Archive for the ‘ Dailies ’ Category

Pence is auctioning off his Twitter profile, for charity.

Last season, Hunter Pence took the Twitterverse by storm, and over time, we’ve grown accustomed to the flurry of activity that populates his Twitter account, @hunterpence9. He uses the forum to communicate with fans, give updates on his career and, most recently, raise money for charitable causes.

Pence is currently participating in TwitChange, where celebrities auction off their Twitter profiles for charity. Fans bit on a follow, retweet or mention and a package of all three. Hunter is also adding an autographed ball to the winner of each auction.

Pence’s charity of choice is Operation Once in a Lifetime, whose mission is to make the dreams of U.S. Soldiers and their families come true by providing free financial and morale support to U.S Service members, their families and veterans.

There is still time to put in a bid, but the auction ends Saturday. Here is Pence’s TwitChange page, where you can start bidding now:

For a complete list of celebrities participating in TwitChange, check this out :  (Pence is about halfway down, on the right.)

Speaking of Twitter, Astros radio announcer Brett Dolan is the first of the club’s broadcasting team to hop on the Twitter bandwagon, and he’s already amassed over 300 followers. Brett’s funny and entertaining, and he’s going to be tweeting through Spring Training and the regular season. All good news for Astros fans. Give him a follow at @astrosradio for a bird’s-eye view of life in the broadcasting booth.

We also have a Spanish twitter account, @losastros, in addition our English-speaking Astros Twitter account, @astrosblast.

Chilly memories on a frigid Houston day.

There’s not much I miss about the Midwest, but every so often, this time of year, I get wistful about one element from my childhood.

Snow Days.

Yes, Snow Days with a capital S and a capital D. They deserve that distinction because they were better than holidays, better than weekends, better than the prom (come to think of it, looking back, wasn’t everything better than the prom?). Snow Days were spontaneous and spectacular, given to us on a moment’s notice while triggering absolute euphoria that affected everyone the same way, whether age eight or 18.

Ah, Snow Days.

I try to explain Snow Days to my friends in Houston — at least, to the ones who grew up here. They get it, to a point, but it’s simply impossible to explain how fantastically awesome they were, especially for a certain teenage kid whose best subjects were Study Hall and Typing and who vowed never to set foot in a classroom again once her formal education was complete.

The chain of events was simple. We’d stand at the window the night before, hands clasped, and watch the snow dump all over our neighborhoods. And we’d pray to the Snow Gods, for three things: a blizzard, a little ice, and no break in the dumpage until morning. No messing around: make the streets impassable, and the driveways unshovel-able, and do it in such dramatic fashion that the superintendent had no choice but to tell everyone not to come in that day.

Then we’d get up in the morning, run back to the window and assess just how bad — and by bad, I mean, good — it looked out there.

Next step: turn on the TV, cross fingers, and listen for our school’s name to be mentioned among the dozens of closings.

Those minutes can be agonizing. I’m sure it was the same for every kid in Dayton, Ohio but I swear, it seemed like my school was always the very last one mentioned.

And then we’d hear those four glorious words: “Northmont High School. Closed.”

Occasionally, the closings wouldn’t be announced until we were already on our way to school. That was irritating, but after we were of driving age, it could also be highly entertaining. I carpooled with three friends, and often, after we’d get the good news over the radio, we’d turn the car around, head to Bob Evans and eat pancakes (except for my friend Jennifer. She usually ordered the cherry pie.)

What do Snow Days have to do with baseball, you ask? Nothing. But I was sitting in my office late Thursday afternoon and chuckled a bit when a company-wide email hit everyone’s Inboxes at the same time. It was from our president, informing us that due to extreme weather, our offices will be closed on Friday.

Perhaps not so coincidentally, the level of chatter from cubicle to cubicle seemed to get slightly more animated.

Snow Day!

(Stay safe, everyone.)

Video board installation complete. Bring on Opening Day.


You have to feel at least a tiny bit of empathy for the members of the team from Daktronics that installed the Astros’ new video board. They probably figured they were going to have a nice, pleasant week of typical Houston winter weather while working on this gigantic project —
temps in the 50s or 60s, light winds, probably at least a little sun peeking through.

