Results tagged ‘ LaTroy Hawkins ’

Winter Meetings, reporter-style.

Covering baseball’s Winter Meetings, at least for reporters, can be compared to taking final exams in college — it’s the most intense week of the year, and you walk out of the last one, on the last day, pretty much feeling like you were run over by a Mack truck.

Chasing rumors, attempting to separate fact from fiction, sniffing around for leads and running agents down in the hotel lobby is consistently exhausting, occasionally humiliating and all too often, it ends up taking you nowhere, except back to square one — where you find a new bulk of rumors to chase.

So, for the average reporter, the Winter Meetings are about as fun as a trip to the dentist. That said, the meetings are also in their own way fascinating. This is the only time of year that the entire the baseball universe gathers in the same city to talk business, so there’s always a chance for that blockbuster trade or splashy free agent signing. And the rumor mill never, ever stops churning.

Geographically, there are three main areas where you’ll find baseball people: the hotel lobby, the GM suite and the media area, which includes a workroom/press conference room and a long hallway occupied by the radio/television side — i.e., MLB Network, XM/Sirius satellite radio and

I spent Tuesday morning and afternoon floating through all three areas, with camera in tow (of course). Enjoy the pictorial tour, and apologies in advance for the lighting issues…the dim hotel lights are driving me nuts.


The lobby
The hotel lobby is the epicenter of all Winter Meetings. It’s where reporters hang out, hoping to run into agents, and where agents strategically stroll through knowing scoop-hungry reporters are looking for them. It’s where scouts roam and exchange information with other scouts. It’s where job-seekers go to, well, find jobs.


The media


This gigantic room serves three purposes: it provides workspace for the hundreds of reporters covering the Winter Meetings, it serves as a press conference room when teams have trades or signings to announce (or when future Hall of Famers announce their retirement, as Greg Maddux did in Vegas last year) and provides space for the manager-reporter media sessions.

Here’s Houston’s manager, Brad Mills, addressing reporters.




And the Mets’ Jerry Manuel


And the Cardinals’ Tony La Russa (when I walked up he was talking about — what else? — his new hitting coach, Mark McGwire).


Tampa Bay’s Joe Maddon


Radio/TV row

The radio and TV outlets were lined up in a nice, orderly row: first, XM/Sirius Satellite radio, then MLB Network and finally Not every manager was interviewed by every outlet, but the higher-profile managers usually made their way down the line over the course of about 20 minutes.

Mills, well-known as Red Sox skipper Terry Francona’s right-hand man for six years (and two World Championships) was a popular guy. Here he is with Casey Stern and Buck Martinez on MLB Homeplate on XM/Sirius Satellite radio.


His next stop was for an interview with Vinny Micucci.


On his way back to the GM suite, Mills ran into Milwaukee skipper Ken Macha (shown below). The one thing that struck me through this week is how many friends in the industry came up to me to tell me how much they like and respect Mills. He clearly has established a nice reputation during his many decades in baseball.


Other random shots:
I took this picture of Peter Gammons on Monday, not realizing he was about to announce he was leaving ESPN and joining MLB Network and As a former, I consider this great news. Congratulations to Peter.


Atlanta manager Bobby Cox was a popular guest, which is understandable considering he’s already announced he’s retiring after next season.  


I’ll admit it, I’m an MLB Network junkie. I love its Hote Stove show and all of the old “All-Time Games” it shows during the day. In this shot, Phillies GM Ruben Amaro is about to go on with Tom Verducci, Dan Plesac and Victor Rojas.


The day ends in the GM suite, where Ed Wade spends most of the morning and afternoon talking with his staff and other clubs about possible matches down the road. At the end of the day, Ed goes over the business of the day and asks for feedback. He then ends the day with a brief meeting with reporters, although the work never really ends…talks and meetings can, and usually do, drag into the night.

In Tuesday’s media session, Wade reiterated his desire to re-sign LaTroy Hawkins and admitted signing Miguel Tejada is probably not happening, given Tejada’s desire for a multi-year deal.

Read about it here and here.

Astros rookies channeling their inner Olivia Newton-John (revised).

For those too young to remember, back in the early ’80s, Olivia Newton-John had a painfully cheesy song called “Let’s Get Physical.” Even worse was the video that accompanied the song — Olivia, working out with men of various shapes and sizes. The workout clothes were tight, neon and spandex.

That brings us to the Rookie Road Trip, an annual rite of passage where veterans buy crazy outfits for the rookies to wear on a travel day. The styles have been wide-ranging over the years, from Hooters outfits to slinky dresses to the attire du jour selected this year.

Tight. Neon. Spandex. Our five rookie models, featured above on the tarmac as the Astros were boarding their flight to Philadelphia, include (left to right) Chris Johnson, Bud Norris, Tommy Manzella, Wilton Lopez and Sammy Gervacio.

