June 2011

Celebrating 25 years of broadcasting excellence, the Astros salute Brownie.

Bill Brown’s list of his favorite Astros moments and his list of his favorite Astros moments that he’s broadcast from the television booth are quite different.

Anyone affiliated with the Astros probably couldn’t name any single moment that was better than their pennant-clinching win over the Cardinals in 2005. It’s likely “Brownie” feels the same way. But because television broadcasters who work for the teams do not call postseason games — those jobs go to network announcers — the local TV guys miss out.

(In fact, Brownie was in Houston when the Astros clinched the pennant. He’d heard that downtown was the place to be, so he drove down, walked around the streets for a while and took in the scene. Apparently, thousands had flocked to downtown to celebrate. Wonder if anyone noticed a popular TV announcer walking around by himself amid the chaos.)

Anyhoo, that leaves the list of Brownie’s favorite moments limited to regular-season only. His favorite? Craig Biggio’s 3,000th hit in 2007. But other moments aren’t far behind, such as the last game in 2004 when Brandon Backe, subbing for an ill Roger Clemens, pitched well enough against the Rockies to help the Astros clinch the Wild Card.

Also special to Brownie was the last game in the Astrodome in 1999. The division title was on the line, and the Astros were ready to close down the old haunts and move to their new downtown ballpark. The Dome was packed to the gills and most of the best-known names from Astros teams in the past had come back for the celebration. Better yet, the Astros won the game to clinch their third consecutive NL Central title.

“There was all this pressure to win and go to the playoffs, all of the old players were back, the confetti was coming down from the ceiling,” Brownie recalled. “That was just a wonderful, wonderful day.”

Another wonderful day arrived on Saturday, when the Astros commemorated Brownie’s 25th year as their play-by-play television announcer. During a pregame ceremony attended by Brownie, his wife, Dianne, his daughter Allison, son-in-law Alan, grandkids Luke, Emma and C.C. and his sister, Jessica, the Astros presented their longtime employee with a video tribute and commemorative shadowbox. FS Houston also presented Brownie with a crystal microphone.

Brownie and his family

Brownie and longtime TV partner Jim Deshaies, with Drayton McLane and Steve McNair of FS Houston

It's not a party until there's cake

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Some interesting factoids about Brownie and his illustrious career, spanning 32 years:

* His biggest broadcast influence as a child was Jack Buck, Cardinals Hall of Fame broadcaster.

* He lists Larry Dierker and Jim Deshaies as the biggest influences on his broadcasting career. “They each influenced me a great deal with their knowledge of the game, their humor, their storytelling abilities and their gift of communicating.”

* Of the most unusual games he’s called, two stand out above the rest: The 22-inning game on June 3, 1989 against the Dodgers, a 5-4 Astros win that took seven hours, 14 minutes to complete. Also, on July 2, 2009, the Astros-Padres game was delayed for close to an hour due to a swarm of bees at PETCO Park. “That was certainly one of the most unusual things you’ll ever see,” Brownie said.

* When he was 18, he landed his first broadcasting job at KDRO Radio in Sedalia, Missouri, during news and play-by-play of area high school sporting events.

* While in the service, Brownie became a U.S. Army broadcast specialist working as a sportscaster for the Armed Forces Vietnam Network in Saigon from 1970-71.

* He was a part of the Cincinnati Reds broadcasting team from 1976-82. In 1987, the Astros hired the 39-year-old and paired him with Dierker for road broadcasts and Bill Worrell for home broadcasts.

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A highlight of the Bill Brown celebration was the highly-anticipated distribution of the Brownie and J.D. Bobblehead dolls. The clay versions really resemble the real Brownie and J.D., from J.D.’s glasses, goatee and…”shiny” head to Brownie’s thick silvery hair and piercing blue eyes.

Pretty close to the real thing, don’t you think?

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Astros lineup 6/11 vs. Braves. First pitch 6:05 p.m. CT


Wallace, Mier, Bailey named SAL All-Stars

By Rachel Frey

The Lexington Legends’ C Chris Wallace, SS Jiovanni Mier and OF Adam Bailey were recently named to the South Atlantic All-Star team. Wallace is batting .301, with a team-high 42 RBIs. Mier is batting .257 with 13 doubles and 5 triples. Bailey is batting .313, with a team-high 13 home runs.

