Results tagged ‘ Brad Mills ’

Random thoughts and tidbits while riding on the bus

We just finished up breakfast with baseball and softball players from Mary Hardin-Baylor and we’re on our way to an assembly at Shoemaker High School. I’ll post pictures from the entire day’s events later today, but in the meantime, here are some unrelated tidbits to chew on:

* Chatting with bullpen assistant Javier Bracamonte during breakfast produced this nugget: Miguel Tejada is currently in Haiti, assisting with relief efforts to help those affected by the earthquake in Port Au Prince. Tejada leased two 18-wheelers from the Dominican Republic and shipped food, water and clothing to the devastated city. That Tejada did this is not at all surprising; in fact, I would have been more surprised had his name not come up while talking about assisting those in need in a desperate time.

* Michael Bourn was asked by a student-athlete about significant moments in his career. Bourn pointed to his rookie season with the Phillies, during a game against the Astros in Houston. He was called on to pinch-run, and Phillies manager Charlie Manuel told him he didn’t want to see him on first base for more than one pitch. “Bad idea,” Bourn recalled. “I was way too hyper.” Meanwhile, the always chatty Astros first baseman, Lance Berkman, said to Bourn, “You’re going to try to steal, aren’t you?” Bourn acted like he didn’t hear him. Three seconds later, “I’m picked off,” Bourn recalled. “And out of the game.”

* Today is Brad Mills’ birthday. He started the day with a 4 a.m. workout — not because he’s such the early riser, but because he basically woke up in the middle of the night and couldn’t go back to sleep. He’ll spend the big 5-3 with 13 hours of caravan stops. Fortunately he’ll have a hearty birthday dinner tonight at Drayton McLane’s annual barbecue in Temple, which will be attended by plenty of Astros favorites, past and present: Roy Oswalt, Hunter Pence, Bud Norris, Doug Brocail, Lance Berkman and Craig Biggio. (Look out Puma, I’m bringing the camera.) .

Renew your season tickets, hang out with Brownie and J.D.

The season of gifting and re-gifting is behind us, but apparently, the Astros are still in the mood to give things away.

They’re offering new incentives for you to renew your season tickets sooner than later, and judging from the quality of the items they’re raffling off, they’re ready to pay up in exchange for the simple act of, well, paying up.

All full-season ticket and 27-game mini-plan account holders who renew, or anyone purchasing a full-season ticket package or 27-game mini package will automatically be entered into daily drawings to win one of 20  pretty heavy-duty prizes.

Perusing through the list, here are my personal favorites:

Meet and greet with a player on the field before a game
A clubhouse tour and meet and greet with manager Brad Mills
A Jeff Bagwell autographed bat

And, the best one (in my humble opinion):
Sit for an inning in the TV booth with two of my favorite people, broadcasters Bill Brown and Jim Deshaies.

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The drawing started Monday and runs weekdays through Jan. 29, and if you’ve already renewed (even before the contest started), you’re automatically entered. If you haven’t renewed, you’ll be eligible for all remaining drawings as soon as you do so.

Click here for more details and a full listing of prizes, which includes sitting in the press box for three innings, watching a game with 12 friends and Jimmy Wynn from one of the suites, and sitting on the field for one of the Friday Night Fireworks displays (presumably, you’ll be near the many players who bring their kids onto the field for fireworks nights).

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Hurry up…and wait.

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above, l to r: club president/baseball operations Tal Smith; assistant GM/scouting Bobby Heck; GM Ed Wade; Minor League Field Coordinator Dick Scott, Asst. GM Ricky Bennett. The group was reviewing the dry erase boards, consisting of lists of players both inside and outside of the organization.

I just spent a couple of hours in general manager Ed Wade’s suite, where most of the morning and early afternoon were spent making lists of discussion topics for a full staff meeting, due to start around 4.

Right now, the main activity is making lists, lists and more lists. Lists of players outside the organization who might be of interest to the Astros, either via free agency or trade market.

Lists of players within the organization that might be considered as trade bait. Lists of Minor Leaguers considered untouchable.

As Brian McTaggart noted in his Winter Meetings preview, relief pitching, third base and bench help are among the Astros’ needs.

At this point, the Astros are simply waiting to hear what decision Jose Valverde has made regarding the Astros’ offer of arbitration. He has until midnight ET tonight at accept or reject.

The Astros are in a good position on this one — if Valverde accepts, they’ll have arguably the best free agent closer in uniform next year. If he rejects, the Astros can still negotiate with him, and if Valverde signs with another team, they’ll get high draft picks.

A Valverde rejection would also give the Astros some payroll to play with, which is significant considering how little flexibility the Astros have in that area this offseason.

Manager Brad Mills is in town, and I believe he’ll be the only uniformed personnel with Wade this week at the Winter Meetings. Every manager is asked to conduct a 30-minute media session in the press workroom this week, and Mills is scheduled to do so on Tuesday at 3 p.m. ET.