Oops. While Houston isn’t suffering nearly as much as our friends up north, the drastic drop in temperature over the last 24 hours has made this one chilly town. And on Wednesday, as the last piece of the 90-something piece video board went up, the mercury on the
thermometer had not yet passed 25 degrees.

Nonetheless, the ceremonial installation of the final piece of the world’s largest puzzle was complete by noon, while many of the front office, including Ed Wade and Tal Smith and their staff, watched with admiration from the field.

Kudos to Daktronics and their installation team for a job well done. (And for giving us an excuse to hold a barbecue celebration in the 5/7 Grille after it was over. When all else fails, just eat cake.)


Video board (s) bare facts:

*Located in right field
*54 feet high x 124 feet wide
*Square Pixels: 1,080 feet (h) x 2,472 feet(w)
*High Definition Quality
*Total Square Footage: 6,695 (approximately)
*Fourth-largest video board in MLB (3rd in NL)

*Located in left field
*24 feet high x 40 feet wide
*Square Pixels: 480 feet (h) x 792 feet(w)
*High Definition Quality

*Located above club level, spanning from foul pole to foul pole
*997 feet in length (3 feet, 8 inches high)
*Square Pixels: 14,940 feet(w) x 54 (h)

And the pictures, play-by-play style…






And we’re done!


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If only we earned frequent flier miles for caravans…

Three thousand miles, 13 cities, 13 days. And it isn’t even Spring Training yet! Another caravan season is complete, and it appears few stones, if any, were left unturned. A full rundown, courtesy of the Astros Community Affairs department…


– The Houston Astros 2011 Caravan wrapped up another successful tour on
Saturday, January 29 with a clinic at the Houston Astros MLB Urban Youth
Academy.  With that event, the Astros caravan completed its annual tour,
making 44 stops in 13 cities over 13 days traveling more than 3,000 miles.

January the Astros caravan hits the road visiting fans throughout Texas and
this year we expanded our travels to Oklahoma City, the home of our new AAA
team,” said Astros owner Drayton McLane.  “The caravan is something we
have been doing for many years and we enjoy and are grateful for the
opportunity it gives us to spend quality time with our fans.”

Houston Astros 2011 Caravan began with three full days of visits throughout the
Houston area (Jan. 13-15).  Highlights included a reading pep rally at
Northshore Middle School, hosting an elementary class from Bauerschlag Elementary
to a behind-the-scenes tour at NASA, a visit with the citizens of Brookwood
Community Center and free, public autograph sessions at Academy Sports +
Outdoors stores. 

the caravan’s second week, the Astros made a two-day trip to Oklahoma City
(Jan. 18-19), where the team visited pediatric patients at the Jimmy Everest
Center for Cancer, met Oklahoma City fans at several RedHawks functions and
spent time with military personnel at Tinker Air Force Base.  The
three-day swing through central Texas (Jan. 18-20) included visits with kids at
the Helping Hand Home for Children, Dell Children’s Medical Center, Dawson
Elementary School and the Boys and Girls Club, along with several stops at
military installations.  Visits to Corpus Christi and Victoria (Jan. 21)
wrapped up the caravan’s second week.

final week of the tour featured three days in the Temple, Texas area (Jan.
24-26) meeting students from numerous area schools, visiting patients at Scott
and White Hospital and signing autographs for fans at Academy Sports + Outdoors
and the Temple Mall.  The team’s annual trek culminated back in Houston
with a multicultural caravan that visited fans in culturally diverse
communities (Jan. 27-29).

 Activities during each
caravan date are detailed below:



Thursday, January 13 – Houston, Clear Lake and Webster

Bogusevic, Bill Hall, Chris Johnson, Larry Dierker and Jim Deshaies

  • Northshore
    Middle School
  • NASA
  • Academy
    Sports + Outdoors (Webster)


Friday, January 14 – Katy

Hall, Hunter Pence, Bobby Meacham, Jimmy Wynn and Dave Raymond

  • The
    Brookwood Community
  • Katy Elementary School
  • Academy
    Sports + Outdoors (Katy)


Saturday, January 15 – College Station, Cypress and Spring

Bogusevic, Michael Bourn, Bud Norris, Shane Reynolds and Brett Dolan

  • Academy
    Sports + Outdoors (College Station)
  • Academy
    Sports + Outdoors (Cypress)
  • Little
    League Chalk Talk




