New year, new blog: FanFest, Caravan, Astroline, Bagwell. (Will the Hall call?)
Happy New Year, Astros fans! Hope you ate too much, enjoyed time with your families and watched a lot of football (not necessarily in that order) over the holiday break. The first day back at work for baseball people is a lot like Groundhog Day: six weeks until Spring Training with a full slate of activities to get to first, before we head to Florida.
Many of you have asked about FanFest, caravans and Astroline. Here are some general guidelines for what’s on tap, although we’ll be posting a more formal schedule when it’s all ready to go.
In the meantime, hope this provides some assistance…
The Annual Houston Baseball Dinner Benefiting Grand Slam for Youth Baseball will take place on Feb. 10 at 7 p.m. at the Hilton Americas Hotel near Minute Maid Park.
The event will include a special celebration of the Houston franchise’s 50th anniversary, with several former MVPs and current players expected to attend. Award winners include Pitcher of the Year Wandy Rodriguez and Rookie of the Year J.D. Martinez, as well Jason Bourgeois, the winner of the Darryl Kile (Good Guy) Award. Two former Astros will be recognized as well: Hunter Pence, voted as the team’s MVP, and Lance Berkman, who will be presented the Greater Houston area’s Major League Player of the Year award. Longtime television broadcaster Bill Brown will be recognized with the Fred Hartman Award for Long and Meritorious Service to Baseball.
Former Astros expected to attend include Bob Aspromonte, Jimmy Wynn, Larry Dierker, Bob Watson, J.R. Richard, Jose Cruz and Enos Cabell.
To order tickets, click here or call 713-259-8686.
The next day, on Saturday, Feb. 11, the Astros will host FanFest at Minute Maid Park. Full details and a rundown of player appearances will be released at a later date, but here are the basics: FanFest will take place from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. and will feature autograph sessions with current and former players and interactive activities for all age groups.
The Astros most likely will be ready to release their full caravan schedule early next week, but here’s a peek:
The caravan (aptly and creatively renamed CAREavan this year) will begin a little later than usual, in order to coordinate it with the baseball dinner and FanFest. The Houston-area caravan stops will take place the week of Feb. 6 and will include stops in Sugar Land/Missouri City, Spring, Cypress and Katy. There will be an autograph signing session at an Academy Sports + Outdoors each day, starting around 6:30 p.m. CT. The lone exception is Friday, Feb. 10, when the Academy signing will start at 3:15 p.m. because of the baseball dinner that evening.
Out-of-town stops will begin Feb. 1 and will include visits to Austin, Brownsville, Harlingen/McAllen, Oklahoma City, San Antonio and Corpus Christi.
General manager Jeff Luhnow will appear on Astroline on Wednesday (Jan. 4) at Buffalo Wild Wings on Gray St. in Midtown. The show, hosted by Milo Hamilton, begins at 7 p.m. CT and will be aired on 740 KTRH and Astros.com.
Hall of Fame announcement
The Hall of Fame will announce its 2012 inductees on Jan. 9, and as was the case last year, our man Jeff Bagwell will likely be the talk of the Internet regardless of whether he gets in.
Bagwell received 41.7 percent his first time on the ballot in 2010-11. Judging from published reports by voters who are making their choices public, Bagwell has received more support this time around. That said, it’s not looking promising that he will receive enough votes to count for 75 percent of the final tally. I think a lot of us agreed a while back that Bagwell’s third time on the ballot was going to be his best chance to be voted in anyway, given his longtime teammate Craig Biggio will appear on the ballot for the first time at the end of 2012 and should have no problem getting in on the first try.
I’ve read the arguments against Bagwell’s HOF candidacy that range from the well-reasoned to the (IMO) completely absurd. That’s what happens when you have more than 500 people giving more than 500 opinions, but it’s good to see more voters are coming around on Bagwell this year. The PED issue continues to follow Bags, as many writers are still taking the guilt-by-association route — as in, he played in the 1990s, so he must be guilty, despite any real evidence that he was actually associated.
Some writers simply think Bagwell was a very good player, but not among the best ever. A friendly reminder to the voters who actually watched Bags play in person 10, maybe 12 times during his 15-year career: there is good baseball played all over the country, played by Hall of Fame-worthy players who spent their entire careers in places other than the Northeast. That their feats weren’t televised nationally on a regular basis doesn’t make them less worthy of being recognized for what they accomplished.
If early returns are any indication, it appears that Barry Larkin will be the lone inductee in Cooperstown in July.
Here’s a fun story about someone you may not have heard of before but is a huge part of the Astros’ operation. Mike Acosta started in the late 1990s as a broadcasting intern and eventually worked his way into a job the Astros created especially for him — Authentication Manager. In this Ken Hoffman column in the Houston Chronicle, Acosta discusses bobblehead technology and why he has so much to be excited about as the Astros prepare to celebrate the 50th anniversary of Major League Baseball in Houston this year.
On this date in Astros history:
January 3, 1962 – A groundbreaking ceremony takes place on the future site of the Astrodome. The ceremony’s attendees, include players from the Colt .45s, city and county officials, fire pistols into the ground to celebrate the historic event.
To receive daily updates of Astros historical moments, follow @astros on Twitter and look for the hash tag #Astros50.