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Tal Smith, Brad Mills, Ricky Bennett

Asst. GM Dave Gottfried

A fun November day at the ballpark, and more comedic stylings from the Puma.

When Lance Berkman told his wife why he was going to Minute Maid Park Saturday afternoon, Cara Berkman summoned her three oldest kids (above) and said, “We’re going too.”

Berkman (aka Puma) was one of four Astros representatives to participate in an event designed to help 20 families who are transitioning from homelessness to self-sufficiency.”Take A Minute” marked the beginning of national Hunger and Homelessness Awareness week. Families were treated to a Thanksgiving meal, a tour of Minute Maid Park and an autograph session Berkman, Jeff Bagwell, Hunter Pence and manager Brad Mills.

Cara Berkman didn’t hesitate when she heard what the event was about.

“I said to Lance, ‘Homeless children? We’re going,’ Cara said. “I want my kids to see this and be involved. They need to understand there are people that have hard lives and need our help.”

Brian McTaggart gives a full report of the event here.

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Covering offseason activities is fun, mainly because players in general are well-rested and relaxed, and any fatigue and/or bitterness from a down year has pretty much subsided.

I chuckled a bit as I headed to the event, knowing it would take about two minutes for Puma and I to pick up where we left off — I snap pictures, he acts like he’s annoyed and then he spends the next several minutes lamenting the presence of Facebook and Twitter — “two things contributing to the downfall of society,” Berkman grumbles. (He was especially thrilled when I told him about Twit pic).

Bagwell isn’t quite so dramatic, but we did have a good laugh about the fake accounts floating around. To review, the Berkman Twitter account is bogus, and if you’re ever wondering if that is really Bagwell’s Facebook page, the answer is a resounding no. He’s made progress over the years when it comes to logging on but I can assure you he does not now, and never will, be a Facebooker.

Enjoy the pictures.

My attempts to take pictures of the four Astros at the autograph table were intercepted by one Puma, who just cannot help himself.

 

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Another block, this time, with a sweatshirt.

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So I switched my positioning and was a bit more successful. Here’s Pence, displaying his own brand of goofiness:

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Bagwell tapes a PSA for “Take A Minute.”

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Berkman and Pence, catching up after five weeks of no baseball.

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The new guy always gets the most attention. Brad Mills spent as much time granting media interviews as he did signing autographs.

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Autograph session

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Group photo

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And finally, a visit from Junction Jack.

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Try ‘em Before you Buy ‘em

Speaking of offseason fun at Minute Maid Park…

The Astros Ticket Services Department will host a Select-A-Seat event for fans interested in season tickets on Saturday, December 12 from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m.

If you are interested in 2010 full season ticekts or 27-game mini-plans, come out to the ballpark for a one-on-one guided tour to find the perfect set of seats. Ticket sales representatives will offer valuable information on each available seat location to ensure you invest in the perfect plan.

Also, new for 2010 is the “Buy Two, Get Two Free” season ticket offer. As part of this package, fans purchasing two season tickets in the View Deck I and View Deck II seating levels or in select Terrace Deck sections will receive two additional season tickets in the same price level for free. These full season packages start at only $415 per season seat — only $5 per game.

The Astros are also offering special “Early Bird” incentives for those who buy their season tickets by Dec. 18. The incentives include a choice of taking batting practice, playing catch in the outfield or a taking clubhouse tour at Minute Maid Park. (At first glance, I’d go with the clubhouse tour. It’s pretty cool, although I would imagine for those of you whose baseball careers petered out in the seventh grade, batting practice might be fun).

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The art of the press conference, and a few Mills tidbits.

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Once I learned that Brad Mills was hired as the Astros manager,I reached out to two good friends who have covered the Red Sox for parts or all of the last decade and asked them simply, “What do you think of Brad Mills?” Here’s what I received back:

Friend No. 1:
“Mills is a genuinely nice guy and he did an amazing job turning the Sox into such a well-run machine. He’s so efficient at everything he does. He’s not a great quote but he’s friendly and respectful. He’s the ultimate taskmaster.”

Friend No. 2:
“Tremendously organized. Probably the most organized coach I’ve ever been around. He had basically every day of Spring Training plotted out weeks in advance of camp, with charts on where everyone is at all times.

“He was a big help to Francona on the bench, helping pitchers with pickoff moves, etc., and aligning the defense, etc. He had great communication skills with the players and has been Francona’s confidant since their days as roommates at Arizona.

“I’ve never heard anyone say a bad word about Brad Mills. And being around Francona on the Red Sox bench for the last six years can only help from an experience standpoint.”

Two things stood out to me from these responses: 1) both said Mills was incredibly organized and 2) Friend No. 2 pointed out that Mills is good at aligning defenses. And can I just say, hallelujah on both counts. The Astros are already better off in ’10 than they were in ’09, and they’re more than five months away from playing a game that counts in the standings.