Tuesday, January 18 – Oklahoma City

Mills, Brandon Lyon, Bud Norris, Jordan Lyles, and Milo Hamilton

  • Jimmy
    Everest Center for Cancer and Blood Disorders in Children at OU Children’s
    Physicians Building
  • Oklahoma
    City RedHawks Season Ticket Holder Reception


Wednesday, January 19 – Oklahoma City

Mills, Brandon Lyon, Bud Norris, Jordan Lyles, and Milo Hamilton

  • Edwards
    Elementary School
  • Oklahoma
    City RedHawks Luncheon
  • Tinker
    Air Force Base
  • Academy
    Sports + Outdoors


Tuesday, January 18 – Austin

Barmes, Chris Johnson, Brett Wallace and Bill Brown

  • Texas
    Military Forces Museum
  • Helping
    Hand Home for Children


Wednesday, January 19 – Austin

Barmes, Chris Johnson, Brett Wallace and Bill Brown

  • Dell
    Children’s Medical Center
  • Dawson
    Elementary School
  • Boys
    and Girls Club of Austin-South Club
  • Academy
    Sports + Outdoors


Thursday, January 20 – San Antonio

Barmes, Chris Johnson, Brett Wallace and Bill Brown

  • Randolph
    Air Force Base
  • Warrior
    Family Support Center
  • Academy
    Sports + Outdoors


Friday, January 21 – Corpus Christi and Victoria

Mills, Bud Norris, Doug Brocail, Milo Hamilton and Fred Nelson, Astros Director
of Player Development

  • Naval
    Air Station Corpus Christi
  • Corpus
    Christi Hooks Luncheon
  • Boys
    and Girls Club of Victoria
  • Academy
    Sports + Outdoors (Victoria)




Monday, January 24 – Temple

Quintero, Nelson Figueroa, Bobby Meacham and Milo Hamilton

  • Yoe
    High School


Tuesday, January 25 – Temple

Mills, Humberto Quintero, Nelson Figueroa and Milo Hamilton

  • University
    of Mary Hardin Baylor – Athlete Breakfast
  • Shoemaker
    High School
  • Belton
    High School
  • Temple
  • Academy
    Sports + Outdoors


Wednesday, January 26 – Temple

Mills, Humberto Quintero, Nelson Figueroa and Milo Hamilton

  • Temple High School
  • Scott
    & White Hospital
  • Temple
    Lions Club Luncheon
  • Temple



Multicultural Caravan Houston Area –

Thursday, January 27 – Houston

Rodriguez, Brian Bogusevic, Alex Trevino and Francisco Romero

  • AAMA
    George I. Sanchez Charter School
  • Fiesta


Friday, January 28 – Houston

Bourgeois, Jason Castro, Humberto Quintero, Alex Trevino and Francisco Romero

  • Pleasantville
  • Chinese
    Community Center


Saturday, January 29 – Houston

Bourgeois, Jason Castro, Michael Bourn, Alex Trevino and Francisco Romero

  • Astros
    MLB Urban Youth Academy Clinic

Video board update: halfway there.

Installation of the new video board began on Saturday around 7 a.m., and by the time the Astros front office staff arrived to work Monday morning, around half of the work was already done.

If everything stays on schedule, the entire board — 54 feet high by 124 feet wide — will be installed by the end of the week.

(For comparison purposes, the old video board was 26 feet high and 45 feet wide.)

Here are updated photos, before-and-after style:

Before: Saturday, late morning:


After: Monday, early morning:



Food and buses. Such is life in the big leagues.


Caravans involve plenty of visits to hospitals, schools and military bases, but the time in between stops involves two things: riding on a bus, and eating.

All things being equal, I think the traveling party can agree the “party bus” we’re on during this tour through Central Texas is the way to go. We’re definitely not as exciting as a bachelor or wedding party, but I can see where this environment would be conducive to such events. Plenty of room, lots of TVs, a bathroom and a refrigerator to keep the bottled water cold.


We’ve been given some fantastic recommendations for restaurants as well. On Tuesday, we had lunch at Salt Lick Barbecue near the Dell Diamond in Round Rock, and today, we had lunch at Threadgills — another fine southern-style establishment with a huge home-cookin’ menu.


Getting up early, driving a couple of hours a day, eating too much…come to think of it, this is good practice for Spring Training.