(And seriously, thanks to the guys for being such good sports.)

Below: Norris on the left, Johnson on the right. They were posing for family and friends on their way to the bus.

Poor Manzella, fighting a nasty cold while wearing spandex and carrying around a Build-A-Bear. You’ll notice Carlos Lee in the background, laughing at the rookies as they walked by.

Lopez, making the best of the situation. He and Gervacio laughed through the whole process, while it took the others a little longer to loosen up and accept the fact that a little harmless public humiliation is just part of life as a rookie.

Jason Michaels takes a picture of three rookies while waiting in the security line.


One more note on this topic: Rookies were also instructed to help out the flight attendants with serving the passengers. Picture, if you will, Sammy Gervacio approaching Ed Wade with, “Can I get you something to drink?”


On another topic, you’ve probably heard by now that at least 11 members of the Astros traveling party are suffering some kind of cold, flu or sinus problem. The only way to guarantee that list will grow is to put everyone on the same airplane for a three-hour trip to, say, Philadelphia. In that case, I expect the epidemic to get worse before it improves.

Some of the more savvy veterans took health safety matters into their own hands. As I waited for the rookies to come out of the lockerroom in their pink neon, I captured this image of a very precautious Geoff Blum:


And later, on the plane, I caught this one of LaTroy Hawkins (after I said, “smile, LaTroy,” I realized how ridiculous that must have sounded):

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Groundbreaking ceremony and Build-a-Bear. Hawkins has had a busy week.

Nine months after they announced plans to open the second MLB Urban Youth Academy, the Astros ceremoniously tossed the first pieces of dirt at the very spot where the facility will reside in less than a year.

The story detailing the event can be read here, and below are several pictures to illustrate the groundbreaking ceremony, attended by dozens of Astros and Major League Baseball dignitaries.

Michael Bourn and LaTroy Hawkins looked like they were enjoying this part, especially while trying to the throw dirt far enough that it grazed the photographers taking their picture.


Major League Baseball and the Astros contributed $600,000 to the construction of the Houston Astros MLB Urban Youth Academy at Sylvester Turner Park, which equaled the contributions by both the City of Houston and the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department.


Hawkins was introduced by Darrell Miller, director of the Urban Youth Academy, at the “Wanna Play?” event. The program provided various baseball activities such as batting and pitching cages, baserunning contests, wiffle ball games and demonstrations by Bourn, Hawkins and Wesley Wright and Dave Clark. Wanna Play? was launched at the 2009 Gillette Civil Rights Game in Cincinnati and is intended to provide baseball activities to young people in urban areas.







It doesn’t matter how bad a season is or how anxious the players are for it just to be over…there’s always time to have a little fun. Or, in Hawkins’ case, a lot of fun, thanks to a rookie hazing ritual that is alive and well in the Astros’ clubhouse.

I have a tremendous amount of access to all the behind-the-scenes action at the ballpark, but I’d trade several of those pictures for just one of Hawkins at Build-A-Bear, where he took the painstaking steps to order one bear for each of his rookie teammates.

Rookies have to carry the bears with them everywhere they go, minus the field, of course.

Hawkins didn’t just order the bears. He dressed them up and gave them birth certificates and names. Bud Norris’s bear is named “Dew Ruu,” after pitching coach Dewey Robinson. Chris Johnson’s is named Adam Piatt, after the former big league player who happened to attend the same high school as the young third baseman. Tommy Manzella’s bear is named “Scarface,” while Wilton Lopez’s is called “Suba,” a nod to bullpen catcher Strech Suba.

I can hardly wait to see what getups Hawkins and his veteran teammates have picked out for the “Rookie Road Trip,” which inevitably will take place sometime during the Philly-New York swing. Whether the attire is Hooter’s outfits or hula skirts — or worse — I’ll be sure to snap lots of pictures and post them on this blog.


I recently quelled any notions that Jim Deshaies had a chance to become the Astros’ next manager, but apparently, there are still some out there who are holding out hope.

Yesterday, I received this in the mail — not signed, with only “Austin” in the postmark:

Turns out, just about every sports reporter in the city, plus Lance Berkman and J.D. himself received the same mailing. I especially like the part at the bottom, where the anonymous lobbyist reminds us to “Join the movement, feel the excitement.”

(The envelope also included a Deshaies baseball card, which truth be told, I was kind of fired up about.)

Win a chance to go fishing with LaTroy Hawkins.

Reliever LaTroy Hawkins spends part of his offseason raising money for a great cause, and this year, he’s inviting Astros fans to join in on the fun.

“Hawk’s Big League Bass Classic,” benefitting Lifeline Youth and Family Services, will be held in Del Rio, Texas from Nov. 19-22. Hawkins is giving away the exclusive opportunity to spend a weekend with him, four other Major League players and professional bass fisherman.