I’ve heard from many of you over the last couple of weeks, and please allow me clear up a few misconceptions: coaches are responsible for much, much more than what you see them do during an actual game. Scouting reports need to be scoured. Spray charts need to be studied. Pitchers and catchers need to be prepped. And on and on and on.

Positioning has been an issue with this team for a long time — too long. Just hearing that Mills had a lot to do with aligning the Red Sox’ defense makes me feel like the Astros are on the right track. It seems like such a small thing, I know. But it’s not. It’s huge. Manager and coach pregame preparation can make all the difference between and winning and losing seasons.

Here’s what Red Sox manager Terry Francona said about his now former bench coach:

“I’ve probably taken it for granted that everybody is where they’re supposed to be because he’s so good at it. We’ll certainly have to make some adjustments. But his gain far outweighs any adjustments we have to make. Millsy embodies so much of what is good in baseball. For him to get an opportunity, it sure is nice. It sure is exciting for all of us.”

I have no idea what kind of manager Mills will be and until he’s actually sitting in the hot seat, none of us can make the judgment. But he was impressive during his press conference on Tuesday and I’m looking forward to seeing how he guides this team through a challenging transitional period.

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On another note, I haven’t seen the press conference room at Minute Maid Park this packed since Roger Clemens unretired for the 97th time a few years ago. When I saw Drayton McLane in the hallway a few minutes before the press conference started, I jokingly said, “Congratulations on getting this over with before the World Series.” He laughed and said the Commissioner called him three times — twice Monday and once Tuesday morning. “He said, ‘You have until 5 p.m. (Tuesday) to get this done,'” McLane recalled. That was the deadline — hire a manager by then, or wait until after the World Series. The former reporter in me was thankful this thing was over and done with.

I’m sure most of you have watched the press conference on TV or online in some capacity. Sound bites are nice and photo opps are fun, but that doesn’t give you the full experience. Here are some images from Tuesday’s presser, some of which you won’t normally see just by watching from afar. Enjoy.

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The media waited inside the press conference room, but outside, Mills and several members of the front office chatted casually before entering the room. Kudos to Mills (seen here with assistant GM Ricky Bennett) for acting naturally as three or four photographers snapped close up photos.

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A little to the left of Mills stood owner Drayton McLane and GM Ed Wade.

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PR director Gene Dias (middle) gives the gentle, “OK, we’re ready” signal, which is a nice way of telling the group, let’s go. Time to start the presser.

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The normal order of speakers at a major Astros press conference is 1)Wade; 2)McLane and 3) whoever they hired/signed. This announcement was obviously a big one, hence, the packed room. That’s Larry Dierker in the front.

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Mills came across very well at the press conference. When he was asked to hold up the jersey again, he held up the front instead of back. “The name on the front is more important than the name on the back,” he said. Good move.

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Once each speaker has answered questions at the podium, the formal part of the presser is over and it’s time for “one-on-ones.” TVs like this because it gives more of a personal touch. Beat/print reporters like this because they need more quotes than just what is said during the formal part.

Reporters headed in three directions — most went to Mills, some went to Wade, some went to McLane. It’s a media free-for-all.

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Once word spread that hitting coach Sean Berry and Mills are friends and neighbors in California, Berry became a media target. Berry happened to be in town for a Make-A-Wish golf tournament (which was rained out Monday and rescheduled for November).

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Nothing like a press conference to bring a couple of former Astros greats to the ballpark. Left, Enos Cabell. Right, Larry Dierker.

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Photo opp No. 477: Mills checks out the field at Minute Maid Park. Photographers document every move while trying not to step on anyone.

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Mills and Wade have a chuckle while getting situated:

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Tal Smith (left), Mills, Wade

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Then McLane joins in.

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Side view.

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Line of the day comes from Ed Wade.

When you watch Ed Wade being interviewed on television you get the buttoned up version of the Astros GM, straightforward and deliberate speaker who likes to keep things business-like when he’s on the record.

But Wade has a sharp sense of humor and is known to come up with more than a few one-liners when he’s speaking off-the-cuff.

Wade summed up his feelings perfectly when discussing how round two of the managerial search will be much different from the first go-around.

“We’ve been open on this thing, but I don’t want it to get to the point of ‘Dancing With The Stars,'” Wade said to MLB.com, referring to the reality TV show that votes off contestants as the program progresses.

In other words, the rest of the managerial search will be conducted privately. No more post-interview meetings with the media and no more lists of finalists made public (although I would imagine most of the names will leak eventually — that’s just how it works in today’s world).

The final two candidates were interviewed Monday — Red Sox bench coach Brad Mills and first base coach Tim Bogar. The next step will involve the search committee sitting down and narrowing the field of candidates. Wade has made it clear the next public announcement will be when they decide on a manager, and it’s anyone’s guess as to how long that process will take.

Brad Mills.

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Tim Bogar.

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