May 2012

Astros lineup 5/19 vs. Rangers. First pitch 6:15 p.m. CT. Roof closed.

Astros notes: Lone Star Series, throwback jerseys, Korea and Kerry Wood.


Unscientifically speaking, the Colt .45s jerseys the Astros wore in April had a higher buzz-factor than the shooting star jerseys on the docket for Flashback Fridays this month.

I attribute the buzz simply to curiosity. The Colt .45s were only around for three years before the name changed. Presumably, the logo and jerseys are intriguing, because you can’t find that stuff just anywhere these days.

That said, while there was a little more curiosity about the Colt .45s logo, the shooting star uniforms that the Astros wore when they moved to the Dome — and subsequently brought back this month to celebrate the club’s 50th anniversary — seem to have generated more oohs and ahhs. It’s clean. It’s elegant. And it’s pleasing to the eye. Clearly, the shooting star has struck a chord in many of you. It’s simple, yet it has a uniqueness that makes it so identifiable to Houston.

The fans aren’t the only ones embracing the retro jerseys. The players have also enjoyed wearing the throwbacks on Fridays this season, and why not? It mixes things up a little in a long season during which the uniforms don’t vary all that much.

And they’ve worn them well…


A few of you had questions about the chain of events when a player’s contract is sold to a team overseas, as was the case on Friday when the Astros sold right-hander Henry Sosa’s contract to the Kia Tigers of the Korean Baseball Organization.

Mainly, you want to know: does Sosa have any say in the matter or does he have to go?

A players cannot be forced to go and he has to give his consent before the Major League team he’s affiliated with can move on a deal. In most cases, when a player’s contract is sold mid-season, it is the foreign club that initiates the discussion. It begins with a status check via Major League Baseball, at which time the Major League club either approves it — meaning, it is willing to discuss the player with the foreign team — or declines, and nothing happens.

In this case, the Astros were aware that Sosa had an interest in going overseas, if something was to develop. After it was approved, the two clubs then reached an agreement on a monetary exchange. That part was conditional on Sosa and the Korean team reaching an agreement.

In a nutshell, Sosa had an interest in playing in Korea, and the Astros, who don’t envision Sosa as being a contributor on the Major League level for them, said yes.

Best of luck to Sosa. He fit in well here after he came over from San Francisco in the Jeff Keppinger trade last year and had some nice moments as both a starter and reliever. I loved that he learned English by listening to country music, and that the first song he picked to do so was “Fishing in the Dark” by the Nitty Gritty Dirt Band. All told, he had over 1,000 country songs loaded on his phone, and he was always looking for more.

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Right around Christmas in 1997, Astros employees were given a videotape (yes, I’m talking VHS) of the game against the Chicago Cubs that clinched the NL Central division that year. Several years ago I popped the tape into my VCR (yes, I still have one of those) and chuckled at a particular dialogue the television announcers were having about a young prospect barreling through the Cubs’ Minor League system.

Bill Brown mentioned a young fireballer from Texas who was apparently going to be the next big thing, a projected top-of-the-rotation power pitcher who was already drawing comparisons to Nolan Ryan. He was drafted in the first round by the Cubs two years earlier and appeared poised to break in the big leagues soon, possibly as early as the next season.

Kerry Wood indeed debuted in 1998, and three weeks later, he took the mound against the Astros at Wrigley Field. Dubbed by many — over and over and over again — as a “20-year-old phenom,” Wood pitched one of the most dominating games in the history of baseball, striking out 20 and one-hitting a veteran Astros lineup that spent the afternoon simply baffled by what Wood was serving up.

That game undoubtedly is what popped into the minds of most Houston baseball fans when Wood announced his retirement on Friday. But here’s one more that stands out to me.

Late in 2007, in the mid-morning hours prior to a day game at Wrigley Field between the Astros and Cubs, Wood and pitching teammate Ryan Dempster went to the visitor’s clubhouse to pay a visit to Craig Biggio.

