48 hours: Kissimmee to Oklahoma City to Houston to Philly. Play ball!
The traveling party that departed Osceola County Stadium around 11:45 a.m. on Tuesday to head to Oklahoma City was huge — around twice the size of a normal in-season flight. It makes sense, considering how many people the Astros needed to transport from Florida to their Triple-A facility: the front office and support staff, the entire coaching staff, the projected big league 25-man Opening Day roster, the projected Oklahoma City roster and half of their coaching/support staff, and a handful who will accompany the team to Houston for the one game with the Red Sox but will end up back in OKC once the final cuts are made.
Fortunately everyone knew who they were playing for in this particular exhibition game before they arrived to the ballpark. They filed in together and then split up: half to the home clubhouse, half to the visitors.
One thing most of us didn’t participate while packing for Spring Training a month and a half ago were the chilly conditions in Oklahoma City. We were greeted by 42 degree temperatures that were dropping quickly, prompting radio announcer Brett Dolan (@astrosradio) to post this amusing tweet: “Forty degrees in Oklahoma. If we win the coin toss I would suggest the Astros defer to the 2nd half.”
The cold weather was good practice for what’s inevitably waiting for us in Philadelphia on Friday. According to the latest reports on weather.com, the forecast for the three games in Philly is as follows:
Friday — rain/snow showers, high of 45
Saturday — mostly cloudy, high of 48
Sunday — mostly sunny, high of 56
And here are the Opening weekend pitching matchups:
Friday: Brett Myers (14-8, 3.14 in 2010) vs. Roy Halladay (21-10, 2.44) — KTRH 740/FS Houston
Saturday: Wandy Rodriguez (11-12, 3.60 in 2010) vs. Cliff Lee (12-9, 3.18) KTRH 740/FS Houston
Sunday: J.A. Happ (6-4, 3.40) vs. Roy Oswalt (13-13, 2.76) KTRH 740/FS Houston
Random notes as we prepare to head home for 36 hours…
* The Astros released their promotions schedule, revealing five bobblehead giveaways in 2011. Three of them we already know about — Michael Bourn (April 10) Hunter Pence (April 30) and TV duo Bill Brown and Jim Deshaies (June 11). The two others are: Chris Johnson (May 14) and Brett Myers (July 3).
* Wednesday’s game between the Astros and the Red Sox will be televised on the MLB Network.
* Manager Brad Mills confirmed the roster will likely be finalized by the end of the night on Wednesday, even though the official roster doesn’t have to be filed until early Thursday. Players who are vying for spots on the 25-man roster but do not make the team will be informed either before or after the Astros-Red Sox game.
Turns out the trip to Oklahoma City was somewhat nostalgic for a couple of Astros. First, it’s there where Mills’ pro career came to an end when he tore up his knee in a Triple-A game against the 89ers. On a more amusing note, Doug Brocail, now a special assistant to GM Ed Wade, recalled pitching for the Triple-A RedHawks when he was attempting his comeback from arm surgery with the Rangers seven years ago. He threw one pitch, the umpire called it a ball, Brocail argued, and he was tossed.
Interestingly, Astros radio announcer Dave Raymond was in the broadcast booth that day, calling play-by-play for the Iowa Cubs. He recalled Brocail’s ejection in the first two minutes of the game “one of the highlights of my five years there.”
We didn’t have much time to explore during this trip to OKC, but driving in, it was obvious that the area around the RedHawks’ ballpark, Bricktown, is pretty impressive. Lots of restaurants, shops, hang-outs…I can see how the surroundings, coupled with the nice summers here, make this area a good destination point during the season. The ballpark itself is nice too. It’s a lot bigger than I imagined. I’m hoping to get here again this summer, at which time I’ll have more time to check it out.
Tuesday was a pretty dreary day weather-wise, so the pictures probably won’t do it justice. Nonetheless, here are some images from batting practice and such:
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