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The Sugar Land Space Cowboys are a Minor League Baseball team of the Pacific Coast League (PCL) and the Triple-A affiliate of the Houston Astros Major League Baseball club. They are located in Sugar Land, Texas, part of the Greater Houston metropolitan area, and play their home games at Constellation Field.
The team began play as the Sugar Land Skeeters in 2012 as an expansion team of the Atlantic League of Professional Baseball (ALPB), an independent baseball league. Their name was a Southern slang word for mosquitos, which are common on summer nights in Southeast Texas. Over eight seasons, they won two league championships (2016 and 2018). In 2020, the Skeeters competed in the Constellation Energy League, a makeshift league they hosted in light of the Atlantic League's cancelled season due to the COVID-19 pandemic. In conjunction with Major League Baseball's reorganization of the minors after the 2020 season, the Houston Astros purchased an ownership stake in the team and made them their Triple-A affiliate in the Triple-A West, which was renamed the PCL in 2022. Also for 2022, the team rebranded as the Space Cowboys.
In 2008, Sugar Land, Texas, residents voted for the allocation of civic revenues toward the construction of a new baseball park. Initially, the Omaha Royals were interested in moving to the city, but eventually declined because of the construction of Werner Park in suburban Omaha, Nebraska. City of Sugar Land officials contracted Opening Day Partners to build the ballpark to bring professional baseball to the region. The city knew that the Houston Astros of Major League Baseball (MLB) would not approve of an affiliated team in the Greater Houston area, so Sugar Land chose the independent circuit. The American Association and United Baseball League were considered since both organizations had teams located in Texas. The city decided on the Atlantic League of Professional Baseball mainly because Opening Day Partners' other teams were already members of that league. Sugar Land's entry was officially announced on May 18, 2010.
In 2012, the Sugar Land Skeeters signed former MLB pitcher Roger Clemens. The Skeeters sold out tickets on August 25, the night of Clemens' start, where he pitched 3+1⁄3 innings in a 1–0 win.
The Sugar Land City Council approved an ownership change on October 28, 2014. The Council's action cleared the way for Houston-area residents Bob and Marcie Zlotnik, who had been one-third minority partners since the 2012 season, to assume full ownership of SL Baseball, LLC.
Also in the 2014 season, the Atlantic League of Professional Baseball All-Star Game was held at Constellation Field, home of the Skeeters. Usually, in each annual All-Star Game, the best players from the Freedom Division battle it out with the best players from the Liberty Division. However, in the 2014 event, the best players from all around the league faced the Skeeters. Sugar Land won on their home field by a score of 5–3. Nick Stavinoha was recognized as the game's Most Valuable Player. The game attendance was 7,555, which was the fourth highest All-Star Game attendance at the time. The Skeeters reached the Atlantic League championship finals that season but were swept by the Lancaster Barnstormers in the best-of-five game series, 3–0.
On September 17, 2015, the Skeeters announced the signing of former MLB All-Star Rafael Palmeiro, who had been in retirement for ten years. His son, Patrick Palmeiro, was also a member of the team that year. Shortly after signing with the Skeeters, the elder Palmeiro said, "We discussed me playing earlier this year and it's something I've looked forward to since then. The chance to play with my son is an opportunity the Skeeters have offered me and I'm very excited to make it happen this weekend." On September 18, Rafael Palmeiro debuted for the Skeeters batting third, which was the spot right after his son. The father-son duo combined for five RBIs to lead Sugar Land to a 10–4 victory over the Camden Riversharks.
They returned to the Atlantic League championships in 2016, where they won the ALPB title against the Long Island Ducks, 3–0. Shortly after the conclusion of the 2017 season, Skeeters manager Gary Gaetti stepped down from his position with the expiration of his contract. Gaetti had been the club's inaugural skipper in 2012 and managed the club for their first six seasons (2012–2017).
The Skeeters reached the championship series in 2018 against Long Island, winning three games to two, to win their second championship overall and second in three years. They returned to the championship series again the following year, but lost to the Ducks, 3–2.
In 2020, as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, the Skeeters organization launched their own four-team independent league, the Constellation Energy League, thereby going on hiatus for the 2020 ALPB season. All games were played at Constellation Field, with limited attendance and other COVID-related restrictions. Pete Incaviglia managed the Skeeters, who finished with the best record in the four-team league.
In November 2020, the Sugar Land Skeeters reached an agreement with the Houston Astros to be their Triple-A affiliate beginning in the 2021 season. This move was part of a broader Major League Baseball realignment and direct management plan over all minor league player development. The deal also involved the Astros purchasing a majority ownership share of the Skeeters. Sugar Land was organized into the ten-team Triple-A West. The Skeeters began competition as an Astros affiliate in the new league on May 6, 2021, with a 9–4 victory over the Albuquerque Isotopes at Isotopes Park in Albuquerque, New Mexico. Sugar Land won the Eastern Division title by ending the season in first place with a 71–49 record. No playoffs were held to determine a league champion; instead, the team with the best regular-season record was the declared the winner. However, 10 games that had been postponed from the start of the season were reinserted into the schedule as a postseason tournament called the Triple-A Final Stretch in which all 30 Triple-A clubs competed for the highest winning percentage over that stretch. Sugar Land finished the tournament tied for 20th place with a 4–6 record.
After the 2021 season, the team rebranded as the Sugar Land Space Cowboys. The new identity incorporates the team's affiliation with the Astros, Sugar Land's proximity to NASA's Johnson Space Center, and cowboy imagery. In 2022, the Triple-A West became known as the Pacific Coast League, the name historically used by the regional circuit prior to the 2021 reorganization.