Road trip roundup: Great cities, great ballparks, and a hat tip to a great former Astro.

Astros players are invited to bring their families on two road trips every season, and as expected, the Chicago-San Diego excursion the team is currently taking was a popular one to sign up for.

Both cities are fantastic — Chicago for its shopping, nightlife, restaurants and energy; San Diego for its breathtaking beauty and arguably the most perfect weather in the country. Cubs trips are always fun because of the large number of day games played at Wrigley — it gives those in the traveling party a chance to enjoy a nice dinner on the road, a rarity in this line of work.

Padres trips are always fun because of the scenery and the weather. The hotel is right down the road from the ballpark and there’s plenty to do in the area, which helps when the players head to work early afternoon and leave the families to fend for themselves.

The ballparks in the two cities couldn’t be more different. Wrigley is old, rickety and historic and just a fun place to be. PETCO Park in San Diego is among the best of the “new” ballparks (although by now, most of the modern-era stadiums are at least a decade old and probably don’t qualify as such).

Both cities, while completely different, are great places to visit. It’s nice when you can watch your team win a few games, too. Here are the most recent images from batting practice at spacious PETCO Park:

PETCO from behind the cage

PETCO view from the press box

Carlos Lee, Jeff Keppinger, Bill Hall

Angel Sanchez signs autographs for young fans

Brett Wallace

Big congratulations to Darin Erstad, who was recently named the University of Nebraska’s head baseball coach. Erstad played for the Astros only two years, in 2008 and 2009, but he left a lasting impact on pretty much everyone who worked for, played for or covered the Astros during that time.

I think anyone who knew Erstad during his career would agree he was the perfect professional. He was known for his intensity and unwavering focus, yet he was approachable and respectful of the people around him who also had jobs to do. He never had a “I don’t have time for you” attitude, even if he truly was short on time, nor did he bark orders at the support staff when he needed something.

He came to the ballpark every day and got to work, set a great tone in the clubhouse and was a terrific influence on the young players.

Those veterans — while given labels such as “part-time” or “role” or “bench” players — are an essential part of a healthy Major League team. That’s why Erstad was so appreciated when he was here.

This leaves little doubt about what kind of college coach Erstad will be. The Nebraska baseball program is lucky to have him.
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The Astros Player Development Department named the following Players of the Month for May:

Oklahoma City: catcher Robinson Cancel, outfielder Brandon Barnes, left-hander Andy Van Hekken

Corpus Christi: Infielder Jimmy Van Ostrand, infielder Brandon Wikoff, left-hander  Xavier Cedeño

Lancaster: infielder Jose Altuve, outfielder Grant Hogue, right-hander Jose Cisnero

Lexington: outfielder Adam Bailey, infielder Delino DeShields, infielder Mike Kvasnicka right-hander Jason Chowning.

5 Comments

Alyson…..sooooooo happy for Darin Erstad!! He was indeed
a special guy. I loved the way he took Hunter Pence under his wing, and gave him so much confidence! Hunter really
missed him when he left, but the Astros were better for having him on this team! Nice win tonight! I’m so glad to
see Keppinger back, this team is playing so much better with him in the line-up! Thanks for the great article! Becky:)

I’m so happy for Darin Erstad! And I’m willing to bet that he can still outplay most of the student-athletes he will be coaching!

Alyson – Great article! Congrats and Best Wishes to Darin Erstad! I always thought he played the game the way it is supposed to be played and was a great influence on the younger guys. Looking forward to the next Social Media night, had to miss the May 28th game. @strosfan76

Congrats, Darin Erstad! What a thrill for the young men at Nebraska to be guided by such a gentleman and professional. Look forward to following the Cornhuskers program under his guidance. Glad to have had the opportunity to see him in an Astros uniform for a couple years.

Alyson, I’m sure that Darin would be the first to tell you that some of that “professionalism” you spoke of he learned playing for another legendary Husker coach Dr. Tom Osborn. As a Husker graduate I am glad the baseball team will now benefit from Darin’s baseball knowledge as well as his professional demeanor. It’s just too bad that Darin didn’t get play more with the Astros. Good Luck Darin and thanks Alyson for another great blog.

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