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In other Minor League news…

Triple-A Oklahoma City won their game against Omaha, the Triple-A affiliate of the Kansas City Royals, on June 9, 4-3. RHP Nelson Figueroa got the win and RHP David Carpenter earned the save. Carpenter was called up May 11, and since then has pitched 11 innings with 0.00 ERA, 10 strikeouts, and is 4-for-4 in save opportunities. CF Brandon Barnes is leading the team in triples (4), home runs (8) and has a .232 batting average through 155 plate appearances. The RedHawks have a 25-35 record, and will face the Storm Chasers again tonight.

The Corpus Christi Hooks are 21-37 and lost Thursday’s game to Midland 6-4. They will play Midland again tonight. 2B Brandon Wikoff is batting .395 over the course of 39 games and has only struck out 6 times. RHP Jonathan Anstil is on the Texas League leaderboard with 63 strikeouts in 61.1 innings pitched.

Lancaster lost a close game to the Inland Empire 66ers, 3-2 on June 9. 1B Kody Hinze was named the California League Player of the Week, for the week of May 30 through June 5. He is the first Lancaster player this season to earn this honor. He has a .338 batting average, with 14 home runs and 51 walks. CF Jay Austin is leading the JetHawks in triples, with a .267 batting average through 52 games (225 at bats). RHP Jose Cisnero has the 2nd highest strikeout per nine innings pitched ratio, with 65 strikeouts in 53 innings.

The Dominican Summer League Astros are six games into their season, and have a 3-3 record. On June 9, they beat the DSL Yankees(2) 5-3. 3B Darwin Riviera is leading the DSL in batting, with a .474 batting average through 19 at bats. LHP Yeudy Perdomo leads the team in strikeouts with nine through 9 innings pitched, and has a 1.13 ERA.

The Tri-City ValleyCats begin their season on Friday, June 17, and the Greeneville Astros will begin their season on June 24.

Rachel Frey is the Social Media and Broadcasting Intern for the Houston Astros. She studies Public Relations at The University of Texas at Austin, where she spends most of her time attending Texas Football & Baseball games. Connect with Rachel on her Twitter account:@RachelFrey or on her MLBlog, A Temporary Perspective.

Astros lineup 6/10 vs. Braves. First pitch 7:05 p.m. CT.

Thursday notes: Texas Children’s Hospital visit, Brownie’s anniversary, and Tuesday Tweet-up.

Four Astros players, plus Junction Jack, made a special visit to pediatric oncology patients at Texas Children’s Hospital Thursday morning. Armed with wagons filled with Astros teddy bears, caps and baseballs, much of the Astros’ infield — Matt Downs, Chris Johnson, Angel Sanchez and Brett Wallace — went room to room to deliver autographed goodies to the kids, pose for pictures and visit with the families.

At the end of the trip, the group convened in the playroom, where they painted baseballs with several of the children.

Sad circumstances, but a happy couple of hours. Enjoy the photos.

Painting baseballs



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When Bill Brown was inducted into the Texas Baseball Hall of Fame a few years back, included in his “highlight video” were his calls of Jeff Bagwell’s first Major League hit and 300th home run.

“Brownie” has been around a long time — long enough to watch the beginning and end of both Bagwell and Craig Biggio’s careers, long enough to have watched the Astros reach an all-time high with 97 losses in 1991 and long enough to witness the other all-time high — the first World Series appearance in franchise history in 2005.

The man we all know as “Brownie” is celebrating his 25th year as the Astros’ primary play-by-play television announcer this year. On Saturday, the Astros will celebrate Brownie.

He’ll be recognized on the field during a pregame ceremony prior to the Astros’ game with the Braves at 6:05. Brownie’s wife, Dianne, will be in attendance, as will many other family members. The Astros plan to show a video tribute, which should be a nice for those of us who love to wallow in nostalgia. Until you really sit down and watch/listen, it’s impossible to digest just how many Astros moments Brownie has called as part of a 32-year career as a baseball broadcaster.