Astros fans can register to win one of five Bass Classic packages, free of charge, by simply showing up to the Academy Sports + Outdoors at 19720 NW Freeway (at 290 before FM 1960) on Thursday (Sept. 24) from 6 to 7 p.m. CT.

Hawkins will sign autographs and accept entries for the Bass Classic, which will be awarded to five fans. This exclusive weekend event convenes at Indianhead Ranch, a 10,000 acre, exotic hunting reserve complete with thousands of free roaming animals. Days will be spent fishing Lake Amistad and evenings will be filled with fun activities for the entire group. The prize is valued at $5,000.

Lifeline Youth and Family Services is an organization that provides programs for children and families at risk for abuse, neglect, and delinquency. Lifeline’s mission is to change hearts and bring hope to a generation at risk.

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Astros, Bengals, and man-crushes on Nick Lachey.

I attended college at the University of Cincinnati and lived here a total of 6 1/2 years, and for a long time after I moved away, this was definitely where I considered home. I have wonderful memories of my time in the Queen City and, because my family is only an hour away in my original hometown of Dayton, the Reds trips are right at the top of the list in terms of roadies I look forward to every season.

That said, I also understand Cincinnati isn’t the most exciting city in the league, and there’s not a whole lot to do around here, whether you’re killing time during the day before a night game or looking for a place to unwind after. Sure, there are a handful of decent spots, but the list of desirable destinations is more modest than say, Chicago or New York.

So it comes as no surprise that after the Astros arrived to Cincinnati early evening on Sunday, a large chunk of the team headed for Morton’s Steakhouse, located just a hop, skip and a jump from the team hotel. And it’s also not shocking that they weren’t the only high-profile folks there that night, given the few choices for nightlife in downtown Cincinnati.

The Cincinnati Bengals were having their own soiree at a nearby table, and in another corner was Cincinnati native Nick Lachey — the former Mr. Jessica Simpson who cut his teeth in the business as part of the boy band 98 Degrees.

I wasn’t there that night, so I can only give an account based on bits and pieces that certain players have provided for me. Two items I found to be fairly reliable: a) an Astros veteran asked one of the Bengals players to bring their bill over to rookie Bud Norris, who didn’t know it was a joke and ended up paying the whole thing; and b) Tim Byrdak was really, really excited to meet Lachey.

Byrdak tried to downplay it, but that didn’t stop select teammates from referring to him as “Tim Lachey” for a solid hour before batting practice on Tuesday.

Byrdak didn’t go overboard in trying to defend himself, but he did retaliate by hiding LaTroy Hawkins’ glove while pitchers slowly made their way to the field for stretching. I’m not sure that was equal pay back to being accused of having a “man crush” on Nick Lachey, but it was pretty entertaining watching a befuddled Hawkins circle the field looking for a glove that was stuffed in the back of Byrdak’s uniform pants.




Even though the end result of the game left a lot to be desired, I had a blast hanging out with Brownie and J.D. in the television booth and I hope you enjoyed the tweets and blogs I posted during my time there. I posted some early game shots in one blog; here are some postgame shots to enjoy (and don’t forget, I’ll be in the radio booth Wednesday night):

Brownie makes some last-minute additions to his scorebook just before postgame show begins…


The two broadcasters have one last off-air chuckle before the cameras start rolling again.


Here they are talking to studio host Kevin Eschenfelder as the postgame show begins.


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Norris, Brocail have arrived to Chicago. Wright was dehydrated.

Bud Norris landed in Chicago early Wednesday morning and arrived to the visitors clubhouse at Wrigley Field several hours before gametime, as did right-hander Doug Brocail, who was actived from the disabled list a day earlier.

Brocail takes LaTroy Hawkins spot on the roster, and to make room for Norris, the Astros optioned infielder Edwin Maysonet to Triple-A Round Rock.

According to’s Brian McTaggart, Norris is a candidate to start on Sunday in St. Louis, in place of Roy Oswalt, who is en route to Houston to have his lower back checked out by team doctors.

For now, Norris is available out of the bullpen.  

Meanwhile, reliever Wesley Wright was diagnosed with dehydration, not appendicitis, and was released from the hospital last night. He is not expected to be at the game Wednesday and will instead rest at the team hotel. Wright would not be available for the game anyway, seeing he threw more than 50 pitches Tuesday night.

Ticket special alert: 10 games for 20 bucks (and again, no fine print).

The Astros will ring in the second half of the season with one of their more popular ticket specials — 10 games for $20.

For a limited time, fans can buy Outfield Deck tickets to 10 Astros home games for only 20 bucks — a $50 savings per purchase. The special is available online only and the offer ends Wednesday, July 15 at 5:30 p.m. CT.

The 10 dates: July 20 and 22 vs. Cardinals; Aug. 3 and 5 vs. Giants; Aug. 19 and 20 vs. Marlins; Sept. 7 vs. Phillies; Sept. 9 vs. Braves; Sept. 21 and 23 vs. Cardinals.

