HOUSTON - The third annual Houston Winter Invitational will commence baseball season at Minute Maid Park with the six-team tournament held at the stadium from Feb. 5-8. The tournament will feature six NCAA Division II universities, squaring off in 12 games across the four days.
Two teams hail from Texas, in St. Mary's University, which is in San Antonio, and Tarleton State, which is located in Stephenville, just west of Dallas-Fort Worth. The University of Central Missouri (formerly known as Central Missouri State) co-hosts the tournament with the Astros. The Winter Invitational also features Arkansas Tech (ranked 24th in preseason polls), Henderson State (Ark.) and Winona State (Minn.).
Central Missouri, which has co-hosted the tournament in the three years since its inception, is the alma-mater of Astros Owner and Chairman Jim Crane, who was a standout baseball player in his college career. He played for the Mules from 1973-76, posting a 21-8 record with a career 2.42 ERA. Crane still ranks atop the Central Missouri career leaderboards in complete games (23) and shutouts (7) and ranks third in strikeouts (215). He still holds the Mules single-game strikeout record of 18, which is also a DII College World Series record. In 1997, Crane was inducted into the Central Missouri State University Athletic Hall of Fame.
"The Winter Invitational offers a unique opportunity for Division II student athletes to play at a Major League facility," said Crane. "We're happy to provide these students the experience of playing at Minute Maid Park."
For more information on the tournament, please visit Astros.com/Invitational.