Biggio had announced his retirement a month earlier and was being saluted by a lot of opposing teams as the Astros traveled through the league. Wrigley Field was Biggio’s favorite ballpark to play, and Wood and Dempster, perhaps knowing this, presented him with two souvenirs: a number seven from the famous outfield scoreboard, and a seat from the stands, one labeled with a number seven.

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More images from the Lone Star Series opener at Minute Maid Park:

Hall of Famer Nolan Ryan threw out the ceremonial first pitch before Friday’s game.

Chris Snyder has probably caught a lot of ceremonial first pitches in his career, but I’m guessing he’ll remember this one the best.

Former UT softball star Cat Osterman also threw out a first pitch, in honor of UT night at Minute Maid Park.

Osterman and Ryan chatted after the pregame ceremonies concluded.

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“Mic’d Up” Astros offer behind-the-scenes view of life in baseball.

Over the course of around 200 batting practices — 30-some during Spring Training and another 162 during the season — there’s plenty of time to be filled while players go through the normal pregame routine on the field.

Infielders taking grounders, outfielders shagging fly balls and pitchers getting their hacks in the cages before the official beginning of BP is serious business, of course. But it also involves a lot of standing in one spot for long stretches. Naturally, over the course of a couple of hours, there’s plenty of chatter among teammates to pass the time.

These conversations often prove to be highly entertaining, which is what the Astros had in mind when they devised a new webisode campaign called “Mic’d Up.” The premise is pretty basic: they place a mic on a player as he goes through his gameday routine, and capture the interesting parts: the witticisms, the banter, the general back-and-forth between teammates and the support staff that works around them.

J.D. Martinez talked about hitting, not hitting and his hometown (among other things) in his “Mic’d Up” webisode.

The webisodes, which first featured Bud Norris, followed by J.D. Martinez and Carlos Lee, are an expansion of the Astros ROOT. ROOT. ROOT. campaign, which last night received the 2012 American Marketing Association-Houston Crystal Award for the Best Branding/Rebranding campaign.

New webisodes featuring Chris Johnson, Jordan Schafer and first-base coach Bobby Meacham will be added in the upcoming days.

One of the objectives of the ROOT. ROOT. ROOT. campaign, which was launched in March is to provide fans with an  up-close-and-personal look at the 2012 team.

Carlos Lee does a pretty good impression of Jordan Schafer getting hit by a pitch, as you’ll see in Lee’s “Mic’d Up” webisode.

In addition to the webisodes, the Astros have debuted a television campaign, which will be shown tonight on the Astros-Rangers telecast on FS Houston. The commercials feature clips showcasing the intense mental and physical preparation of several players while their voices provide a backdrop description.

This leads to  a short, exciting reel of recent Astros game highlights. Throughout the season, new creative will
be introduced highlighting the Astros young, driven players and the “play hard, play smart” attitude that they
bring to their jobs each day.

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Astros lineup 5/18 vs. Rangers. Roof closed. First pitch 7:05 p.m. CT

Astros lineup 5/17 vs. Brewers. Roof closed. First pitch 7:05 p.m. CT

The Astros are Mic’d up and unscripted. First up: Bud Norris.

Just when you think you know everything there is to know about someone, you find out that you’ve barely scratched the surface.

I mean, until recently, I had no idea what Bud Norris does to pass the time during games, on days he’s not starting. Turns out, he does plenty. He eats sunflower seeds. He chats up teammates. He gives virtual high-fives from the dugout when one of his mates does something spectacular on the field.

He also discusses movies, swats at bugs and reveals details about his sister’s pending engagement.

Now, all of these fun details can be viewed, dissected and discussed while watching on your laptop or smart phone. The Astros have put together a series of light, funny videos titled “Mic’d Up,” where they record a player’s every move, unscripted and unfiltered (although edited later for content, of course), and lay it all out there for public consumption.

Not everyone can simultaneously chat with a teammate AND swat mosquitoes. So sneaky, that Bud Norris.

Norris’s was the first video released by the club, but you can expect many more. On deck: J.D. Martinez, Carlos Lee and Chris Johnson.

Enjoy!

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Astros lineup 5/16 vs. Brewers. Roof closed. First pitch: 7:05 p.m. CT

Astros lineup 5/15 at Phillies. Gametime: 12:05 p.m. CT

It’s not always sunny in Philadelphia. Just check out Tuesday’s forecast.

Buddy, can you spare a roof?

A wise man once said, “I’m no weather man, but it’s not looking good out there.”

OK, so the wise man was MLB.com’s Brian McTaggart. And sure, a few of us might make a case that Tags may be more of a wise guy than a wise man. And he wasn’t prophetic as much as he was just efficient, following the moving radar on his iPhone. Oh, and when Tags said it, he was actually referring to one of the games the Astros played in Pittsburgh over the weekend.

Still, Tags’ words indeed hold true as we inch toward the end of this all-Pennsylvania roadie. The rain was steady on Monday but not heavy enough to delay the game, but Tuesday’s not, well, looking good out there. The rain is going to continue overnight and is expected to get worse. It also appears the showers will hover over Philly until at least 1 a.m. Tuesday night/Wednesday morning.

The Astros’ starting pitcher for Tuesday is still TBA, and the way it’s looking, the start time is also TBA, or perhaps NHE, as in, Not Happening, Ever.

For now, though, we’ll proceed as scheduled, with the game slated to begin at 1:05 p.m. ET.  But it could be a long day of sitting around and waiting for the rain to subside. That said, both teams have an offday on Aug. 27. The Astros will finish a weekend series with the Mets in New York on Aug. 26 and could theoretically swing back through Philly for one game the next day.

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When the Astros host the Reds on Saturday, June 2, we’ll be hosting our second Social Media Night in the Budweiser Patio. We’ll be joined by one of the Astros’ more regular tweeters, Chris Johnson (@cjastros23), who will be on hand to award prizes to the winners of our Twitter Trivia contest.

Tickets cost $45 and include a ticket on the Bud Patio, batting practice viewing, dinner, dessert, a t-shirt and an opportunity to win prizes during Twitter Trivia.

Prize winners will receive a signed baseball from Johnson and will also receive a copy, via email, of a photo with CJ.

Won’t you join us?

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J.D. Martinez was reinserted into the lineup for the finale in Pittsburgh on Sunday, but the return to the field doesn’t seem to be permanent. After giving the struggling Martinez three consecutive games off,  manager Brad Mills was hoping that by putting the left fielder back in the three-hole, where he spent most of April, he’d be more comfortable upon returning to the lineup.

It appears now, however, that Mills will be more selective about when he plays Martinez, who was 0-for-4 on Sunday and is hitless in his last 25 at-bats. Mills said he will “pick and choose” games to play Martinez with hopes of working him back slowly.

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Our intrepid general manager, Jeff Luhnow, will conduct an online chat session with fans during the Astros’ game with the Cubs on Tuesday, May 22. The chat will take place from 7:30 to 8 CT. We will tweet a link on @astros soon. All fans are invited to sign in and participate.

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The 1960s shooting star jerseys that made such a splash earlier this month are making a repeat appearance on Friday, as the Astros celebrate another Flashback Friday at Minute Maid Park. Nolan Ryan will be the fourth iconic alum to throw out the ceremonial first pitch, falling in line after Bob Aspromonte (April 10), Larry Dierker (April 20) and Rusty Staub (May 4).

Here’s the rest of the first pitch schedule:

June 1 vs. CIN    J.R. Richard
June 22 vs. CLE    Joe Morgan
July 6 vs. MIL    Jose Cruz
July 27 vs. PIT Mike Scott
Aug. 10 vs. MIL Jeff Bagwell
Aug. 17 vs. ARI  Brad Ausmus
Aug. 31 vs. CIN  Shane Reynolds
Sept. 14 vs. PHI Jeff Kent
Sept. 21 vs. PIT Craig Biggio

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Astros lineup 5/14 at Phillies. First pitch 6:05 p.m. CT.

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