April 2012

Astros lineup 4/18 at Nationals. First pitch 6:05 p.m. CT.

Flashback Friday and Social Media Night: a jam-packed weekend at Minute Maid Park.

Jose Altuve will be quite flashy on Flashback Friday later this week.

The Astros are gearing up for another Flashback Friday, which will include a retro uniform, a replica jersey giveaway and a first pitch thrown by a popular player from our history.

This Friday (April 20), the team will again wear the Colt .45s uniforms first worn on April 10, the anniversary of the first Major League game played in Houston. Larry Dierker, who made his debut as a Colt .45 on his 18th birthday — Sept. 22, 1964 — will throw out the ceremonial first pitch and will also sign autographs from 6 to 6:30 p.m. CT near section 118.

Additionally, 10,000 fans attending Friday’s game will receive a replica Colt .45s jersey. The jersey has the Colt .45s logo on it, but since the jerseys had to be ordered months in advance of Friday’s game, they do not have the revolver on the front.

In March, after Astros fans voiced their opinions to include the revolver on the jersey that will be worn by the Astros players, Owner and Chairman Jim Crane made the decision to add it to the player’s jerseys. However, the 10,000 replica jerseys had to be ordered well in advance of Crane’s decision in order to arrive in time for Friday night’s game.

The Astros have come up with a plan that will still allow fans to receive the replica jersey in its authentic form. It will be added as a giveaway item for one of the games during Legends Weekend, scheduled for Sept. 21-23. The date of that game will be announced in the near future.

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Tickets are still available for our first of four Social Media Nights, scheduled for this Saturday (April 21). One of our most active tweeters, pitcher Bud Norris (@budnorris20), will be the featured guest and will be on hand to hand out prizes to fans during the Twitter Trivia portion of the event.

At least 12 prizes, signed by and presented by Bud Norris, will be given out Saturday at Social Media Night.

The event will take place in the Budweiser Patio behind center field and includes batting practice viewing, dinner, a game ticket, a t-shirt and the opportunity to win prizes through Twitter trivia. The prizes will be signed by Norris, and he will present them, in person, to the winners. (NOTE: You must be on Twitter to participate in the trivia contest.)

Tickets for Social Media Night cost $45. The program begins at 3 p.m., in advance of the 6:05 game time. We’ll meet in the lobby of Union Station and the group will be escorted to the seats just behind the Astros dugout, where you’ll watch the Astros take batting practice. At 5 p.m., we’ll gather at the Budweiser Patio, and soon after, the Twitter trivia contest will begin. We’ll ask a question over the mic, and the first person to tweet me the correct answer will win a signed baseball.

Dinner (we’ll announce a set menu with a veggie option soon) will be served close to gametime. Everyone will receive a Social Media Night t-shirt, which includes the Twitter handles of all participating Astros.

You can order tickets here. Hope to see you Saturday!

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Astros lineup 4/15 at Marlins, on Jackie Robinson Day. First pitch 12:10 CT

Saturday notes: Social Media Night, Astros Twitter handles and some good eatin’ at Marlins Park.

Social Media Nights have become a staple at Minute Maid Park since we first introduced them in 2010, and with nearly half the team now regularly tweeting, it’s only fitting that we keep the tradition going this year.

One of our most active tweeters, pitcher Bud Norris (@budnorris20), will be the featured guest for our first Social Media Night, set for this Saturday (April 21). The event takes place in the Budweiser Patio behind center field and includes batting practice viewing, dinner, a game ticket, a t-shirt and the opportunity to win prizes through Twitter trivia. The prizes will be signed by Norris, and he will present them, in person, to the winners.

(NOTE: You must be on Twitter to participate in the trivia contest.)


Tickets for Social Media Night cost $45. The program begins at 3 p.m., in advance of the 6:05 game time. We’ll meet in the lobby of Union Station and the group will be escorted to the seats just behind the Astros dugout, where you’ll watch the Astros take batting practice. At 5 p.m., we’ll gather at the Budweiser Patio, and soon after, the Twitter trivia contest will begin. We’ll ask a question over the mic, and the first person to tweet me the correct answer will win a signed baseball.

Dinner (we’ll vote on what to serve in the next few days) will be served close to gametime. Everyone will receive a Social Media Night t-shirt, which includes the Twitter handles of all participating Astros.

You can order tickets here. Hope to see you Saturday!

