This May Be Your Only Chance To See Good Baseball At Minute Maid This Year

​The good news is that good baseball will be played inside of Minute Maid Park this season. The bad news is that this good baseball will not involve any games played by the Houston Astros.

And if you're interested in that good baseball, then you better hit Minute Maid Park this weekend because, despite the Astros being out in Florida for Spring Training, Minute Maid Park is hosting baseball this weekend.

The tenth annual Houston College Classic is set for this weekend, featuring six college teams, three of which happened to have been ranked in the preseason college rakings as among the best in college baseball.

Texas, Rice, TCU, Houston, Texas Tech, and Missouri will be facing off on Friday, Saturday, and Sunday in a series of nine games -- three games each day.

The Longhorns came into this baseball season as the number one ranked team in the country, and they're coming off a campaign last season that found the school reaching the College World Series before losing. The Longhorns are also coached by Augie Garrido, the winningest coach in NCAA baseball history. The Wayne Graham-managed Rice Owls come into the season ranked number 11 after finishing with a 43-18 record and hitting .320 as a team. The preseason's number 15-ranked team is TCU, which finished last season 40-18 and has perhaps the second best starting rotation in college baseball, behind Texas.

The gates to Minute Maid Park will open at 11 a.m. on Friday and Saturday and at 10 a.m. on Sunday. The action will begin with TCU facing Texas Tech at noon on Friday, followed by UH versus Missouri at 3:30 p.m.and the prime match-up of the weekend, Rice versus Texas, at 7 p.m..

Saturday's action starts with Missouri/TCU at noon, Texas/UH at 3:30 p.m., and Rice/Texas Tech at 7:30 p.m.. The weekend ends on Sunday with Missouri versus Texas at 11 a.m., Texas Tech versus Houston at 2:30 p.m., and TCU against Rice at 6 p.m..

While Texas, Rice, and TCU are known entities coming into the season, the Classic provides a chance for teams like Missouri and Houston to make a point and maybe prove something to themselves as the season gets going.

The Cougars have played in every edition of the Classic, but find themselves with an overall record of 10-17, including a disappointing 0-3 last season. Their last winning record at the Classic was when they went 2-1 in 2002.

"It's a great event," Houston Cougars manager Rayner Noble said of the Classic. "It helps with our recruiting. It's just a quality event. Anytime that you can play in a big league venue against quality teams, you can't ask for more."

It's a series of games for which the Cougars, who are to a disappointing start, will find themselves facing big changes as Noble is shaking up his starting rotation and moving some guys around in his starting lineup in an attempt to steady his team and get some better play.

The only surety for the Cougars, at the moment, is that Michael Goodnight will be making the start in the toughest game for the Cougars, the Saturday afternoon contest against the Longhorns. You can also probably count on the chance to see Cougar first baseman Matt Creel crush the ball inside of Minute Maid Park.

The next best thing about the Houston College Classic -- aside from the promise of some fantastic baseball -- is the price.

A three-day pass that allows you to watch all nine games is only $30 for an adult and $15 for a child. Daily prices are $13. And parking is only five dollars.

The odds of Drayton McLane dropping the concession stand prices for the Classic are virtually non-existent, but nine baseball games for $30 is without a doubt the best bargain that a person is going to see associated with Minute Maid Park this season.

So forget about the Astros and the thoughts of their upcoming dreadful season. Head down to Minute Maid Park and enjoy, for once, some good baseball and some affordable tickets and parking. It's going to be your last chance to this baseball season to enjoy such a scene.

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John Royal is a native Houstonian who graduated from the University of Houston and South Texas College of Law. In his day job he is a complex litigation attorney. In his night job he writes about Houston sports for the Houston Press.
Contact: John Royal