Astros exhibit sights, sounds of Fourth of July

Astros exhibit sights, sounds of Fourth of July

Astros exhibit sights, sounds of Fourth of July

HOUSTON -- Few holidays scream baseball quite like the Fourth of July.

Houston joined in the festivities Thursday, as the Astros rocked Independence Day-themed hats, armbands and necklaces.

Uniformed military personnel were invited to the ballpark and honored as they stood along the baselines with both Houston and Tampa Bay players during the pregame introduction.

The 36th Infantry Division Band's Soldier's Chorus sang a solemn but poignant national anthem prior to the game, with the American flag draped across shallow center field behind them.

The holiday's presence was felt in the atmosphere throughout the ballpark.

Before Thursday's game, the Astros held a street festival outside Minute Maid Park, complete with cotton candy, food vendors, a dunking booth, balloons, a magician, live music and a lady dressed as the Statue of Liberty.

The music in the pregame was American themed, from John Mellencamp's Americana to several renditions of "God Bless America" to Ray Charles' version of "America The Beautiful," which soundtracked the Fourth of July scene in baseball staple "The Sandlot."

Fans were offered mini American flags as they entered the park, and many waved them proudly, wildly cheering for the military personnel entering and exiting the diamond.

"Today just speaks baseball, it speaks family and it speaks hot dogs," Houston manager Bo Porter said. "Hopefully, it speaks an Astros win, too."

Chris Abshire is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.