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A lot of you have asked for a full rundown of Astros players on Twitter. Here you go:

@cjastros23 Chris Johnson
@brianbogusevic Brian Bogusevic
@budnorris20 Bud Norris
@downstown16 Matt Downs
@JordanSchafer Jordan Schafer
@JDMartinez14 J.D Martinez
@J_Castro15 Jason Castro
@lucasharrell34 Lucas Harrell
@Carlos45Lee Carlos Lee
@realweswright Wesley Wright

And a few others who you’re familiar with as well:

@brettwallace29 Brett Wallace
@JB_SHUCK J.B. Shuck
@jordanlyles41 Jordan Lyles

And more:

@jluhnow Jeff Luhnow, General Manager
@astros Astros Twitter
@losastros Astros Spanish Twitter
@Astrosradio Brett Dolan, radio announcer
@FRomeroAstros Francisco Romero, Spanish radio announcer
@daveraymond4 Dave Raymond, Radio announcer
Hind_snatcher12 catching coordinator Danny Sheaffer

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The hospitable folks who run the Miami Marlins culinary operation were kind enough to introduce a few of us to new food items served at Marlins Park this year. By “introduce us,” of course, I really mean “stuff our faces,” and we’re ever so grateful for their hospitality.

I would never post video on the internet of me shoveling food into my mouth, so instead, I solicited help from two friends from the broadcasting side: TV analyst Jim Deshaies and radio announcer Dave Raymond, each of whom have experience with food dribbling on their ties while on camera.

We’re putting the finishing touches on a future blog detailing the new eats at Minute Maid Park, but in the interim, take a look at a few Miami-centric food items that they’ve got cooking at the Marlins games. In a word: delicious.

The Mahi Tacos were unanimously voted by our panel of four as the most delicious item on the menu. Dave called them "stupid good."

The "Steak and Wedge": beef tenderloin, a dash of steak sauce, bleu cheese dressing, caramelized onion. Delish!

J.D. finishing off the Mahi: "I'm trying to pace myself, but I can't. So I'll keep eating."

Me: "Now, what's this called again?" Them: "Uh, Helmet Nachos." Ah. Right. Makes sense.

Lobster rolls, with the coolest baseball toothpicks holding everything together. A great touch for a delicious dish.

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Astros lineup 4/14 at Marlins. First pitch 6:10 CT.

The Marlins new ballpark: a very colorful experience.

One Marlins official probably said it best when he gave his assessment of the new Marlins Park: “We know it wouldn’t work the Northeast or other parts of the country. But it works here.”

I’m trying to find the proper words to describe the brand new home of the Miami Marlins. It’s definitely eye-catching. There’s a lot to take in at once. The lime green walls. The fish tanks behind home plate. The sculpture just to the left of straightaway center that I’ve been referring to on Twitter as the “home run #thingy.”

There’s a lot to like about this place. The ballpark, seating-wise, is cozy, with only 37,000 seats. So there is a more intimate feel here. The trapezoid-shaped scoreboard is funky and interesting, and the fish tanks that you’ve heard so much about? A very cool, Florida-like touch.

I’d like to first watch a game from here with the roof open before I make a final judgment. I’m guessing it’s a lot more scenic with the Miami skyline peeking out beyond the outfield walls.

New ballparks are always nice, because they’re new, and therefore, clean, and light years ahead of whatever rundown place they were playing in before that necessitated a new facility. So from that standpoint, watching, and/or working, a game here is a pleasant experience.

If I had to pinpoint one thing that I find bothersome (other than the #thingy), it’s the color of the outfield walls, simply because the lime green shade really dulls the color of the natural grass on the field. The extra-bright walls and the true blue color of the seats washes out the greenness of the grass. That’s unfortunate, because a well-manicured grass field is one of the best parts of a baseball stadium.

Take a look. What do you think?

Fish tanks behind home plate.

Home run...sculpture.

Scoreboard.

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Now, on to more important things. Our photo of the day (and possibly of the week and maybe even the season), comes to you from the visitors’ dugout at Marlins Park. This was taken a couple of hours before game time, just as the Astros took the field for batting practice.

The writing on the tape at the top doesn’t show up well. It says: “Altuve 27.”

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Astros lineup 4/13 at Marlins. First pitch 6:10 CT.

More info on Colt .45s jerseys on sale to the public, plus thoughts on old ballparks: Charming? Or a “dump”?

