Mish mosh Part II: Stats, scoreboard, Spring Training, photo vault and parties galore

A few interesting year-end notes as we look toward the Hot Stove season:

* At the start of the season, the average age of the Astros starting eight was 31. After the July 31 trade deadline, that average age was 27.

* Rookie Wilton Lopez stranded 32 of 33 inherited runners this season, which was the top percentage in the Majors (97%). Lopez also had a club-best 20-inning scoreless streak, which was third-longest among National League relievers.

* Despite missing the final 13 games due to injury, Michael Bourn became the first player in franchise history to lead the league in steals in back-to-back seasons with 52. Bourn led the NL with 61 steals in 2009.

And one housekeeping note: The Astros outrighted three players to Triple-A Oklahoma City: catcher Brian Esposito and infielders Anderson Hernandez and Wladimir Sutil. The move removes all three players from Houston’s 40-man roster, which now stands at 37.

Esposito and Hernandez can elect to become free agents, while Sutil will be placed on Oklahoma City’s roster.


Mark your calendars

Who says it’s too early to talk about Spring Training? (Well, me, come to think of it, but that’s neither here nor there.) Ed Wade and Brad Mills have already hammered out the dates that your Astros will begin shaking off the offseason dust and getting back in the swing of things, so to speak.

“Report dates” have become a thing of the past, replaced simply by the first day players need to be on the field and ready to work out. For pitchers and catchers, that day is Feb. 16. Position players will arrive four days later, with the first full-squad workout slated for Feb. 20.

The first Grapefruit League game will be on Feb. 28, when the Astros travel the very short distance to Disney to play the Braves.


One more note about that new video board…

The recent announcement that the Astros are installing a brand new high def scoreboard and moving the press box up one level to make room for a new club area was, for the most part, well-received by those I heard from. I do want to reiterate the explanation of where the funds are coming from, to assure the few of you who expressed some concern that spending money on the scoreboard would take away from the product on the field.

The money to pay for the renovations will be taken from an Asset Renewal and Replacement Fund, which the Astros, as part of their lease with the Sports Authority, have contributed to since the ballpark opened 10 years ago. As tenants, all repair and maintenance issues are the Astros responsibility, and they’ve put $2.5 million each year into the fund. Think of it as a savings account of sorts, solely there to fund large renovation projects and repairs that are inevitable over the course of time when you’re running a venue of this size.

The funds cannot be used for anything other than the physical building. It is Astros’ money that goes into the fund and Astros money that is spent, with the restriction that it’s used for building improvements only.

The Astros cannot, as part of their lease, use that money to, say, buy relief pitching. Hope that clears up any confusion.


Parties, parties, parties

What’s a girl to do when the final out of the season is made and she’s left with only a long, dreary, boring offseason ahead of her? Put on her party shoes, of course. Another winter brings a flurry of golf tournaments and charity functions, with dozens of current and former sports stars making appearances and supporting some pretty worthy causes.

Houston is a hotbed for such events, considering how many past and present athletes from all major sports make their year-round homes here. That, along with the pleasant fall weather, makes is easy to lure participants, especially for golf tournaments. Read on…

***Astros Alumni

The Astros will host their annual Alumni Golf Tournament at Wildcat Golf Club on Tuesday, Nov. 16. Registration begins at 9:30 a.m. with an 11 a.m. shotgun start. The luncheon and awards portion of the event will begin at 3:30 p.m.

1013_jd.jpgThe Astros are still recruiting participants, but so far, the tentative list of Astros alumni who are expected to participate includes: Eric Anthony, Alan Ashby, Kevin Bass, Enos Cabell, Bill Dawley, Jim Deshaies (shown above), Larry Dierker, Phil Garner, Bill Heath, Xavier Hernandez, Art Howe, John Hudek, Mike Jackson, Cliff Johnson, James Mouton, Shane Reynolds, Mike Simms, Billy Smith, Carl Warwick, Brian Williams, Woody Williams, Glenn Wilson, Jimmy Wynn and Anthony Young.

For more information or to register for the tournament, click here.

***”The Greatest Save” Banquet

In conjunction with the Alumni Golf Tournament, the KinderVision Foundation is hosting “The Greatest Save” on Monday, Nov. 15 at Minute Maid Park. KinderVision is a national campaign that, with the assistance of law enforcement, provides education and instruction to families on how to protect their children from sexual exploitation, molestation and abduction. Supported by Hall of Famer Rollie Fingers, one of the organization’s most visible spokesmen, KinderVision’s catch phrase is “The Greatest Save” — the one they never have to make.

Fingers and other Hall of Famers will be on hand for the event, which will take place in the lobby of Union Station and will be emceed by Astros Hall of Fame radio announcer Milo Hamilton. Packages for the golf tournament and banquet are available, but they’re also offering banquet-only tickets, which start at $100 or $1,000 for a table of 10.

For more information, visit KinderVision’s web site or contact Alicia Nevins at 713-899.9812 or anevins@kindervision.org.

***Knuckle Ball

Minute Maid Park will also serve as the venue for the second annual “Knuckle Ball…A Pitch for Life.” On. Nov. 13, athletes from all over the country will gather in Houston in support of the Joe Niekro Foundation, formed after the former Astros pitcher died from a brain aneurysm in the fall of 2006.

Niekro’s daughter, Natalie, established the foundation, committed to the funding of aneurysm research and treatment.

Last year’s Knuckle Ball raised over $450,000 and they’re hoping to exceed that total this time around. The black-tie evening will include casino gaming, a formal dinner, and auction and the opportunity to mingle with some of baseball’s greatest legends. Drayton McLane is recognized as an honorary chairman, while Joe Niekro’s brother, Hall of Famer Phil Niekro, will serve as the master of ceremonies. Country music singer Chuck Wicks will provide the entertainment.

For more information and to sign up for the event, visit the Joe Niekro Foundation web site.


And finally, we dip into the photo vault. In honor of the postseason, check out this shot from the clubhouse in St. Louis the night the Astros won the pennant. After most of the media and other forms of riff raff had cleared out, the players could really let loose. And oh, did they. Here we have Chad Qualls and Brad Lidge getting their groove on, while the National League trophy and Brandon Backe admire from the side.


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Any info on the second new video board, Alyson? According to the story, a new video board will be put up somewhere on the left field wall area for the benefit of the folks in the bullpen area. While I think it’s good that they’re finally doing something about it, I am wondering where exactly it’s going to be and what it might look like.

Gardner said it’s going high above the third base side, where the retired numbers used to be.

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