Not so coincidentally, Saturday is also Brownie and J.D. Bobblehead Day. We’ve posted the picture before, but it’s worth a repost. With Brownie getting his due props and young Jordan Lyles taking the mound for his Minute Maid Park debut, Saturday should be a great day all around.


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We’re hosting a casual Tweet-up next Tuesday (June 14) in the bullpen boxes, behind right field. The format is casual — the Budweiser Patio will be reserved for a pregame mixer for Tweet-up ticket holders, and once the game begins, we’ll start tweeting trivia questions and giving away prizes. Among the stuff we’re giving away: signed bobbleheads, baseballs and t-shirts.

Tickets are $15, discounted from $27, and we’re hoping our Social Media savvy fans will join us for a night of mixing, mingling and Astros baseball.

We’ll have two Tweet-ups this year — June 14 and Aug. 2. Click here to sign up…see you there!

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Hunter Pence extended his hitting streak to 20 games on Thursday, which seemed like a good time to send out a friendly reminder to fill out your All-Star ballots early and often and help send our right fielder to Phoenix in July.

Fans can cast their votes for starters up to 25 times at MLB.com and all 30 club sites — online or via your mobile device — using the 2011 All-Star Game MLB.com Ballot Sponsored by Sprint until June 30 at 10:59 p.m. CT.

You can vote by simply clicking here.

 

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Houston Astros MLB Urban Youth Academy hosts summer camps

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By Rachel Frey

In northeast Houston, at Sylvester Turner Park, the Houston Astros MLB Urban Youth Academy was buzzing with activity early on Monday morning. It was the first day of their summer camps, and almost 80 boys and girls arrived early to get their shirt and hat before the day’s activities began. Anxious parents talked to their children, and camp instructors prepared the equipment and chilled waters and Powerade.

I followed the groups as they made their way onto the field. This week’s camp is for kids ages 7-12, and they were split into two groups after they ran and stretched. Both groups worked on throwing and catching warm-ups while the coaches corrected their forms. By now, the temperature was approaching 93 degrees, and the kids took a water break as they walked to another area for fielding practice. They were split into infielder and outfielder groups and each set took their own field. The participants had a wide range of skill levels, and the coaches took their time with each kid.

The groups came back to the main office area for lunch. Afterwards, they listened to several of the coaches speak, and continued to work on their baseball skills until they were dismissed to their parents or guardians.

In just one year, the Urban Youth Academy has grown exponentially. Starting with just one full-time staff member, Director Daryl Wade, and Instruction Coordinator Brandon Denton and an intern position were recently added. Additionally, this year’s camps are much larger, with six, one-week camps being offered through the middle of July. They last from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m., Monday-Thursday. Additionally, the Urban Youth Academy has partnered with the City of Houston to distribute free lunches to the camp participants. The Urban Youth Academy is open to any child from 7-17 years old, and may help ease the effects of recent city pool and other youth initiatives closing because of the tough financial situation.

According to Wade, kids should expect to learn the fundamentals of batting and fielding, while at the summer camps. Additionally, they will learn about the history of baseball, the Academy’s mission and history, and how to treat one another. Wade was the Athletic Director for Houston Independent School District before joining the Astros one year ago.

For more information on how to sign up your child for a camp or any of the other programs offered by the Urban Youth Academy, call 281-260-9166 or visit: http://houston.astros.mlb.com/hou/community/urban_youth_academy.jsp

Astros lineup 6/9 vs. Cardinals. Roof closed for the summer. First pitch 7:05 CT

On deck: Tweet-up Tuesdays and internship opportunities.

We’re trying something new this year — Tweet-up Tuesdays. Think of it as Social Media Nights Light — they’ll be held in the Bullpen Box Seats at a discounted price and will simply serve as a fun night out for Social Media savvy fans to mix, mingle, network and hopefully watch an Astros win.

The tickets are $15, discounted from $27, and we’ll be out there tweeting all night, giving away prizes through Twitter Trivia and taking photos for our Facebook page and Twitter feeds.

The Budweiser Patio will be reserved for a pregame mixer for Tweetup ticket holders. Once the game begins, I’ll start tweeting the trivia questions and giving away prizes. Count on some signed bobbleheads, baseballs and t-shirts to be among the pile of loot we give out. You must be at the game in the Tweet-up section to win the prizes.

