HOUSTON -- The greatest players in Astros history will be immortalized at Minute Maid Park beginning later this year when the club opens a Hall of Fame with the goal to honor, preserve, communicate and educate fans about the rich history of the state's oldest baseball franchise.The Astros on Tuesday
HOUSTON -- The greatest players in Astros history will be immortalized at Minute Maid Park beginning later this year when the club opens a Hall of Fame with the goal to honor, preserve, communicate and educate fans about the rich history of the state's oldest baseball franchise.
The Astros on Tuesday will unveil plans for the Astros Hall of Fame presented by Houston Methodist, with construction to begin in March. Hall of Fame Alley will replace the current Home Run Alley that runs along the concourse beyond left field and will provide a physical space to honor the greatest players in club history with their own plaques.
The inaugural Hall of Fame class will be large and will include Astros players who have had their numbers retired -- Nolan Ryan, Craig Biggio, Jeff Bagwell, Jimmy Wynn, Jose Cruz, Mike Scott, Larry Dierker, Don Wilson and Jim Umbricht -- and those who have been honored on the Walk of Fame along Texas Ave. -- former players Joe Morgan, Bob Aspromonte, Joe Niekro, J.R. Richard and Shane Reynolds and broadcasters Gene Elston and Milo Hamilton.
Induction into the Astros Hall of Fame will represent the highest honor a player can receive from the club.
"The Astros have had a great, rich history of baseball and since I took this job [in 2013], I really wanted to find a way to honor those former players that have given so much to our organization," Astros president of business operations Reid Ryan said. "When you look at the way we've honored our players in the past through multiple ownership groups and leadership, it's kind of been all over the board. We have some retired numbers, we have some names out on the Walk of Fame, we've had some people retire as Astros, but when you look at our team, we don't have a Hall of Fame and a lot of other clubs do. We really need to have a way to honor the greats of our game and this will allow us to do that."
Ryan, who spearheaded the project along with team historian Mike Acosta, vice president of media relations Gene Dias and VP of foundation development Marian Harper, said one or two additional members will be inducted each year beginning in 2020.
An advisory board made up of select former Astros players, broadcasters, media members and local baseball historians will pick future inductees from among anyone who has made a significant contribution to the Astros.
"We wanted to get a nice cross-section of people that know this organization, know the history of the organization and can hit on many perspectives from the fans, from the media, from the players, from the front office," Ryan said. "We think that group of advisory board members will be a great way to start the process and then each year we will make a recommendation out of that board as to who we think should go in the Hall of Fame, and at the end of the year the Astros will take those recommendations and we'll select one or two players out of that."
Hall of Fame inductees will be presented with a commemorative jacket, which will be unveiled during Saturday's FanFest at Minute Maid Park. Inductees' plaques will be unveiled during Hall of Fame Weekend, which is Aug. 2-4 against the Mariners at Minute Maid Park. The inaugural Hall of Fame class will be inducted in a pregame ceremony on the field.
"It's a great way to engage the fans with our past players because every one of these teams, whether it's '80 or '86 or '97, '98, 05, '15, '17, means something to a group of our fans," Ryan said. "In a lot of ways, our game and those championship teams sort of become a time capsule of your life, and you end up following those players and creating deep, emotional bonds with those players. We wanted to say thank you to those players who have meant so much to our organization."
Ryan's ultimate goal is to have a separate permanent building that would house the Hall of Fame and artifacts.
"After 57 seasons, now is the time to launch this Hall of Fame," he said.
In addition to the Hall of Fame plaques, Hall of Fame Alley will have rotating display cases of different Astros artifacts from throughout the years and decorated columns. Each Hall of Fame class will be on the field the following year to welcome the new inductees, beginning in 2020, when inductees will give speeches for the first time.
As he reached out to the inaugural Astros Hall of Fame class and their families in recent weeks, Ryan said the response has been overwhelmingly positive.
"They're just honored that the club hasn't forgot about their family members and they're excited to come in and take part in the event," Ryan said.
Brian McTaggart has covered the Astros since 2004, and for MLB.com since 2009. Follow <ahref="http: twitter.com/brianmctaggart"="">@brianmctaggart on Twitter and listen to his podcast.</ahref="http:>