May 2011

Astros Minor League Report, May 24

This summer many blog posts will come from our very first Social Media and Broadcasting Intern, Rachel Frey.  She attends The University of Texas at Austin, where she is pursuing a degree in Public Relations and a Business Foundation Certificate. Last year she was an account executive in Texas Tower PR, a student-run public relations firm for non-profit organizations in Austin. She has also interned with Texas Co-op Power magazine and Palm Springs POWER baseball. Her free time is spent attending as many Longhorn athletic events as possible, and volunteering with RBI Austin. Follow her on Twitter, @RachelFrey, and read about her experiences this summer on her MLBlog: A Temporary Perspective (rachelfrey.mlblogs.com).

The following Minor League report was written by Rachel. Enjoy!

In their first season as an Astros minor league affiliate, the Oklahoma City RedHawks are 43 games into their season with a 19-25 mark. Catcher Robinson Cancel is on a 14-game hitting streak through Monday’s game. RHP Jordan Lyles has a 3.57 ERA and 40 strikeouts in 53 innings and is on the Pacific Coast League’s list of Top 10 Pitchers.

In Corpus Christi, the Hooks (17-27) have earned 3 consecutive wins until last night’s 3-0 loss to Midland (OAK).  The Texas League’s Top 10 batting average list has two Hooks:  J.D. Martinez (LF) and Wladimir Sutil (SS). LHP Dallas Keuchel is on the league pitching leaderboard with a 3.66 ERA.  Jimmy Paredes (2B) leads the league in stolen bases with 18.

The Lancaster JetHawks (18-27) have been heating things up on the diamond. Leading their league in team batting average, several JetHawks have made significant contributions to the team’s recent success. Jose Altuve (2B) is batting .392 and is leading the California League in triples (5) and overall hits (69). Kody Heinz (1B) also leads the league in home runs (12) and walks (36).On May 2, Jake Buchanan pitched a complete game shutout against the Inland Empire 66ers (LAA). He has the third best ERA in the league (2.49).

Lancaster was also featured on Ben’s Biz Blog, a self-titled “chronicler of Minor League Baseball promotions and operations.” The story can be found here: (http://bensbiz.mlblogs.com/2011/05/16/on-the-road-soaring-to-sweet-and-saucy-new-heights-in-lancaster/).

The Lexington Legends (22-23) also have two players on the South Atlantic League’s list of Top 10 Batters: Catcher Chris Wallace and right fielder Adam Bailey. RHPCarlos Quevedo currently has the top spot in lowest walks per 9 innings pitched ratio (2/37.2). Relievers RHP Brian Streilein and LHP Gabriel Garcia also have earned the 3rd and 4th spots on the fewest baserunners per nine innings pitched.

The Tri-City ValleyCats and the Greenville Astros will begin their seasons in June.

Follow our affiliates on Twitter: @okcredhawks, @cchooks, @JetHawks , @LexingtonLegend, @ValleyCats, @GvilleAstros.

Astros lineup 5/24 vs. Dodgers. Roof closed. First pitch 7:05 p.m. CT.

Midday notes: Michael Bourn’s slide, Bud Norris’ home numbers, and what should we serve for dinner on Saturday?

With Social Media Night, presented by Ford Focus, coming up this Saturday, we’ve opened up the voting to determine what we will serve for dinner at the event.

The process is simple — pick choice 1, 2 or 3 and tweet me your answer (or, you can simply post on this blog). Whatever receives the most votes, wins.

Option 1: Texas Tom Turkey Sandwich: Roasted Turkey Breast, Pepper Jack Cheese, Spicy Chipotle Aioli, Lettuce, Corn Salsa on a Jalapeno-Cheddar Kaiser with a hand cut fries and a pickle. (from our signature sandwich contest at the Astros Carvery section 156).

Option 2: Crispy Tempura Chicken Tenders, hand cut fries and FiveSeven Signature Horseradish Honey Mustard and Mesquite Bar-B-Que Sauces (From the FiveSeven Grill).

Option 3: Texas Sirloin Burger: hand packed three-way grind burger patty, pancetta, sauté mushrooms, pickle, lettuce, tomato, onion, tangy red and blonde Bar-B-Que sauces. (Arguably the best burger in Minute Maid Park as featured in the Club Grille section 232 on the club level).

Social Media Nights take place in the Budweiser Patio in center field and included in the $45 ticket price is a tour of Minute Maid Park, batting practice viewing, t-shirt, an appearance from 5-5:15 by a player (this Saturday will feature third baseman Chris Johnson), dinner, dessert and the game. We will also hold a Twitter trivia contest, where fans can win signed baseballs and bobbleheads by being the first to tweet the correct answer. Johnson will be on hand to hand out the prizes and pose for pictures with the winners.

If you haven’t yet signed up, there is still time. Simply click here and reserve your seats. The Budweiser Patio is located right behind center field, directly next to the bullpen. It’s a great vantage point, especially now that we have the video board above left field.

Hope to see you there!