We’re having two Tweet-up Tuesdays this year — June 14 (next Tuesday) and Aug. 2. Click here to sign up, and we’ll see you at the ballpark!

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Attention college students: the Astros are beginning their recruiting efforts to fill their Fall Internships. You must be able to receive college credit for the internship experience, and a scholarship is awarded to one intern per semester. The internship will begin Aug. 8 and run through Dec. 15. Most departments will be hiring fall interns with the exception of Finance, Broadcasting or Social Media).

The Astros’ internship program is extensive and the real deal. Nearly a quarter of their full-time employees are former interns, so this is obviously a great way to get your foot in the proverbial door.

Details can be found here.

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Fans across the country are knee-deep in All-Star voting, and here in Houston, we’re hoping to make a last-minute push to stuff the ballot boxes and send Hunter Pence to his second Mid-Summer Classic. Pence is having quite a first half, compiling a .313 average with eight home runs and 44 RBIs heading into Wednesday’s game with the Cardinals.

The Astros are struggling this year, but there’s nothing disappointing about Pence’s first-half numbers — All-Star worthy numbers, for sure.

Fans can cast their votes for starters up to 25 times at MLB.com and all 30 club sites — online or via your mobile device — using the 2011 All-Star Game MLB.com Ballot Sponsored by Sprint until June 30 at 10:59 p.m. CT.

You can vote by simply clicking here.

Astros lineup 6/8 vs. Cardinals. Roof closed for the summer. First pitch 7:05 p.m CT

Astros, Budweiser support military families

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By Rachel Frey

Ginger Gilbert heard a knock on her door on November 27, 2006, that changed her life. She was notified that her husband, Major Troy Gilbert, had crashed his F-16 while supporting ground combat operations northwest of Baghdad.  Just a few days later, his death was confirmed. He left behind not only his wife, but also five children under the age of nine.

Many people came together to support her family and help them achieve the dreams she and Troy had for their children. Folds of Honor helped support the family by providing post-secondary educational scholarships to all of their children.

With so many deserving families like the Gilberts, the Astros and Budweiser have announced a new partnership to benefit Folds of Honor. At a press conference on Tuesday, June 7, Silver Eagle Distributors President and CEO John Nau, Astros Chairman and CEO Drayton McLane, Astros General Manager Ed Wade, along with Ginger Gilbert unveiled the “Here’s to the Heroes” program.

From Memorial Day through July 10, Budweiser cans and cases will feature patriotic packaging and a portion of each sale will be donated by Budweiser to Folds of Honor. Silver Eagle Distributors will match this amount. Additionally, $100 will be donated by Budweiser for each home run hit in Minute Maid Park. Silver Eagle Distributors will donate $100 for each Astros home run. Also, be on the lookout on Flag Day, June 14, because Budweiser will visit area bars and restaurants to share Folds of Honor’s mission and treat consumers to a Budweiser.

“Each dollar donated is a separate thank you note to a family,” Ginger said.

The Astros have a long history of involvement with active and retired military. Once a month, “Astros on the Home Front” welcomes several military families with deployed loved ones to batting practice and the game. At each Sunday home game, the “Home Sweet Home” program, which is sponsored by Budweiser, welcomes a small group of active, recently returned military personnel to watch a game in a suite. An Astros player meets each group, and the groups are introduced to the crowd just before “God Bless America” is sung in the seventh inning. Drayton recalled the team’s visits to Walter Reed Hospital to visit the wounded soldiers each time they play the Washington Nationals at Nationals Park.

“We can never get desensitized to the fact that it’s not only about the individual — it’s about the family they left behind,” Ed said. “It’s up to us to not just say ‘It’s a tragedy,’ It’s up to us to step up and do what we can to help.”

Rachel Frey is the Social Media and Broadcasting Intern for the Houston Astros. She studies Public Relations at The University of Texas at Austin, where she spends most of her time attending Texas Football & Baseball games. Connect with Rachel on her Twitter account: @RachelFrey or on her MLBlog, A Temporary Perspective.

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