Many of you have asked about the availability of the Colt .45s jerseys and caps for purchase. Here’s the skinny:

* Both are available in the Astros Team Store at Minute Maid Park and will be sold throughout the season. Originally the plan was to sell them only in April, but the response has been tremendous, prompting the merchandise folks to extend the availability for the remainder of the season.

* Throwback jerseys and caps are available at the Team Store only. They will not be sold online.

* The Colt .45s items are not the only throwbacks being sold. Also available currently are the Shooting Star jerseys and caps and the Rainbow jerseys and caps. The white jersey with the gold star is not yet in the store but will be in the near future.

* The prices vary. Jerseys will start at around $250. The caps will range from $35 to $40.

* Game-worn throwback jerseys/caps will be sold at the Astros Authentics kiosk on the main concourse, behind the home plate area. They will be sold, obviously, after the final game that the team wears the items. The Colt .45s items — sold together as a jersey/cap package – will be sold starting April 21. The prices for those will be higher than non-game worn uniforms. Each item will be authenticated by Major League Baseball. Throwback helmets are also being produced, and those will be sold separately.

* The Astros will wear the same Colt .45s uniforms on April 20 as they wore last week on the big anniversary day. If you missed it the first time, here’s the link for tickets to the next one.

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I had to chuckle a little when I read former Astros outfielder Luke Scott again made headlines with seemingly controversial comments on topics sensitive to certain sections of baseball’s fanbase.

Rather than discussing guns and politics, this time, Scott — now a member of the Rays — had some interesting observations about Fenway Park, the old and famed home of the Boston Red Sox.

Scott doesn’t much care for the ballpark, referring to it as a “dump” with less-than-desirable working conditions.

“As a baseball player, going there to work, it’s a dump,” Scott said to MLB.com. “I mean, it’s old. It does have a great feel and nostalgia, but at the end of the day, I’d rather be at a good facility where I can get my work in. A place where I can go hit the cage, where I have space and it’s a little more comfortable to come to work.

“You’re packed in like sardines there. It’s hard to get your work in. …You have to go to their weight room if you want to lift. From a fan’s perspective, it’s probably pretty cool to go see a game at a historic park. But from a player’s point of view, it’s not a place where you want to go to work.”

While this stuff is music to the ears of reporters always looking for tidbits that will give them an edge over the colleagues they compete with daily, in reality, what Scott said isn’t all that controversial. For one thing, he’s right.

From a fan’s standpoint, the old ballparks are nostalgic and wonderful. But for those who make a living in baseball — the players, managers, coaches, athletic training staffs, reporters, and on and on — old and nostalgic and wonderful usually translates to one word: inconvenient.

That’s not a complaint necessarily. It’s just reality. For example, there is no place in baseball I love more than Wrigley Field. It’s baseball heaven. The scenery. The atmosphere. The neighborhood setting. There’s no Jumbotron, no between-inning gimmicks, no Kiss Cam, no t-shirt tosses. It’s just, plain and simple, baseball, in the most traditional sense.

But working there? Well…

As a visitor, you figure out how to make it work. You climb endless ramps to the very tip-top to get to the press box. (There’s one elevator, somewhere, but it’s far away and no one uses it.) The quarters are cramped. The broadcasts booths are teeny tiny. The press box area is a decent size, but it’s normally packed and you have to listen to radio reporters screaming in-game updates back to their stations every 30 minutes.

If you want to have any chance at all to get to the clubhouse in time for it to open postgame, you have to start the journey before the game is over — at the top of the ninth when your team is losing, and at the bottom if your team is winning. If you don’t get a head start, you will be stuck in ramp traffic for a good 20 minutes and will miss the manager’s session.

Hardships? Nah. It’s still a great place to be. Inconvenient? You bet.

Scott’s word choice — sardines — has been uttered by just about every player who has ever passed through the visiting clubhouses at both Fenway and Wrigley. Mobility does not exist. The weight room is in the home clubhouse. Reporters have to be careful when they’re interviewing players in the far corner, so as to not end up in the bathroom, standing near someone who might be utilizing the facilities.

(When the Astros played at Fenway in 2003, Jimy Williams held a team meeting in the shower area. Truly.)

I know what you’re thinking B-O-O H-O-O. Yea, I hear you. Rough life. Really, it’s not. Any day you’re working at Wrigley, or Fenway, or anywhere in Major League Baseball, it’s a very, very good day. We love it. That’s why we do it.