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If you haven’t watched the replay of Michael Bourn’s game-winning slide into home last night, do yourself a favor and give it a quick look. If it’s not the best slide into home we’ve seen, it has to at least rank up there among the all-time greats. There’s only one that comes to mind that might have been a little better — during a home game with the Rangers around 10 years ago, Jeff Bagwell jumped, head-first, over Pudge Rodriguez and tapped home plate just before belly-flopping on the other side. That was pretty cool.

While that one might have been slightly more impressive, just from an acrobatic standpoint, Bourn’s slide last night was simply flawless. The catcher had the plate completely blocked, and Bourn got his hand in perfectly as he slid in. Not that we need a reminder about just how gifted Bourn is as an athlete, but Monday’s win sure was a nice reminder.

Other notes:

Bud Norris is 2-0 with a 2.25 ERA over six starts at home this season. His run at Minute Maid Park dates back to last season’s All-Star break. Since then, he has posted a 7-1 record with a 2.54 ERA over 14 starts at home. His .875 winning percentage at home is the best in the National League over that frame.

Since the blown save and loss by the bullpen on May 17 at Atlanta, the Astros bullpen has combined to toss 15 innings, allowing only one earned run (0.60 ERA).

In their last 12 games, the Astros have played 10 games that were decided by three runs or less and eight games decided by two runs or less.

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Ordering food at Minute Maid Park just got a lot easier. No lines!

If you read this blog even semi-regularly, you probably know by now we love to talk about food. Not just food, but specifically, Minute Maid Park food, which offers everything from standard ballpark fare to comfort food to some of the best Tex-Mex in town.

So it’s only fitting that an ever-evolving concession menu would also ebb and flow as modern technology continues to make more of a presence at Major League ballparks. The Astros’ newest venture allows fans to order food right from their seats, using nothing but a smart phone.

The Astros, ARAMARK and MLB Advanced Media recently introduced the launch of Express Line, a way to order food from an iPhone using the MLB.com At Bat application. Minute Maid Park is the first MLB ballpark to debut the Express Line pick up service and the second to use this mobile food ordering service.

On Monday, we decided to try it out. I solicited the help of Steve Reese, the Astros’ Senior Director of Information Technology — a logical partner in crime, considering he understands all the high-tech mumbo jumbo that the rest of us often struggle to decipher.

And wouldn’t you know — the process is as easy as one-two-three. You can see our tutorial video here, or, you can follow these simple instructions:

1. Download the MLB.com At Bat from the App Store;
2) Choose Astros as your favorite team;
3) Select “Minute Maid Park;”
4) Select “Order Food.”

Your screen will show the concession stand to closest proximity to where you’re sitting, and you can then choose from all of the available menu items. Your order will be securely processed — credit card numbers are not stored.

Once your order is processed, you will be alerted via text message that your food is ready for immediate pick-up at the specially-designated Express Line concession locations.

Ordering food via At Bat does not require a pre-authorized account prior to beginning the purchase process. There is a 99-cent convenience fee.

Here are the concession stands where you can order from based on their seating location at Minute Maid Park: Princes at 134: Sections 125-156; Princes at 418: Sections 305-322 and 405– 422; Goya at 119: Sections 116-124; Union Station at 113: Sections 100-114; Extreme Dog/Kickin Nacho at 427: Sections 323-338 and 423-438.

Our test-run took about five minutes from start to finish, which included deciding what we wanted to order, ordering the food, getting the notification that it’s ready and picking up the order.

The app is offered through the iPhone only, but an Android app should be available by July.
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The new food ordering app is just one of many new features offered at Minute Maid Park this year that involve exclusive content and social media interaction. The others:

* Check-in: Accessible two hours prior to every scheduled home game, fans can check-in at Minute Maid Park and deliver personal messages instantly across Twitter and Facebook.

* Offers: Unlock special offers, discounts and rewards exclusively available to fans using At Bat at Minute Maid Park.

* My Profile: Tracks individual activity history, showing the number of games attended, ballparks visited, teams seen and teams’ records in those games, among other customizable options.

* Venue Maps: View venue maps and complete concession menus. The maps and directories utilize the pinch-and-zoom functionality of iPhone for zoom in and out features ability across the entire venue map, allowing fans to quickly identify and navigate locations for concessions, restrooms, first aid stations, ATMs, souvenirs and customer service representatives.

* Social Media: Fans also can engage in Facebook Connect and the community of 140-character conversations in-and-around Minute Maid Park with Twitter. In addition to being able to send messages directly from within the App, fans can read Tweets coming from the ballpark, as determined by geolocation technology, from other fans using designated hashtags (#astros) and from followers’ replies to the original messages.

* Video Highlights: The in-game video highlight experience within MLB.com At Bat has been enhanced exclusively for fans that have a verified check-in by offering a set of bonus in-game highlights exclusively for that individual game.

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Questions? Email afooter@astros.com

Astros lineup vs. Dodgers 5/23. Roof closed. First pitch 7:05 p.m. CT.