Kids and military heroes. This is why we caravan.

Caravans traditionally are designed to reach out to fans in and around the Houston area, to get people excited about the season and introduce them to a few players who they might see in uniform in the coming months.

But so often, caravan visits engage people who have no idea who these players are, who have never been to a baseball game and don’t have many opportunities to watch them on TV.

Those are the visits that are often the most meaningful, as the Astros traveling party quickly discovered Tuesday evening when they stopped by the Helping Hand Home for Children in Austin. 

Armed with 24 large pizzas and four two-liters of Sprite, the caravaners — Chris Johnson, Clint Barmes, Brett Wallace and Bill Brown — walked into a room filled with enthusiastic kids who, on the outside, looked like your typical four to 13-year-olds: chatty, wide-eyed, curious.

These kids are anything but typical, however. They come from homes where they were severely abused, or neglected, or both. They were taken out of their homes by the court system and in some cases, the parental rights were completely terminated. In other cases, there’s hope for a reunion with a family member, or a foster family.

But for now — months, or sometimes, years — their place of residence is the Helping Hand Home for Children. And on Tuesday, they partied in style, with four choices of pizza not only provided by the Astros, but served by them as well. As far as I could tell, the players didn’t mess up a single order.


Following dinner, it was playtime. Johnson engaged a bunch of kids in an intense round of Operation, while Wallace went toe-to-toe with a friendly seven-year-old in a game of Jenga. I sat down next to Wallace to watch the game, and the kid looks at Brett, looks at me, and says, “Are you his mother?”


We were asked not to take any pictures of the kids, for privacy/safety reasons. So we had to get a little creative:

CJ, playing Operator with the kids:


Barmes, holding the various forms of origami given to us by one talented kid:


Another youngster asked if he could take a picture with my camera, and as it turns out, it’s one of the few I could use for this blog:


More presents from the kids:


Earlier in the day, we visited Camp Mabry personnel at the Texas Military Forces Museum. The Astros had a meet and greet with Army National Guard, Texas Air National Guard, Texas State Guard and Army and Marine Reserves:






Baseball Dinner and Caravan highlight a busy week

When the 2011 caravan concludes in a couple of weeks, the Astros will have visited more than a dozen cities, talked to hundreds of kids and signed countless amounts of autographs for fans in just about every market considered “Astros territory.”

This week ended with visits to Katy Elementary and the Brookwood Community, in addition to the annual Baseball Dinner, honoring the best players from the 2010 season.

Though they fly under the public radar, the Astros community development department should be commended. These folks have the caravan running like a well-oiled machine, sticking to the schedule and shuffling players in and out of town with perfect timing. Somehow, they’re not a minute late to any scheduled appearance so far have had not one issue with players forgetting where they need to be, or what time they need to be there. I don’t know how they do it, but that’s probably why they’re in charge and the rest of us just follow instructions.

Anyhoo…here’s the pictorial rundown of the week that was (and still is)…

Katy Elementary

Bill Hall, Hunter Pence


Lots and lots and lots of Katy students.


Dave Raymond interviews one lucky student


Bobby Meacham, Hall, Pence



Brookwood Community



Pence with Brookwood residents


Baseball dinner

Astros Rookie of the Year Chris Johnson with his mom, Karen.


Drayton McLane, Hunter Pence, Chris Johnson


A bearded Brett Myers talks to the media before the banquet.


Brad Mills, Chris Johnson





Touring NASA and hula hooping with the kids. Day One of caravan is in the books.

We’ve been to dozens of caravans, school visits, class assemblies and other community events over the years. When we left North Shore Middle School Thursday afternoon, we all agreed that this one was one of the best we’ve ever attended.

The traveling party — Chris Johnson, Brian Bogusevic, Bill Hall, Jim Deshaies and Larry Dierker — were greeted by what seemed to be the entire student body as soon as we arrived to the school. They were lined up from the street all the way through inside of the hallways, loudly applauding as the band played and the cheerleaders, well, cheered.

The assembly was loud, raucous, enthusiastic and very well-behaved. The kids were clearly having a good time, as were the Astros, as you’ll see from the pictures below.

Following the “formal” part of the program, during which select students engaged in a question and answer session with the players, the entertainment began in earnest. The cheerleaders and dance team performed, the entire assembly joined together for a rousing rendition of “Take Me Out to the Ballgame,” followed by — what else? — a round of “Deep in the Heart of Texas,” a staple at Astros game at Minute Maid Park.