I’m told this one sells out pretty quickly, so click here if you’re interested. And no, there’s no “with the purchase of 17 hot dogs” attached to the special (hey, I’m an ex-reporter. I’m skeptical by nature). Ten games. Twenty bucks. The end.


The Astros hosted their annual PLAY event at Minute Maid Park Tuesday, which involved the Astros athletic training staff, the Taylor Hooton Foundation, kids from the Boys and Girls Clubs of Houston and setup man LaTroy Hawkins.

The two-hour PLAY event, which stands for “Promoting a Lifetime of Activity for Youth,” is designed to educate children about nutrition, exercise and staying active.

PLAY was formed by the Professional Baseball Athletic Trainers Society (PBATS) in conjunction with the Taylor Hooton Foundation, which was formed by the parents of the 17-year old high school athlete from Plano, Texas, who took his own life in 2003 as a result of the abuse of anabolic steroids.

Young athletes are experimenting with anabolic androgenic steroids and other performance-enhancing drugs without knowledge of the associated dangers. 

Working with the Taylor Hooton Foundation and Major League Baseball clubs, PBATS is incorporating anti-steroid education within the PLAY campaign to generate awareness of this problem.

Each participant at the PLAY event received a PLAY “Pledge Card” to sign, along with Hawkins, promising to remain active, make healthy decisions and avoid performance-enhancing drugs.

The PLAY program was created in 2004 to raise awareness about children’s health issues because obesity is a major concern in the United States.  Since 2004, the PLAY campaign has conducted 60 events inside all 30 MLB ballparks reaching thousands of children with positive messages about making healthy decisions and living a more active and healthy lifestyle.


Lance Berkman’s favorite Minute Maid Park memory is now posted on the Astros Memories blog. All season, the Astros are posting favorite moments from past and present players as part of their 10-year Minute Maid celebration. Berkman’s answer is one of my favorites, because it’s one that few talk about now but that had a huge, huge impact on the team’s pursuit of the pennant in 2005.

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Player appearance alert — LaTroy Hawkins

Astros setup man LaTroy Hawkins will sign autographs and mingle with fans on Wednesday at the Whataburger restaurant located at 6888 Gulf Freeway at Woodridge. The session runs from 11 a.m. to noon CT.

The Astros and Whataburger have partnered to form the Ultimate Whatafan contest, where fans can register for prizes that include autographed jerseys from the Astros, Round Rock Express and Corpus Christi Hooks.

In addition, the Ultimate Whatafan will also receive two suite tickets to the Astros-Reds game on Sept. 26 and the opportunity to be on the field for batting practice. The winner will take part in the Astros Minor League MVP Ceremony and will throw out the ceremonial first pitch that day.

Hawkins’ autograph signing is the second of a series of four Whataburger appearances. The remaining dates are set for July 7 and Aug. 4.

LaTroy returns bearing gifts…sort of.

Brian Moehler has had no lingering effects from the line drive that crashed into his shoulder the other day, and he fully expects to make his next start. Other than a slight bruise, it appears Moehler got lucky with this one, especially since it was originally headed for his jaw. He’ll throw a side on Friday and will pitch Sunday.


Cecil Cooper doesn’t know how the starting rotation will line up after Roy Oswalt — or, I should say, if he does know, he’s not telling us.

But the news that Wandy Rodriguez will start Saturday, one day early, suggests he could get the ball for the second game against the Cubs on April 7.

“Roy Oswalt is pitching April 6 and this is not big news,” Cooper said. “After that, we’re trying to figure it out. We have an idea, but I ain’t saying.”


Asked if Brian Bogusevic could be a backup option if Michael Bourn struggles, Cooper offered up two other options instead.

“We have two guys who we’re counting on to play the corners and some center field and come off the bench — [Darin] Erstad and [Jason] Michaels. And we’ll have to look there before we go in another direction.”


LaTroy Hawkins watched with amusement as Reggie Abercrombie and Brandon Backe tore into the bag full of World Baseball Classic goodies he brought back from his country-wide excursion with Team U.S.A. The two looked like five-year-olds on Christmas as they tried on hats of all sizes and logos, from USA to Korea to Japan and the Dominican Republic.

“How do I look?” asked one. “This one’s cool,” said the other.

“I don’t know why they’re so excited,” Hawkins quipped. “I’m giving all this stuff to my kids.”


Haven’t had a lot of time to take pictures…here are a few from this week’s presidential visit:

President Bush spent most of his clubhouse signing autographs. Here we have Tim Byrdak on the left, Chris Sampson on the right.



Russ Ortiz wasn’t sure what all the commotion was about as he emerged from the training room, until he got a closer look. 


And here’s a couple of Biggio, during his visit to Kissimmee last weekend: