September 2011

The last day of the season, in pictures.

The Astros wrapped up their season Wednesday night and immediately began the process of packing up their lockers in anticipation of heading home for the winter.

The last day of the season is a lot like the last day of school. Lots of hugs, goodbyes, thank yous, and see-you-next-years. More than one person joked that conversations at the end of the season sound a lot like what we used to write in yearbooks — “Thanks for everything!” “See you next year!” “Have a great (winter)!”

Brad Mills and the coaches made their way around the locker room to say their goodbyes and thank the players for their effort, and teammates exchanged handshakes and hugs as they prepared to go their separate ways for the next four-plus months.

When a team is in the playoffs, most of the packing of lockers happens the day after the official end of the season, which occurs with either a playoff series loss or a World Series win. When a team isn’t a contender, there’s lot of time to prepare for the final game of the season, because that date is already set in stone and everyone knows it’s coming.

Therefore, most of the Astros cleared out of the clubhouse for good after Wednesday’s game, rather than come back the next day for the traditional “bag day,” as they call it in baseball.

Images from the final game of the season can be found below. And to our fans, a sincere thank you for your interest and continued support of our baseball team. Thanks for the interaction and comments, even when times got tough. See you in 2012!

Craig Biggio stopped by to watch the last batting practice of 2011.

Our old friend Jim Deshaies dressed for the occasion, commemorating the "last day of school" by wearing his favorite vacation gear.

Postgame interviews were abundant after the final game of the season. Clint Barmes, soon to be a free agent, discussed his possible future with the team.

Brett Myers also addressed reporters after his disappointing loss to the Cardinals to cap the season.

Jason Bourgeois' impressive bobblehead collection was on display during his give-and-take with reporters.

All TVs were tuned into the other games going on, namely, the Rays-Yankees and Red Sox-Orioles. Here we see Astros players eating dinner and watching the game.

Brad Mills gives his final postgame press conference of 2011.

Jordan Lyles, J.B. Shuck and Brett Wallace chat after the game, while packing up for the winter.

Jimmy Paredes gets organized as he prepares to head out.

The intrepid clubhouse staff does the last loads of laundry of 2011.

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The week in pictures: Candlelighters, Wall of Honor, Playing Green in Houston.

A few months ago, we blogged about a worthwhile cause that involved baseball, softball and raising funds for families of kids with cancer.

Candlelighters, an organization that 19 years ago formed a group to meet the day-to-day needs of families who are caring for a child being treated for cancer, spearheaded an all-day baseball tournament a month ago and also encouraged the participants to solicit donations. The top 12 fundraisers won a grand prize of taking batting practice at Minute Maid Park.

On Tuesday, the winners were in full display on the field at the Astros’ ballpark, taking their best hacks against the club’s BP throwers. Among the group was one of the top fundraisers, Noble Reeves, who raised $2,750. He used his computer as his main weapon, emailing friends and family asking for their support. And he got it, in a big way.

Also in the crowd was Jose Lima Jr., the son of the late Jose Lima, who played for the Astros on all three division-winning teams in the late 1990s. In total, the Candlelighters collected $25,000.

The competition was also open to folks who were not playing in the baseball/softball tournament. One of Candlelighter’s main spokesmen, Jay Beasley, ended up being one of the top fundraisers in that category, and he donated his batting practice experience to a 16 year old high school baseball player currently going through chemotherapy.

Astros radio announcer Dave Raymond was the main force behind arranging the batting practice treat for the kids, as was Vice President of Foundation Development Marian Harper.

A great day for a great cause…pretty fitting way for the community-minded Astros to close out their season:


Candlelighters began in 1989 with two parent support groups from the Medical Center: one at Texas Children’s Cancer Center and one at MD Anderson Cancer Center. The Texas Children’s Hospital group sought formal incorporation, and in 1992 Candlelighters was legally formed. In the fall of 1992 they invited the MD Anderson Parent Group to join them and the two organizations merged into one.

The Parent Consultant Program was developed to directly meet the needs of families at the treatment centers and to inform them of potential resources. Their programs and services extend beyond the hospital walls with their Family Camp, Adopt-A-Family, Fall Festival, quarterly newsletter, and other special events.

Over the years, they have learned how critically valuable it is for our Parent Consultants to be able to personally hand parents of children with cancer practical assistance such as a meal pass, parking pass, phone card, or gas card. Candlelighters is designed to bring comfort to childhood cancer families when stress is so high and they feel so helpless.

For more information on Candlelighters and the baseball and softball tournaments, please visit http://strikeoutkidscancer.org.
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Other random shots from the Astros’ season-ending homestand…

It's been a big year for Bill Brown. On Monday, he was honored with a plaque that will also hang in the press box on the Astros' Wall of Honor.

Brownie and Drayton McLane

Fifty fourth through sixth graders at Wilson Montessori School won a visit from Chris Johnson after being named The Greenest Classroom, as part of the 2011 Play Green® in Education initiative.

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And then there was one: Astros lineup 9/28 vs. Cardinals. First pitch 7:05 p.m. CT. Roof closed.

Astros lineup 9/27 vs. Cardinals. First pitch 7:05 p.m. CT. Roof closed.

On Star Wars night, the Astros scoreboard crew gets a win (as do the Astros).

It’s always fun to see what new and innovative sketches the ballpark entertainment staff comes up with from season to season, and on Monday, we were treated to some creative manipulation of players’ mug shots in honor of Star Wars Night at Minute Maid Park.

They were all creative, but Angel Sanchez takes the cake, in my opinion. What say you?

Chris Johnson

Jason Bourgeois

J.B. Shuck

Angel Sanchez

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Astros lineup 9/26 vs. Cardinals. First pitch 7:05 p.m. CT. Roof closed.

