It’s Feb. 20 in Kissimmee, and the gang’s all here.
The Astros’ clubhouse is, as expected, packed to the gills now that the entire squad (minus new father Bill Hall, who will be here in the next couple of days) has reported to Osceola County Stadium in Kissimmee.
The roomy locker room area appeared to shrink a bit with the addition of the handful of position players who hadn’t already reported earlier last week. After a flurry of media interviews with a few of the veterans — Michael Bourn, Carlos Lee and Hunter Pence, et al — the squad was ushered to the meeting room upstairs, where Brad Mills, Drayton McLane and Ed Wade made a few brief comments.
Wade got right to the point — yes, the team has had a lot of turnover in the last year, and yes, clearly, the Astros are getting younger. But that doesn’t take the onus off the players who have been here a while and have a responsibility to set an example this spring, and this season.
“We’ve got a good solid core veteran group in this room that has to take accountability for the status that you have in the game,” he said. “We do have young guys. The club is going to have a new face going into the 2011 season. But you veterans have to step up and do what you’re capable of doing and lead by example.”
Wade added that he is a firm believer that a player does not have to have seven, eight, nine 10 years in the big leagues to assume a leadership role. He’s had the discussion with Pence on a number of occasions and hopes the up-and-coming group of Astros quickly grasps the importance of accountability and properly handling themselves as professional ballplayers, and as Houston Astros.
The first day of Spring Training is very similar to the first day of school. Everyone is happy to see each other (as we see with Lee and Wandy Rodriguez, pictured above), old acquaintances are renewed and new ones are formed. Everyone is loose and relaxed, and the worries are few.
In a few weeks, once hitters have their swings back and pitchers have built up some innings, players will start feeling restless, wanting the games to start counting for something. But for now, as you’ll see below, everyone is just happy to be here.
Team meeting: Drayton McLane
The first gathering of the entire team on the field. They receive a few instructions from bench coach Al Pedrique, and then off they go.
Pitching coach Brad Arnsberg chats with J.A. Happ
Batting practice: Carlos Lee