HOUSTON - The Houston Astrodome, an iconic stadium that's fallen into disrepair since it was shuttered four years ago, could see new life as a giant convention center and exhibition space under a plan recommended by a county board on Wednesday.

The Harris County Sports & Convention Corp. opted to go with its own plan for the world's first domed, air-conditioned stadium instead of one of 19 private-sector plans submitted for its reuse. The board said the groups promoting the private plans didn't meet the project's criteria by a deadline earlier this month.

Among the private plans was one that would have turned the Astrodome into a tourist area with retail and restaurant space and another that would have stripped the structure to its steel frame and turned the area into a park.

The plan was approved the same day the National Trust for Historic Preservation placed the Astrodome on its 2013 list of America's 11 Most Endangered Historic Places.

1st-round picks sign

The Houston Astros have signed right-hander Mark Appel of Stanford, the No. 1 overall pick in the draft earlier this month, the club announced Wednesday. Terms were not disclosed. The 21-year-old Appel was 10-4 with four complete games and a 2.12 ERA as a senior this season. He had 130 strikeouts in 106 1/3 innings.

• The Minnesota Twins announced the signing of right-hander Kohl Stewart, the fourth overall pick in this month's draft. Stewart, 18, was the first high school pitcher drafted. He posted an 0.18 ERA in 40 innings with 16 walks and 59 strikeouts this season over eight starts for St. Pius X High School in Houston.

• The St. Louis Cardinals have come to terms with Marco Gonzales, their top pick. Gonzales, taken 19th overall, pitched and played infield at Gonzaga but was drafted as a pitcher. He was the 2012 West Coast Conference Pitcher of the Year and was a Golden Spikes finalist.

Manny coming home

TAIPEI, Taiwan - Slugger Manny Ramirez is leaving the Taiwan Rhinos after 49 games because he misses his family in New York, the club said Wednesday.

Ramirez, 41 and a 12-time major league All-star, played 19 big-league seasons and was MVP of the 2004 World Series, when the Red Sox won their first title since 1918. His last major league appearance was with the Tampa Bay Rays in 2011.

Alito off the bench

ARLINGTON, Texas - Supreme Court Justice Samuel Alito was just a bit wide of the plate.

Alito threw the ceremonial first pitch before the Texas Rangers' home game against the Oakland Athletics on Wednesday night. His throw went well right of the plate, but Rangers coach Gary Pettis came out of a crouch and reached out to catch it in the air.

Alito has served on the nation's highest court since 2006 after being nominated by President George W. Bush, who was once part of the Rangers ownership.

Inside pitch

• Padres shortstop Everth Cabrera, the National League stolen-base leader with 31, was placed on the 15-day disabled list with a left hamstring injury.

• Vin Scully, the Dodgers' radio voice since 1950, made his first foray into Twitter during a doubleheader Wednesday.