Team meeting stresses attitude, work ethic, effort. Mills: “Respect the game.”
The morning of the first full-squad workout is always a little more jam-packed than the rest, mainly because players are in and out taking physicals and then ushered to the assembly room on the second floor of the complex for the first team meeting of Spring Training.
Sixty-three players, plus more than a dozen front office members and around than two-dozen coaches, instructors and other members of the Spring Training staff gathered for an introductory meeting Sunday that featured four speakers: general manager Jeff Luhnow, manager Brad Mills, president/CEO George Postolos and owner Jim Crane.
Postolos and Crane, new to the organization, used the platform to introduce themselves and share some details about their backgrounds. Luhnow did as well, before spelling out exactly what he expects from the players this spring and on into the season. He acknowledged that the Astros are picked by no one to contend in the National League Central division, but he also emphasized that this team is better than most think, and he set expectations extremely high in terms of effort, work ethic and attitude:
“Every game, we’re going to go into it thinking we’re going to win,” Luhnow said. “Every series, we’re going to go into it thinking we’re going to win. Even when things go wrong, we can’t give up and say, ‘It’s not going the way we planned, so be it.’
“That’s where the mental toughness part comes in. That’s when you really have to bear down and you really have to believe in yourself and in your teammates. When things aren’t going well, when we get swept or lose a game we should have won, that’s when you have to forget about it, and the next morning be back on track with that (winning) attitude. That’s the only way it’s going to happen for us. That’s what I expect and that’s what you should expect from each other.”
Mills stressed the importance of respecting the game, which can be achieved in a few different ways. First and foremost, play the game the right way: run hard to first base, move runners over, hit the cutoff man, back up bases, get ahead of hitters.
“Everything you do, you don’t take for granted one day that you put on a Major League uniform,” Mills said. Later, he added, “We’ve all heard that losing’s a habit. Well, so’s winning.”
Other camp notes and miscellaneous tidbits:
* The pitchers who threw live batting practice for the first time on Sunday include: LHP Fernando Abad, RHP Juan Abreu, LHP Xavier Cedeno, LHP Zach Duke, LHP Sergio Escalona, LHP J.A. Happ, RHP Arcenio Leon, RHP Jordan Lyles, RHP Brandon Lyon, RHP Brett Myers, RHP Lance Pendleton, RHP Henry Sosa, RHP Jose Valdez, RHP Kyle Weiland and LHP Wesley Wright.
* Carlos Lee said he hasn’t decided whether to retire after his contract runs out this year. He sounded as if he’d see what he has left performance-wise this year and make a decision after that. He also said he was amenable to the idea of serving as the Astros’ designated hitter when they move to the American League in 2013.
* Currently, just 10 of the 63 players in the Astros camp are 30 years old or older. Six of the 35 position players and four of the 28 pitchers in camp are 30 or older.
The over-30 position players: Jason Bourgeois (30), Jack Cust (33), Carlos Lee (35), Humberto Quintero (32), Chris Snyder (31) and Joe Thurston (32). The pitchers: Livan Hernandez (37), Brandon Lyon (32), Brett Myers (31) and Wandy Rodriguez (33).
* The Astros Grapefruit League home opener on March 3 will be Scout Day at Osceola County Stadium, which will include a parade and special activities for area Boy Scouts attending the game. Other promotional days include: March 6 vs. the Mets: the first 2,000 fans will receive an Astros Visor; March 13 vs. the Phillies: the first 2,000 fans will receive an Astros Drawstring Backpack.
March 18 will be Florida Hospital Employee Day, which will include special discounted tickets for employees of Florida Hospital. March 30 will be Teacher Night, during which each area school’s Teacher of the Year will be recognized. School employees can purchase discounted tickets.
* Literacy Advance of Houston and Larry Dierker will host the Reader Cup – Larry Dierker Celebrity Golf Tournament on Monday (Feb. 27). In addition to a raffle and live auction, they are also offering a custom-made Hawaiian shirt in honor of Dierker, for a donation of $50 to Literacy Advance.
And finally, the photo gallery from a well-populated workout at the Osceola County Stadium complex: