Results tagged ‘ Jim Deshaies ’

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 CAREavan wrapup, in pictures.

The Houston Astros 2012 CAREavan wrapped up another successful winter road trip with stops last Friday in Katy, Texas. The Astros CAREavan completed its annual tour making 47 stops in 13 cities over eight days, traveling more than 3,500 miles. More than 35 Astros players, alumni, coaches and front office staff participated in CAREavan.

The Houston Astros 2012 CAREavan hit the road on February 1, with three full days of visits throughout central and south Texas.  The team made two-day trips to Austin (Feb. 1-2), Brownsville, Harlingen and McAllen (Feb. 1-2) and San Antonio (Feb. 2-3), and spent a day in Corpus Christi and Victoria (Feb. 3). Highlights included conducting several youth baseball clinics, visiting with military and pediatric patients at hospitals and serving fans lunch at Chick-fil-A.

During the CAREavan’s second week, the Astros traveled to Oklahoma City (Feb. 6) and visited with military personnel at Tinker Air Force Base, patients at Mercy Hospital and Oklahoma City RedHawks season ticket holders and sponsors.  The week also included five, single-day trips in Houston, Sugar Land, Spring, Cypress and Katy.  The local tours visited numerous schools for reading activities and Fielder’s Choice assemblies, conducted youth baseball clinics and made daily stops at Academy Sports + Outdoors stores for free autograph sessions.

The CAREavan experience, in pictures:

Austin: Dave Raymond, Jordan Lyles, J.B. Shuck, Kyle Weiland, Doug Brocail at Cedar Park Middle School.

Austin: Ronald McDonald House.

Brownsville: Fernando Rodriguez, Jose Altuve, Jimmy Paredes at Lucio Middle School.

Brownsville: Chick-fil-A

San Antonio: Brett Dolan, J.A. Happ, Angel Sanchez, Jarred Cosart, Humberto Quintero, Larry Dierker at RBI San Antonio.

San Antonio Military Medical Center

Corpus Christi: Jim Crane signs an autograph for a young fan at the Hooks' luncheon.

Victoria: Shane Reynolds givis pitching tips at a Baseball and Softball clinic.

Oklahoma City: David Carpenter and Milo Hamilton.

Meeting with the Oklahoma City RedHawks fan base.

Houston: Bud Norris serves drive-thru customers at Chick-Fil-A.

Houston: Astros front office members and players participated in a "Careers in Baseball" seminar at Carver High School.

Sugar Land: Bud Norris, David Carpenter, Chris Johnson, Brett Wallace visit babies and new parents at Methodist Sugar Land Hospital.

Sugar Land: Chris Johnson and Brett Wallace sign autographs at Academy Sports + Outdoors.

Spring: Brad Mills, Jason Bourgeois, J.D. Martinez, Brian Bogusevic, Jose Cruz at AVANCE-Southwest School.

Hanging with the kids at AVANCE.

Cypress: Jed Lowrie at a CAREavan Baseball and Softball Clinic.

Cypress: bilingual storytime with bilingual GM Jeff Luhnow.

Katy: Bill Brown, Jose Cruz and current Astros players participate in an assembly at Brookwood Community.

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Feel like Talkin’ Baseball? Join us on Saturday.

The doors of Minute Maid Park will be open on Saturday at 10 a.m., and we hope Astros fans will join us for the annual baseball bonanza affectionately known around here as FanFest.

In addition to player autograph sessions and fun activities on the field, we’ll also be hosting several Talkin’ Baseball sessions. From the Social Media side, we are planning for an interactive chat session with Brad Mills and Bud Norris from 2:30 to 3 CT in Union Station that will connect fans who are at FanFest in person and those following online.

We will take questions from our cyber-audience through this link. Fans who attend the chat in person in Union Station will also have the opportunity to ask questions of our manager and starting pitcher. All answers will be transcribed on our chat page for everyone to read.
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In the meantime, I need to brush up on my Astros history, quickly. I’ll be moderating a Talkin’ Baseball session titled “50 Years of Astros Baseball,” during which we’ll reminisce with a bunch of former players about 50 years of Major League Baseball in Houston.

Expected guests include: Jim Deshaies, Jimmy Wynn, Jose Cruz, Enos Cabell, J.R. Richard and Larry Dierker. The session will take place in Union Station from 4:30 to 5:15 p.m.

Other Talkin’ Baseball sessions, all of which will take place in Union Station, include:

* The 2012 Season Outlook, 11:15 a.m. to noon
The panel: George Postolos, Jeff Luhnow, Brad Mills. Moderated by Milo Hamilton.

* Story Time with Milo Hamilton, 12:45 to 1:15.

* 50th Anniversary Plans, 1:30 to 2:15 p.m.

During this session, we’ll be previewing what’s on deck for Flashback Fridays, including retro uniforms, fireworks and alumni first pitches. We’ll also talk about fan involvement in the 25-man roster vote and the premium giveaways aimed toward celebrating our 50th anniversary, including a “Greatest Moments” Bobblehead set and many retro items from every era of Houston baseball.

The Panel: Christie Miller, Promotions and Special Events Coordinator; Mike Acosta, Authentication Manager. Moderator: me!

* Talkin’ Youth Baseball (GSFYB), 3 to 3:45 p.m. CT

The panel: Jason Bourgeois, Daryl Wade, Fred Arnold.

A full schedule of FanFest activities can be found here. We hope to see you Saturday!

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The 1986 Astros reunion: celebrating good times and great baseball memories.

Mike Scott, Nolan Ryan

Who doesn’t love a good “Where Are They Now” story?

Under normal circumstances, finding out Where They Are Now takes quite a bit of digging. But for a few hours over the weekend, there was no need to search far and wide for such information on the 1986 National League West champion Houston Astros.

Where Are They Now? On Saturday, many of the ’86 Astros were all together, at the Crowne Plaza Hotel near the old Astrodome.

The annual TRISTAR Houston Collectors Show brought together 18 members of that ’86 team, a group that lives in Houston baseball history as one of the most beloved, ever. The characters of that team are as well-remembered as the heart-stopping moments that defined that season. TRISTAR hosted an ’86 Astros reunion as part of their two-day show at Reliant Arena, and also on the agenda was a reception that brought the team back together for a 90-minute question and answer session between paying patrons and the former Astros players.

The lot of 18 included manager Hal Lanier, Jose Cruz, Bill Doran, Jim Pankovits, Billy Hatcher, Nolan Ryan, Dickie Thon, Alan Ashby, Kevin Bass, Phil Garner, Bob Knepper, Glenn Davis, Danny Darwin, Jim Deshaies, Terry Puhl, Mike Scott, Jeff Calhoun and Craig Reynolds.

The group gathered in the lobby of the hotel before the formal program began, and like any class reunion, it was a happy scene. Many of the players from that team are still in baseball, and still more live in Houston. But in terms of getting together and catching up on old times, such occasions rarely, if ever, take place. That makes events like this special, and fun to watch from the sidelines. It also served as a nice precursor for the season-long celebration the Astros are planning to commemorate their 50th anniversary in 2012.

Emceed by SportsRadio 610’s Rich Lord, the Q&A session sparked laughter and reflection. Lanier was grilled on why he lifted Knepper from Game 6 of the NLCS, and Ryan, asked what his favorite moment was in his 27-year career, cited the 1969 World Series with the Mets, “Because it was the only time I played for a World Series title.”

The Astrodome, unsurprisingly, came up in conversation more than once. “I drove by the Dome today and thought, “Man. I wish there was something we could do to preserve it,” Doran said. “It’s a special place.”

The whereabouts of a few of the ’86 Astros are more well-known than others. Following a long run as a radio announcer for the Astros, Ashby moved on to work in the same capacity for the Blue Jays. Garner is mostly retired, but is working on a part-time basis with his original team, the Oakland A’s, and will be with them during Spring Training. Cruz is still with the Astros as a special assistant.

Hatcher and Doran are both with the Cincinnati Reds, Hatcher as a coach and Doran as a special assistant. Pankovits managed the Astros’ Short Season A TriCity team to a New York-Penn League championship in 2010 and is now a coach in the Mariners’ system. Davis is active in the hotel business and children’s ministries in Georgia, and Puhl is a local businessman and baseball coach for the University of Houston-Victoria. Bass is also locally based, working in real estate. Thon coaches in Puerto Rico; Lanier does the same in the Independent Leagues. Reynolds is a pastor at Second Baptist Church in Houston.

And Ryan? “I’m just out signing Japanese ballplayers,” the Rangers owner said to a chorus of laughs.

Scott? “I travel, golf, and babysit my granddaughter.”

Deshaies: “I say clever things like, ‘That’s right, Brownie,’ and dream of being like Mike Scott.”

Simply put, this was a great night.

Group shot (and special thanks to Chronicle photographer Karen Warren for allowing us to piggy back on her photo session).

TRISTAR show: Alan Ashby.

TRISTAR show: Kevin Bass.

TRISTAR show: Jose Cruuuuuuuz and fans.

TRISTAR show: Phil Garner.

Reception: Kevin Bass, Terry Puhl, Jim Pankovits, Jose Cruz.

Reception: Bill Doran, Jose Cruz, Terry Puhl, Dickie Thon.

Reception: Bill Doran, Dickie Thon, Phil Garner.

Reception: Jim Deshaies, Danny Darwin, Bob Knepper, Billy Hatcher.

Reception: Bob Knepper, Billy Hatcher.

Reception: Alan Ashby, Nolan Ryan, Terry Puhl, Phil Garner, Mike Scott.

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Dennis Liborio: loyal employee, clubhouse staple, one of a kind.

The first time I met Liborio 15 years ago, I called a friend and said, "There's a guy that works here who looks exactly like David Crosby."

In the spring of 1988, a cocky, sunburnt kid from New York sauntered into the Astros’ clubhouse at their Spring Training facility and said to the man standing at the door, “I’m looking for Yogi Berra.”

“And who the heck are you?” the man snapped.

“I’m Craig Biggio,” the kid snapped back. “Where’s Yogi?”

“Oh boy,” the man said to himself. “This guy’s going to be a beauty.”

And from there, a friendship was born. Biggio, fried to a crisp after driving from New York to Florida with the top down on his convertible, and Dennis Liborio, a rough-around-the-edges but soft-hearted Bostonian, eventually became friends, and the two evolved into family over the next 20-plus years.

Liborio is retiring after 32 seasons as the Astros’ clubhouse manager due to health issues. While he’s not a household name to Astros fans, his departure comes as a sad blow to generations of players and staff who grew close to Liborio during their time in Houston.

You may recall reading about Dennis in this blog. Two years ago, we ran a semi-regular feature called “Who’s in Dennis’ chair?” Dennis’ office in the Astros’ clubhouse often doubled as a who’s-who of baseball notoriety, for one simple reason: everyone loves Dennis, and everyone loves to visit Dennis. As a result, the big, comfy black chair in his office was rarely vacant.

Larry Andersen. Phil Garner. Luis Gonzalez. Biggio. Jeff Bagwell. Past players from every decade. Former Astros who were now opponents. Everyone managed to stop by Dennis’s office, because, simply, Dennis’ office was the place to be.

It wasn’t just players who liked to visit. In 2000, the year the Astros’ new ballpark opened, George W. Bush, who at that time was preparing for his presidential campaign, walked into the clubhouse, threw his arm around Dennis’ shoulder, and proclaimed, “This is my running mate!” within earshot of the large contingent of reporters.

Right on cue, Dennis responded, “We’ll show them how to get this country straightened out.” One particular reporter who apparently lacked a sense of humor rushed up to the pair and said, “I just want you to know you can’t have two people on the ticket from the same state.” Without hesitation, Liborio chortled, “That’s all right. I’m from Massachusetts!”

Former President Bush visited the Astros in Arlington in 2009, reuniting with several Astros staffers, including Liborio, whom he met a decade earlier.

Clubhouse and equipment managers are more than just support staff workers. They’re the eyes and ears of the inner-workings of the team. Everyone and everything that enters and leaves the clubhouse goes through the clubhouse managers, and discretion is one of the biggest components of their game. A ballplayer relies heavily on his equipment/clubhouse manager, which is why the ties that bind them together during a player’s career usually carry on for decades, long after the uniform comes off for good.

Take Dennis and Nolan Ryan, for instance. For decades, they traveled together to Las Vegas every offseason for the rodeo. The first night of their very first trip, Dennis walked into the lobby of the hotel wearing a 10-gallon hat, cowboy boots and a pair of jeans with a huge western belt buckle. “Here comes the Boston Cowboy,” Nolan said in his thick southern drawl. “Nolan, I’ve heard of the Boston Strangler,” Dennis responded, “But never the Boston Cowboy.”

It was during one of those Vegas trips many years later when Dennis’ longtime sweetie, Geraldine, blurted out, “Darn it, Dennis, when are you ever going to marry me?” In typical “Diamond Denny” fashion, he answered, “How about now?” And the two went through a drive-thru and tied the knot, Vegas-style.

A few weeks later, a box weighing no less than 70 pounds arrived to the clubhouse. “What the…?” Dennis said. Inside was a jumbo-sized steel ball and chain, courtesy of Gonzo, with a note that said, “It’s about time.”

Liborio and former manager Phil Garner celebrate the NL pennant in 2005

Liborio started his baseball career in Wally Pipp fashion in 1969, when he was 14 years old. He’d hang out near the Red Sox’ clubhouse at Fenway for no particular reason, except to watch the players come in and out. He became such a fixture there that finally, the Red Sox clubhouse manager decided to put him to work. One of the clubhouse kids was out sick with mono, and Dennis filled in by taking the uniforms to the dry cleaners. He ended up staying on four years.

In 1977, the manager of the Dodgers’ clubhouse called Dennis and asked him to work for him. Dennis was the Dodgers’ assistant equipment manager until November of 1979, when the Astros came calling. Traveling secretary Donald Davidson and Assistant GM Gerry Hunsicker called Dennis’ boss and said, “We have an opening. Do you know anybody?” And just like that, Dennis was in his way to Houston to run the Astros’ clubhouse.

Dennis has been with the Astros for all nine playoff appearances and was with them when they clinched the first, and only, pennant in 2005. He’s watched more than 5,000 Astros games. During his tenure, Houston’s record was 2,596-2,471.

“Dennis is truly one of my best friends,” Biggio said. “Behind every great, successful team, there is a great clubhouse man. That’s what Dennis was for us. For me, he’s been an awesome human being and did an unbelievable job. He will be missed.”

More quotes from notable Astros:

“Dennis is one of a kind. Of the countless people I’ve met in the game, he is among my favorites. It just won’t be the same without him in that clubhouse. As players, he was our team ‘Mom’ … not afraid to give you grief, but always had your back.” — Jim Deshaies, current Astros TV analyst and Astros pitcher from 1985-91

“Dennis Liborio is an Astros institution. His many years of faithful service to the organization are greatly appreciated by the players he has helped during his tenure. Thank you, Dennis, for all you have done for me and so many others. The clubhouse won’t be the same without you.” — Lance Berkman, Astros 1B-OF from 1999-2010

“I felt like Dennis was one of the top equipment and clubhouse managers that I ever worked with. He always had a real passion for the game and was truly committed to the organization.  I hope he enjoys his retirement.” — Nolan Ryan, Astros pitcher from 1980-87 and current Texas Rangers president

“Dennis was wonderful to us. There was never a dull moment in that clubhouse, no matter how bad you were going. He was so much fun to be with, but was always so on top of everything. We appreciated him because he honestly cared about us. I miss him more than anyone I was with in Houston.” — Bill Doran, Astros infielder from 1982-90

“When I got to Houston in 1990, we had a young team those first few years and Dennis was a father figure to a lot of us. He really took care of us. We had so much fun sitting in his office, listening to him holding court and telling great stories. He was incredible to us. Over the years, our families built a strong bond and even shared season tickets for the Aeros games since Dennis loved hockey so much.” — Luis Gonzalez, Astros outfielder from 1990-95

“Dennis will be greatly missed. He brought me to Houston with him and is the reason I am here today. I love the guy and appreciate everything he has done for me and for the Astros.” — Barry Waters, Astros longtime Traveling Secretary who also worked with Liborio in the Dodgers clubhouse prior to coming to Houston in November of 1979

Visiting clubhouse manager Steve Perry, Liborio, Waters and clubhouse manager Carl Schneider celebrate the pennant in '05.

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Shooting stars, rainbow sleeves, blue and gold: “Flashback Fridays” will feature slick jerseys from the past.

Jose Cruz, Craig Biggio

History and nostalgia will be front and center for the Houston Astros in 2012, so it’s only fitting that four of their most famous players from yesteryear were on hand Thursday to ring in the club’s 50th anniversary celebration.

A large gathering of Houston media watched and listened as Jimmy Wynn (1963-73), Larry Dierker (1964-76), Jose Cruz (1975-87) and Craig Biggio (1988-2007) shared their memories of their favorite moments during their tenure with the franchise.

Not surprisingly, the 2005 World Series was mentioned more than once. Biggio’s 3,000th hit in June of 2007 ranked high on many lists as well.

“We were the first Texas team to go to the World Series,” Biggio said. “That was something to be proud of. And the 3,000 hit night — it was a magical night.”

Popular television announcers Bill Brown and Jim Deshaies hosted the question and answer session with the Astros icons in the FiveSeven Grille, which was decorated with images of the 50th anniversary logo and the jerseys from the past. Deshaies also interviewed several key Astros figures who were sitting in the crowd, including president of baseball operations Tal Smith, Spanish broadcaster Rene Cardenas, former radio announcer Gene Elston and current radio announcer Milo Hamilton.

Larry Dierker, Jim Deshaies

In addition to Biggio’s 3,000th hit and the Astros’ World Series, Hamilton cited the 2003 club’s six-pitcher no-hitter at Yankee Stadium as a highlight of his career.

“It had never been done before and I don’t think it will ever happen again,” Hamilton said.

The Astros also outlined their plans for the big golden anniversary celebration in 2012, which we blogged about here earlier in the day. Judging from the response I’ve received, I’d say the one element that has fans excited about the 50th anniversary celebration in 2012 more than any other is the “Flashback Fridays” plan, where every Friday home game, the Astros will wear a throwback jersey that represents a certain era in the Houston franchise.

That includes the 1964 Houston Colt .45s jersey, which, to the best of the club’s knowledge, has never been worn since that season 47 years ago. Also on the docket are the shooting star jersey from the first season in the Astrodome in 1965, the rainbow jersey the teams wore from 1975-86, the rainbow sleeve from 1987-93, the blue and gold jersey from 1994-99 and the current pinstripe jersey the club wears today.


More snippits from Thursday’s presser:

Drayton McLane cited the Astros’ press conference in 1996 announcing that they had a new manager as one of his favorite moments. It wasn’t so much that the Astros had hired a new manager as much as it was who their new manager was — Larry Dierker.

“Everyone was surprised,” McLane said. Turning to Dierker, McLane said, “Larry, did it surprise you?”

“Well,” Dierker deadpanned. “I knew what was going on by then.”

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McLane recalled the night in ’96 that he and several members of his inner circle were waiting to hear if the stadium referendum had passed.

“We were up late at the Westin Hotel in the Galleria,” he said. “At 12 at night, we were losing. At 2:30 in the morning, we won.”
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Brownie asked Biggio how long he thinks his career would have lasted if Biggio had remained at catcher instead of moving to second base.

“How many years did I catch? Four?” Biggio asked rhetorically. “So, maybe five.”
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Cruz was asked about the signature Cruuuuuuuuuuuz moniker given to him by the late J. Fred Duckett, the Astros’ public address announcer back in the day.

“The first time I heard it, I thought they were booing me,” Cruz said. “I was playing well. I thought, ‘What are they doing?'”
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Dierker credited the success the Astros had during his run as skipper from 1997-01 more to the makeup of the team than to his managerial maneuvering.

“We had such great talent on those teams,” Dierker said. “It didn’t matter what moves I made. We were going to win with that talent.”

Dierker offered a bit of advice to today’s Astros fans.

“Don’t judge a manager on his win-loss record. Judge a manager on what he gets out of the talent he has. Is Joe Girardi the best manager in the game? He’s the manager of the Yankees. Anyone can manage the Yankees and win.”

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Deshaies: “What was it like to work in Colt Stadium back in the day?”

Cardenas: “It was hot.”

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More from Cardenas: “I remember when Larry Dierker came to the ball club — he was a wonderful player and a wonderful person. I looked at this kid from California and said, ‘how did the Dodgers not sign him?’ We were lucky to have him.”
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Video corner:

Dierker, on past rebuilding projects and the Astros’ current reloading plan

Biggio, on spending his entire career with the Astros and who was influential on him in the early years
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And finally…the Astros will be previewing their 50th anniversary celebration this weekend with three promotional giveaway items bearing the special logo.

Friday: Commemorative Cap

Saturday: Fleece Blanket

Sunday: T-shirt

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TV-radio notes: J.D. to moonlight as sideline reporter eye candy.

0316_jd_brownie.jpg

After more than a month of Spring Training, it’s always nice to get some fresh, new faces around camp…especially when those fresh, new faces belong to Bill Brown and Jim Deshaies.

Many moons ago, Brownie and J.D. attended Spring Training for the entire month, like the radio announcers. But in the last several years, their time in Florida has instead centered around the few days before and after the Astros’ Spring Training television broadcasts.

FS Houston usually swings through town to show a game or three on TV, and Brownie and J.D. are here now, preparing for two regionally televised games on Friday in Jupiter against the Marlins and Saturday at home against the Cardinals.

Brownie and J.D. will be in the booth together Friday, but because Saturday’s game will be delivered to both the Houston and St. Louis markets, they’re going with one broadcaster from each team: Brownie, and Cards announcer Al Hrabosky.

Where does that leave J.D.?

“I’m going to be the Tony Siragusa guy,” J.D. said, referring to the retired NFL defensive tackle who is now a sideline analyst for football games shown on the Fox Network. “The sideline guy, hanging out, not contributing a whole lot. But it gives the fans a chance to see the games.”

“Does Tony Siragusa eat when he’s on the air?” Brownie wondered.

“My hunch is that he’s got something squirreled away,” J.D. said of the 340 pound Siragusa. “That’s what I’ll do. I’ll be the guy eating hot dogs in the stands. They can get a shot of me every now and then and I’ll have a different food product every half inning.”

So on Saturday, look for hits from Hunter Pence, strikeouts from Wilton Lopez and a little mustard in J.D.’s well-trimmed goatee.

Watch our full interview with Brownie and J.D. here.

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Speaking of our television broadcasters, did you know 2011 is Brownie’s Silver Anniversary? It’s his 25th year as the Astros primary play-by-play voice on television. This season also marks the 15th for Brownie and J.D. as a team.

On that note, Milo Hamilton, the legendary elder statesman on the radio side, will host the second to last Astroline tonight (Wednesday) at 8 ET/7 CT at the ESPN Club on the Disney Boardwalk. His guest will be Nelson Figueroa.

You can listen to the show on 740 KTRH and Astros.com. You can also tweet me questions and comments if you have any…

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Camp tidbits:

* Wandy Rodriguez, sidelined with some mild shoulder tendinitis, will throw a side session on Friday and will be re-evaluated before being scheduled for his next start. He is not expected to miss another turn in the rotation, although Brad Mills did not want to reveal the target date he and his staff have for Wandy just yet.