But what’s sometimes hard for fans to understand is that this is very much a job. Ballplayers go to the park every day with a list of things they need to do, just like anyone in the working world. And as much appreciation as they have for the old, historic ballparks, and as much as they enjoy the experience once the first pitch is thrown, the work day, as a whole, is challenging. They’re happy to be there, but prefer to be elsewhere.

What you see on TV is, in fact, wonderful. Behind the scenes can be something entirely different.

To illustrate:

If you were a player, would you rather hang out here, at Wrigley...

...or here, in Houston?

Brett Dolan and Dave Raymond are a close-knit duo, especially when they have no choice while calling games from Wrigley.

Brownie and J.D. taped their opening segment while trying not to sit on each other.

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Life on the road sounds glamorous, but when you do this long enough, you learn to appreciate the simple things. My ideal criteria while traveling:

Hotel:
1. A place nearby to get a good cup of coffee in the morning
2. Wireless access that actually works.
3. A short walk to the ballpark.
4. A place nearby that stays open late enough after games to get a beverage tastier and more effective than, say, Mountain Dew.
Ballpark:
1. A convenient path to the press box and clubhouse.
2. Wireless access that actually works.
3. A decent meal in the media dining room that does not include fried foods, old deli meat or things cooked in lard.
4. A spacious press box that allows for a decent amount of space between and McTaggart and yours truly.

That is it. That is why I look forward to the trips to Pittsburgh and Milwaukee and a few other cities that normally wouldn’t seem like destination spots. Great restaurants and hip nightlife? No thanks. I just want to be able to get online and enjoy a hot cup o’ Joe.

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Astros notes: Road tripping in Miami with a slightly altered roster.

The Astros hit the road this week for their first games away from Minute Maid Park with a slightly different look to their roster. As expected, Jed Lowrie, fresh off a successful rehab stint with Triple-A Oklahoma City, has rejoined the Astros and will be in the lineup Friday when the team begins a three-game weekend set with the Miami Marlins at their newly-minted ballpark near South Beach.

To make room for Lowrie on the 25-man roster, Brian Bixler was optioned to Oklahoma City.

You’ll hear a familiar voice on the radio if you listen to the Astros games while they’re in Miami.  Milo Hamilton, who normally announces only home games, is with the club for this leg of the trip. The Marlins ballpark will be No. 59 on his list of Major League stadiums he’s called games from.

Finally, please enjoy this writeup from guest blogger Dairanetta Spain, the Astros’ manager of community affairs. This week, she tackles the Astros Buddies Club, a time-honored tradition that has spanned generations and reached thousands of kids over the years.

Rainbows and Shooting Stars: Astros Buddies Kids Club Goes Retro

By Dairanetta Spain

It’s interesting how often fans mention that Astros alumni Jose “Cheo” Cruz, Jimmy “The Toy Cannon” Wynn, J.R. Richard and many more were their Astros Buddy or how often they share that they were a “Buddy.”

For years, the franchise’s kids club has connected youth to their hometown team since its inception, dating back to the Colt .45s era (then the Six Shooter Club).  Some members have remained close to the team and are current season ticket holders, avid fans and even current Astros employees.

The club has evolved through the years, but a kid’s connection to the club remains the heart and focus. Year after year, Astros Buddies receive their own personalized membership package enclosed with a membership card, their favorite player’s photo card and Astros trinkets, which have varied from season-to-season. Past and present Buddies events range from Photo Day at the Astrodome to the Members-Only autograph party and Buddies Behind-The-Scenes Day.

Among Astros “Flashback Fridays”, Walk of Fame inductions and 50th anniversary giveaways, the retro-themed 2012 Coca-Cola Astros Buddies Kids Club gives members their own piece of Astros history.

The 2012 Buddies club offers two memberships to choose from – the free Rookie membership and the loaded $20 MVP membership – there’s affordable fun for everyone!

In addition to members-only autograph sessions and a kids press conference with players, MVP members receive four free tickets to an Astros home game, a collector’s baseball cap, rainbow jersey drawstring bag, a wall banner, and other cool items, all celebrating the team’s 50th anniversary.

Kids 14 and under can be a part of the club’s 50th anniversary by joining at www.astros.com/buddies

Astros Authentics Manager and former Buddies member Mike Acosta (far left) with Joe Niekro at Photo Day on August 18, 1985.

The original kids club when the Colt .45s started up in 1962 was the Six Shooter Club. Here's the membership card.

Premium items for Buddies Club members.

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Astros lineup 4/11 vs. Braves. Roof open. First pitch 7:05 p.m. CT

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