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.
- Old Fashioned Dog: Nolan Ryan all beef hot dog topped with yellow mustard and jalapeño bacon onion jam. (Section 105)
- El Marichi Dog and Footlong: Nolan Ryan beef dog topped with queso blanco, roasted pork lechon asado, pico, and pickled jalapeños. (Sec. 131 and Downtown Dog locations)
- El Presidente Hot Dog and Footlong: Nolan Ryan beef dog topped with queso blanco, beef picadillo, yellow mustard, and pickled jalapeños. (Sec. 131 and Downtown Dog locations)
- Bayou City 6-inch hot dog: Nolan Ryan beef dog with queso blanco, pork burnt ends, pickle chips, sliced green onions, and golden BBQ sauce. (Sec. 105 and Downtown Dog locations)
- H-Town 6-inch hot dog: Nolan Ryan beef dog topped with queso blanco, chopped beef brisket, pickled red onions, and golden bbq sauce. (Sec. 105 and Downtown Dog locations)
- Triple Crush Burger: quarter-pound Nolan Ryan beef patty, or double or triple, with American cheese, caramelized onions, sliced pickle chips, and secret sauce. (upper concourse)
- Texas Green Chicken Nachos: house-cooked kettle chips, queso blanco, green chili chicken, pico de gallo, Mexican cream, and fresh sliced jalapeños (Sec. 106)
- Texas Brisket Nachos: kettle chips, queso blanco, chopped beef brisket, pickled jalapenos, green onions, and jalapeño ranch dressing. (Sec. 106)
- Mongolian Beef: served over jasmine rice and Asian mixed vegetables with Mongolian sauce. (Sec. 205)
- General Tso Chicken: served over jasmine rice and Asian mixed vegetables with General Tso sauce. (Sec. 205)
Coming soon to the Bayou City Marketplace, Sections 126 and 409:
- El Marichi Totchos: queso blanco, roasted pork lechon asado, green salsa, and fresh-sliced jalapeños.
- Jalapeño Bacon Totchos: queso blanco, chopped jalapeño bacon, and sliced green onion.
- El Presidente Totchos: queso blanco, beef picadillo, pico de gallo, and fresh-sliced jalapeños
- Buffalo Chicken Totchos: Buffalo chicken, blue cheese crumbles, ranch dressing, and sliced green onion.
- Killen’s Texas Barbecue: beef brisket, turkey, pulled pork, and bbq sides. (Sec. 435)