* Angel Sanchez was unavailable for Wednesday’s game after tweaking his back on Tuesday in Sarasota.

* The Astros will enjoy their one and only scheduled off day Thursday before resuming the Grapefruit League schedule on Friday in Jupiter. Lefty J.A. Happ will start that game, while the Marlins will counter with right-hander Ricky Nolasco.

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The Astros hosted a special guest during their morning routine on Wednesday: 16-year-old Matt Myers, who plays baseball at Seminole High School in Sanford, FL. He was diagnosed with bone cancer in January. His visit was coordinated by third base coach Dave Clark, who introduced Myers and his family to most of the Astros Spring Training contingent. Myers also threw out the ceremonial first pitch before the game.

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In case you missed our #TwitterTuesday contest, our winner was @MigM_, who guessed correctly that Jeff Bagwell’s first car was a Mercury Capri (and it was orange. Bags admitted he thought he looked pretty cool in it, but looking back realizes he definitely did not).

Here’s Bagwell’s video confession.

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On to the photos…

Bagwell

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Bagwell, Jamie Quirk, Jason Michaels

0316_bags_quirk_jmike.jpg
Michael Bourn, Carlos Lee

0316_bourn_lee.jpg

Clint Barmes, Bill Hall

0316_hall_barmes.jpg

J.D. signs autographs

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Michaels, Hunter Pence, Carlos Lee

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Do spring records foreshadow regular season success? Most of the time — no.

Got this question from one of our more loyal Twitter followers, @Jaylen1182: What would you tell the fringe fans to have them not write this team off before the season starts based on Spring Training starts?

That issue has always been an interesting topic of conversation during Spring Training, because on one hand, you want your team to win as many games as possible, no matter what season it is. On the other hand, there may be nothing less telling than a team’s Grapefruit League win-loss record, mainly because most of the players who start the games are long gone by the time they’re over.

The first week of exhibition games could very well feature 50-60 players between the two teams. The starters get their two at-bats, play their three or four innings and are showered, dressed and gone several innings before the game actually ends. As the month wears on, players stay in longer and by the end, the box score looks similar to something you’d see on Opening Day. But for a good three weeks, players are shuffled in and out, and looking for any kind of trend or continuity is simply wasted time.

I’ve never cared about the final results as much as I scrutinize the individual performances of players who are either expected to make the team or are right there on the bubble and could make the team, depending on how they fare during Spring Training. I check the starting pitcher’s line, then look at how many hits the regular position players recorded, and finally, how the handful of relievers projected to comprise this year’s bullpen performed.

If the regular players were in the game for, say, five innings and after the fifth the Astros are ahead 5-2, but end up losing 7-5 because of a bunch of miscues that happened after their exit, am I worried? Not really.

On my way to the ballpark this morning, I started to think back to past springs and tried to remember what the final records were before some of the Astros’ best and worst regular seasons. Of course, I had no recollection, so I checked the media guide.

The 1998 team, which won a club record 102 regular-season games, recorded a very comparable 17-10-2 mark during Spring Training. But check this out: the 1986 Astros were 9-18-1 during Spring Training — and went on to win the NL West division. The 1991 Astros,
comprised of hugely talented but young, raw and not-yet-ready-to-win players who recorded the most losses in club history with 97, were a sparkling 17-10 during Spring Training.

The 1980 Astros, a playoff team, were 8-11 in spring. The 2000 Astros — a big, huge flop at 72-90, cruised through a 19-12 Grapefruit season.

Other notable years:
1999:    Reg. season: 97-65   Spring Training: 14-15
2004:    Reg. season: 92-70   Spring Training: 14-14-1
2005:    Reg. season: 89-73   Spring Training 13-14
2007:    Reg. season: 73-89   Spring Training: 18-11-1

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Enough of that. Let’s get to the fun stuff. Who needs to talk about on-field performance when clay molds of Brownie and J.D. bobbleheads are currently cookin’ in the oven and almost ready for paint?