Social Media Night, by the numbers. (And we had cake!)

Our sixth and final Social Media Night was double the fun, thanks to the presence of not one, but two Astros players — a first for our monthly soirees out in the Budweiser Patio.

J.D. Martinez and Bud Norris helped hand out a grand total of 15 prizes — six baseballs signed by Bud, six by J.D., plus three replica BP jerseys with two autographs on each from various Astros players — during our Twitter Trivia contest.

First, the photos:


Other highlights, by the numbers:

448: The distance, in feet, of the Brett Wallace home run. The ball landed right smack in the middle of our party and was determined to be the longest homer by an Astro this year and the fourth-longest by an Astro in ballpark history.

13: Number of innings played. It was the longest game in terms of innings for the Astros this year. Which brings us to…

250: Number of minutes this game lasted. That translates into four hours, 10 minutes, and yep, you guessed it, it was the Astros’ longest game of the year.

85: Enthusiastic and fun Social Media Night attendees (Tweeple)
Pints of Blue Bell Ice Cream
Orders of fajita nachos
Entries for the broadcast booth raffle

1: Winner of the broadcast booth raffle.

2: Tweeple who visited the broadcast booth, because much like Who Wants to be a Millionaire, for this exercise, you’re allowed to phone a friend.

Congrats to John Reyes and his new BFF Ed Bashinski for scoring the grand prize:


1: Cameo appearance by three broadcasters (Jim Deshaies, Bill Brown, Dave Raymond), one beat writer (Zachary Levine) and one television producer (Wave Robinson). Birthdays tend to bring people together in immeasurable ways. Especially when there’s cake involved.


Which brings us to the final number…

3: Astros players caught wearing birthday hats. Thanks to all for making it an unforgettable night. And thanks to our Social Media Night posse…hope to see you back next year!

Wilton Lopez (photo courtesy of Astros Tweep @Jaylen1182)

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Astros lineup 9/25 vs. Rockies. First pitch 1:05 p.m. Roof closed

I’m beginning to wonder if I was the only one who wasn’t at J.D.’s record-setting game 25 years ago

Photo courtesy of Brian McTaggart

Sitting behind me in the Astros’ press box before Friday’s game was KTRH sports talk show host Matt Thomas, a native Houstonian who on Sept. 23, 1986, was a 14-year-old kid sitting in the lower level of the Astrodome, down the first base line.

Sitting next to me in the press box is MLB.com reporter Brian McTaggart, another native Houstonian who was also at that game on Sept. 23, 1986. Tags was at the time a 16-year-old Astros fan, and that night, he scored tickets in the loge level near right field.

In the radio booth directly next to the press box is Alex Trevino, the Astros’ Spanish radio broadcaster who was catching for the visiting Dodgers that night on Sept. 23, 1986.  A few doors down in the GM booth is Enos Cabell, one of Trevino’s Dodger teammates in 1986.

And in a booth between Trevino and Cabell is TV analyst Jim Deshaies, who happens to be the main reason why everyone remembers that game so distinctly.

Deshaies, a 26-year-old rookie in 1986, set a Major League record by striking out the first eight batters he faced in that start against the Dodgers. Friday marked the 25th anniversary of that unforgettable game, one that could have reached even more historic proportions had Dodgers manager Tommy Lasorda not pulled his pitcher for a pinch-hitter with two outs in the third inning.

J.D. offered up some great memories of that night in this fantastic McTaggart blog. I don’t know which part I like better, the photo of the ticket stub from that game that Tags still has to this day, or J.D.’s recollection of the conversation he had with Alan Ashby while shaving after the game the next night.

Either way, it’s great stuff and definitely worth the read.
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Many miles away in a Minor League ballpark far, far from Houston, there is a bat boy who has made quite the name for himself over the last few years. Charlie Constantine has been with the Tri-City ValleyCats — the Astros’ Short Season A affiliate — since 2005. This season, he reached a milestone by reaching the 300-game mark as a ValleyCats batboy.

To commemorate the occasion, the folks at Tri-City organized — what else? — Charlie Constantine Bobblehead Day.

But that’s not where the story ends. Chris Chenes, The ValleyCats Media/Production Manager, swung through Houston on Friday for an Astros weekend getaway, and he brought three Charlie bobbleheads for three former ValleyCats who have a special affinity for their favorite batboy: J.D. Martinez, Bud Norris and Brian Bogusevic. He presented them to the players in the clubhouse before Friday’s game.

Martinez said Constantine is the “most intense batboy” he’s ever known. Apparently, Charlie sprints down the line chasing baseballs and even stretches with the team before batting practice.

When the ValleyCats won the New York-Penn League championship, they hoisted Constantine on their shoulders and chanted “Charlie! Charlie!” Nice to see the support staff get a little love, too.

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Do you have to be from Houston to be an Astros intern? Heck no.

Yesterday, I tweeted that the Astros are now recruiting candidates for their spring internship program, and I was a little surprised at how many people tweeted back with the assumption that you have to be attending a Houston college to do an internship here.

Nothing could be further from the truth. The Astros employ interns from all over. Granted, these internships are in exchange for college credit and not for pay, making it a little more challenging for out-of-towners who will have to come up with cash for living expenses. But the Astros are looking for the best candidates, period, not just the best candidates from Houston (although plenty of interns are also from this area).

A full explanation of the intern program and directions how to apply can be found here. If you’re a college student looking to work in sports someday, I encourage you to check it out. I don’t have a definitive head count but I’d surmise that around half of the full-time employees on the business side of the Astros’ operation are former interns. It’s a great way to get your foot in the door and spend a few months at the ballpark.

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