Social Media Night, presented by Ford Focus, set for this Saturday in the Bud Patio. Join us!

Our second Social Media Night of the 2011 season will take place this Saturday (May 28), and while we’ve received a tremendous response, select tickets are still available.

Saturday’s event (now titled “Social Media Night, presented by Ford Focus” — yep, we’re sponsored!) will feature an appearance by Chris Johnson (known on Twitter as @cjastros23). Included on the agenda is a ballpark tour, batting practice viewing, dinner, game ticket in the Budweiser Patio, t-shirt and Twitter trivia.

Here’s the rundown:

3 p.m.: Early Bird Tour and/or Batting Practice Viewing begins from the Union Station Lobby
4 p.m.: Gates open to the public
4:45 p.m.: Tweep gathering at the Budweiser Patio
5 p.m.: Appearance by Chris Johnson, Twitter Trivia
6:05 p.m.: First pitch/Dinner is served

Two major components of these programs will be conducted through Twitter. Early this week, I’ll tweet three dinner options, and all you have to do is tweet back your choice. I’ll tally up the votes and the one that receives the most votes is what we’ll serve.

Second, Chris Johnson will be on hand from 5-5:15 to give out prizes fans can win through Twitter Trivia. I’ll ask the question and then the first one to tweet back the correct answer wins. Prizes will include baseballs autographed by Johnson, and the CJ Pink Bat Bobbleheads we gave out during the last homestand.

It is very important, subsequently, that you are following me on Twitter, as that is the only way to win prizes. It’s a simple process to sign up (twitter.com), and here’s the direct link to my Twitter page.

Tickets are $45. Please click here to reserve your tickets. Hope to see you there!

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Astros lineup 5/22 at Blue Jays. First pitch 12:07 p.m. CT.

Astros lineup 5/21 at Blue Jays. First pitch 12:07 p.m. CT.

Astros lineup 5/20 at Blue Jays. First pitch: 6:07 PM CT

This is the first Interleague game of 2011.

Michael Bourn is fast, and that’s no longer a Houston-only secret.

For those of you following closely on Twitter, you’re probably familiar with how much we talk about Michael Bourn’s lightning-fast speed on any given game day. It’s not often that Bourn does not do something spectacular, whether it’s how easy he makes stealing bases look or running down a fly ball that, at first glance, looks like it’s surely going to sail far over his head for extra bases.

Bourn is a bright spot in what has been a painful start to the season for your 2011 Astros. The offense is struggling. The bullpen has had problems practically from the get-go. The starting pitching has ranged from good to just OK to ineffective. We realize there are issues. Speed from the leadoff hitter isn’t one of them, thankfully, and no matter how this season shakes out,
Bourn is always going to be fun to watch.

It was nice to see MLB.com national columnist Terence Moore send some props Bourn’s way during the Astros’ recent trip to Atlanta. The entire column is worth the read, but I especially liked Bourn’s reaction when Moore tried to draw comparisons between him and a certain legendary base stealer, the best of all time:

“Rickey?” said Bourn, with a bewildered look this week in the visitors’ clubhouse at Turner Field before an Astros game with the Atlanta Braves. His reference was to Rickey, as in Henderson, baseball’s career stolen-base king with 1,406. After five seasons and counting, Bourn has 187. Which is why the 28-year-old outfielder laughed again, adding, “I’m a long ways from Rickey.”

Obviously, how much you get on base is directly related to how many bases you can steal. Can’t get to Point B before getting to Point A first. So in that respect, Bourn will have to be incredibly consistent over the course of his career. But from a pure speed and instinct standpoint, our young center fielder clearly gets it.

Check it out here…
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Thanks to everyone who came out to our watch party last night at Lucky’s Pub. Wish the final result would have been better, but hopefully, the half-price appetizers and drink specials helped ease the pain of  loss. Certainly, getting a mention from J.D. and Brownie during broadcast was a highlight!

We hope to have another party at some point this season. In the meantime, here are a few images from the Astros night out:

Tweeps tweeting!







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Had to chuckle the other night when Jim Deshaies said, “Buy one kid, get one free to anyone 21 or older” during a recent broadcast, giving his special spin on the Astros continuing promotion, “Kids Free All Summer.”

Interesting angle, J.D. — but not exactly what we’re going for. No, Kids Free All Summer means that beginning Monday, and through September 4, kids 14 and under can come to Astros games for free.

Here’s the deal: for each adult that purchases one full-price adult ticket in the View Deck I, View Deck II or Outfield Deck seating areas, two kids 14 and under get in for free. For a family of four — two adults, two children — the most expensive tickets available for this promotion would be $16 apiece for the adults, which means the entire family can go to the game for $32.

“Summer months mean family outings, and ‘Kids FREE All Summer’ provides the opportunity to spend time together in a healthy, friendly environment,” Astros President of Business Operations Pam Gardner said. “Kids FREE has been a huge success at Minute Maid Park the past two years, and we look forward to sharing the fun again this season.”

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