Astros notes: team photo day hijinx, and celebrating Milo’s 84th birthday in style.

The Astros took their annual team photo on Saturday, a strategically smart day to take it, given the number of September callups who are back in uniform after spending various amounts of time in the big leagues this year.

Maybe it’s just me, but it seems like Team Photo Day is a lot more organized and efficient nowadays. Perhaps that’s because presently, media relations guru Sally Gunter runs the show, as opposed to the old days when your friendly neighborhood blogger, in her former life, was responsible for this team activity as a member of the PR staff.

Team photo day hijinx: Carlos Lee tries to sit in Bat Boy Row (and was told he wasn't allowed)

Nowadays, the seating (well, actually, standing) chart is mapped out ahead of time, with each player told exactly where to go. In the old days, we asked players to file in by height, with the tallest in the back. Leaving it up to the players was mistake No. 1, which is why you often found vertically-challenged players such as Craig Biggio and Billy Wagner taking up space in the back row.

The 1999 team photo — specifically, the back row of the ’99 team photo — brings back especially vivid memories of the old days. You have to understand that back then, clowning around was a big part of photo day. Dealing with these guys was like trying to get a bunch of fourth-graders to line up after recess to start math class.

Houston Astros Class of '99

I looked over the group, and everything seemed to be A-OK. The players were where they were supposed to be, the coaching staff was assembled in the front, the bat boys, clubhouse staff and athletic trainers were all present and accounted for. I was just about to breathe a sigh of relief and instruct the photographer to start snapping when I noticed something didn’t look quite right in the back row.

“Cammy,” I yelled out to 6-foot Ken Caminiti. “Are you standing up straight?”

Caminiti nodded.

“Are you sure?”

Another nod.

“Cammy. Right now you’re the same height as (Mike) Hampton. STAND UP.”

Caminiti giggled like a high-schooler, stood up straight and was back to normal, a couple of inches taller than Hampton and more evenly aligned with Bill Spiers.

The photographer snapped about a dozen pictures, and that was it. I didn’t think much more of it until years later, when I was gazing over the team photos hanging in the Astros’ clubhouse. I found my way to that old ’99 team photo and chuckled at the memory of the Caminiti incident. Then I peered in closer and noticed something I hadn’t before — again, Caminiti is the same height at Hampton, maybe even a little shorter, and Spiers towers over him.

Score one for the big guy.

(That probably would explain Cammy’s especially jolly grin and why Hampton looks like he’s about to burst out laughing.)


Heck and Armstrong

The Astros fan base was introduced to Jack Armstrong Jr., the club’s third-round draft pick, on Saturday. He was decidedly more subdued and better dressed than our first introduction to him (as seen in this highly-entertaining Vanderbilt video), and he was, by all accounts, a very impressive 21-year-old. He’s got quite a presence about him, partly due to his 6-foot-7 frame. He’s also well-spoken and pretty media savvy for a kid barely out of college.

Armstrong, who spent the better part of the summer pitching in the Cape Cod League, has a tender elbow and will be closely monitored between now and Spring Training.

“Now, we’re in the process of doing rehab and rest to get him pointed toward 2012,” Assistant GM Bobby Heck said. “We expect him to be full go as we enter Spring Training 2012.”

Earlier in the week, several of us took advantage of the off day and celebrated Milo Hamilton’s 84th birthday. It was a typical Milo party — great food at one of Houston’s finest restaurants (Damian’s Cucina Italiana), delicious libations and 21 vivacious guests.

You may look at the pictures and ask, “Where are all the men?”

Answer: They weren’t invited.

Keep on keeping on, Captain.

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1 Comment

Milo, you look great! We love you! Go Astros!
The Steadman family
Hattiesburg, MS

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