Then came the hula hoop contest. This was probably designed to be a competition among the kids only, but the Astros players, led by a very enthusiastic Johnson, quickly jumped in and took a couple of turns with the hoops. CJ was actually pretty good at it. Hall and Bogusevic? Well, let’s just say they get an “A” for effort.









Then we were off to Johnson Space Center, where astronaut Clayton Anderson gave us a tour of a space vehicle mockup facility. We were basically given a tutorial about how astronaunts live during space missions and exist in the very cramped quarters sans gravity for months at a time.

The group was joined by fifth graders from Bauerschlag Elementary. The Astros players were duly impressed when one particularly astute student asked Anderson, “Don’t you suffer from bone deterioration when you’re up in space for so many days?”

Bill Hall raised his hand and observed, “You guys are the smartest kids I’ve ever met.”

Read Brian McTaggart’s coverage of the tour of NASA here.


The players were invited to step into the sleep capsules, where astronauts catch their zzz’s. Not much room for tossing and turning.

The caravan continues Friday, when the Astros visit Brookwood Community Center, Katy Elementary School and Academy Sports + Outdoors at 23155 I-10 West (77450) from 3 to 4 p.m. Astros on deck: Hall, Hunter Pence, Bobby Meacham, Jimmy Wynn and Dave Raymond. 

An Austin high school gets a new field of dreams.



Dan Bergstrom’s home field is Minute Maid Park, but over the last six months, another baseball field also became a major part of his life.

Bergstrom (above), the Astros’ Director of Field Operations (a.k.a. head groundskeeper) spent much of his spare time making the three-hour trek west to Austin, where he spearheaded a renovation project that turned an old, dilapidated high school field into a brand new, sparkling baseball facility.

Every year, the Major League Baseball Groundskeepers convene for industry meetings, during which the group goes into the community and selects a baseball field in need of repair. This year’s recipient was Reagan High School in Austin, Texas.

“The project grown last 10 years,” Bergstrom said. “It used to be basic — we’d hop on bus, go out, fix up the mound, fix up home plate, hop on the bus and go back to class. Now, it’s grown into a deal where we have sponsors through Major League Baseball and the Astros and others.”

Aided by a $40,000 grant from the Baseball Tomorrow Fund and with donations from three major sponsors (Toro, Turface Athletics and Covermaster Incorporated) and the Astros In Action Foundation, the Groundskeepers have overseen the complete renovation of the playing surface and other baseball facility upgrades at Reagan High School.

“It’s an awesome relationship that the Baseball Tomorrow fund has established with Major League Baseball Groundskeepers,” said Cathy Bradley, BTF’s executive director. “We really appreciate their hard work they do in Major League stadiums and we’re thankful they’ve donated their time and efforts to improve community programs in all the cities they visit as a group.”

The field was unveiled Tuesday afternoon at the high school during a ceremony attended by representatives from 24 Major League clubs, in addition to Colorado pitcher Huston Street, an Austin native.


Huston Street

“Growing up in Austin, you always have people that inspire you and offer opportunities that come your way,” Street said. “Today was another step in that process for the next generation of kids. The Major League Baseball groundskeepers — they’re the people that make my life better every single day. And now, they’re doing it for kids.”

Bergstrom received a standing ovation from the crowd as he walked to the podium with a long list of people to thank who helped along with way either with donations or sponsorships or assistance in building the field.

“Every time I came over here, I had people in the community helping me out — 10 to 15 people helping out, doing the work,” Bergstrom said. “It’s really an amazing, special project.”

The ceremony also served as the official launch of RBI Austin. RBI (Reviving Baseball in Inner Cities) is an outreach program of Major League Baseball serving youth ages 5-18 in over 200 cities worldwide.

This is the first RBI program ever in Austin and the 11th program currently in Texas.  RBI Austin will use Austin Reagan’s newly renovated baseball field for clinics and a summer league, reaching youth at Reagan and many surrounding schools in East Austin.

“We are incredibly grateful for the generous contributions and tireless work put into this project,” said Matt Price, Director of RBI Austin. “The renovated field is a huge step forward in our efforts to reinvigorate the love for baseball in this community.”