack arrived in Houston in March 2000. Standing at 7 feet, Junction Jack is a graduate of Tumbleweed Academy. His favorite foods are spinach, celery, peanuts, popcorn, nachos (no meat) and apples; favorite song is "Jump" by the Pointer Sisters and his hobbies include reading, playing with kids, exercising, dancing, and of course playing and watching baseball. Throughout the year, Junction Jack along with other Astros mascots Junction Julie, and Cousin Jesse make numerous community appearances at schools, hospitals, libraries, festivals, and corporate functions.


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