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20130723 Baseball Astros vs Athletics lg-32 featureA new era has begun in Houston. After 51 years in the National League, the Houston Astros have made the jump to the American League (A.L.). More specifically, the A.L. Western Division, which includes the Texas Rangers, the Los Angeles Angels, the Seattle Mariners and the Oakland Athletics (A’s).

While the inter-league move means a new start for a major league baseball franchise that has yet to win a World Series, the Astros have not exactly taken the American League by storm thus far this season. After last week’s series against the Toronto Blue Jays, Houston is firmly entrenched in the A.L. West Division’s cellar with a 35-69 record, 26.5 games behind the division leading A’s and 13.5 games behind fourth place Los Angeles with 55 games left to play.

Nevertheless, the young and eager-to-impress Astros players are providing their fans plenty of entertainment for the dollar and a sneak peak at what lies ahead for a franchise whose front office has made it no secret that they’re sacrificing the present in order to build for the future.  

CLICK HERE for a full gallery of photos by Luciano Guerra

Case in point, the Astros most recent homestand included a three-game series against the division leading A’s; the final two games of which this sports writer/photographer was on hand at Minute Maid Park to cover. With Oakland battling to maintain their slim lead over the Rangers and with the Astros seemingly on their way to their second consecutive 100-plus loss season, one might’ve expected the A’s to pack their brooms in anticipation of a series sweep. But that was not the way the series played-out as Houston gave Oakland all they could handle in all three games.

While the A’s did take the series with a come from behind victory in game 1 and a 4-3 squeaker of a win in game 3, the Astros took game 2 in the most dramatic fashion with a three-run rally in the bottom of the ninth inning. All three games came down to the final at-bat and the home team faithful left Minute Maid Park knowing that their Astros had played their hearts out in giving the highly touted A’s a run for the money.

Currently on the road in Minnesota, Houston will host a three-game series against the Boston Red Sox and a four-game set against the Texas Rangers next week. Both series should be well attended by Astros fans and Red Sox and Rangers fans alike. Tickets are available for purchase through the Astros website and through fan-to-fan sale sites such as eBay and StubHub. The latter two oftentimes list tickets at prices significantly below their face value.

Valley residents looking for a family-friendly and fun way to spend an afternoon, an evening or possibly a long weekend should consider attending one or more of these games or other Astros games later this summer. Not only will there be plenty of on-the-field action to keep baseball fans of all ages entertained, but as is oftentimes the case, it’s what happens off the field that makes for great memories.

20130723 Baseball Astros vs Athletics lg-77Such was the case during last week’s Tuesday night game against Oakland when Landon Wilkes, a Houston native, got down on one knee during the seventh inning stretch and proposed marriage to his girlfriend Aya Matsumoto. The fact that Aya is an A’s fan California didn’t seem to matter to Landon as he put a ring on her finger as tens of thousands of baseball fans cheered. Fans had a great view as the young couple’s special moment was caught on the stadium’s Astros-vision screens.

“Aya is from San Jose, California,” said Wilkes. “We met going to school together at Rice University. We haven’t set the date yet, but we’re working on it.”

Orbit, the Astros’ furry-green, out-of-this-world mascot during the 1990s, has returned this year and is once again delighting children of all ages at Astros’ home games. His crazy antics as he shoots rolled up Astros’ towels out of his space gun and into the stands from atop the two dugouts always brings the crowd to life and is a sure-fire way of lighting up the faces of the young and the young-at-heart.

Located in downtown Houston, Minute Maid Park is a wonderful place to watch a major league baseball game. There are plenty of hotels, restaurants and shopping centers within walking distance of the park so anybody planning to attend an Astros game or two should plan to arrive early and stay late to take full advantage of all the area has to offer.

Besides the upcoming series against Boston and Texas, the Astros have two other home series coming up this month: the Toronto Blue Jays (Aug. 23-25) and the Seattle Mariners (Aug. 29-Sept. 1). The Minnesota Twins (Sept. 2-4), Los Angeles Angels (Sept. 13-15), Cincinnati Reds (Sept. 16-18) and New York Yankees (Sept. 27-29) will be Houston’s home opponents in September as the Astros look to close out the season on a positive note.  

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