The J.D. and Brownie Bobblehead, presented by Coca-Cola, will be given to the first 10,000 fans on Saturday, June 11 when the Astros host the Braves. Thanks to our marketing folks, we have this sneak peek of the bobblehead in its pre-packaging state. Should be a fun
keepsake. Did I mention you can order tickets for that game here?

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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.

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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. 

On our TV broadcasters, Astroline and Michael Bourn.

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While I realize there are still a lot of unanswered questions floating around regarding last week’s announcement that the Astros will partner with Comcast beginning in 2012, I do want to clear up one thing: Astros broadcasters, both for radio and television, are employed by the Astros, not the stations that broadcast the games.

I’ve read and heard a lot of concern about Jim Deshaies and Bill Brown, our lovable TV announcers, as to how the new TV deal affects them. Rest assured, it doesn’t. They’re Astros employees and therefore, they go where the Astros go. Same goes for Milo Hamilton, Brett Dolan and Dave Raymond on the radio side.

Regarding your other questions surrounding what the new TV deal means for you and your current cable carrier, please be patient. Most of your questions do not have answers yet. There are a lot of moving parts and eventually, everything will be clear. For now, it’s not, so giving half-baked answers that may or may not accurately apply in ’12 would be irresponsible on my part. Thank you for your patience.

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Speaking of broadcasting, the Astros’ wildly popular offseason radio show, Astroline, will begin its weekly run beginning Wednesday, Nov. 17 at 7 p.m. CT. Aired on 740 KTRH, streamed live on Astros.com and hosted by Hamilton, Astroline will take place at a new location — Buffalo Wild Wings in Midtown (510 Gray St.)

We’re still waiting for confirmation on the first guest, but we can tell you that the Houston portion of Astroline will include 13 dates: Nov. 17; Dec. 1, 8, 15 and 29; Jan. 5, 12, 19 and 26; Feb. 2, 9, 16 and 23. The show will then relocate to Florida for Spring Training.

As was the case last year, Twitter will have an active role during Astroline. Fans will be encouraged to tweet their questions to me (twitter.com/alysonfooter) and we’ll read them, and answer them, over the air.

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Next Wednesday, we’ll find out if Michael Bourn won his second National League Gold Glove award. I’m guessing the odds are in his favor, for two reasons: he’s clearly one of the best defensive outfielders in the game, and, it’s a lot easier to win it the second, third and fourth times around. The toughest part is getting the player enough national publicity for voters from far-away teams to take notice, but once his name is out there as a top defender, the ensuing awards come at a much more rapid pace.

In the meantime, Bourn was recognized for his defense last week by another pretty reputable entity. The Fielding Bible doesn’t carry the same glitz and glamour as the Gold Glove, but I like it because of how technical it gets when evaluating the candidates.

The Fielding Bible is a book compiled by John Dewan, who has recruited some of the most respected people in the game to analyze every play (literally) a player makes during the season. Detailed information is recorded on each play, such as the location of each batted ball, the speed and the type of hit and determining how each player compares to his peers in making those plays. An example Dewan uses is: How often does Derek Jeter field a softly batted ball located 20 feet to the right of the normal shortstop position, compared to all other Major League shortstops?

Dewan uses the plus/minus system for plays made and missed, as compared to how often they were made and missed by others at the same position. (For the record, Adam Everett turned in the highest score ever, turning in a +43 at shortstop in ’06. That means he made 43 more plays than the average MLB shortstop would make.)

Anyhoo, in layman’s terms, Bourn being recognized as the best center fielder in baseball by the Fielding Bible doesn’t just mean he made a bunch of plays that drew oohs and ahs by spectators, cable stations and web sites. It means he’s taking good routes to balls, getting good jumps and reading the ball well off the bat. It means he has great instincts, which is something that can improve over time but cannot be taught. He’s making a lot of things look easy that simply are not. All good news for Astros fans.

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And finally, a dip into the photo vault…here we have a very young, fresh-faced Hunter Pence attending batting practice after he was drafted and signed by the Astros in 2004. Other than utilizing a wide array of hair styles over the years, he really hasn’t changed much…

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