Results tagged ‘ Mike Hampton ’

Life on the road can create bleary eyes and blurry memories.

I had to chuckle when I read this excerpt from Astros radio announcer Dave Raymond’s blog illustrating how the “Dog Days” of summer can wear out those who travel with a Major League ball club.

The effects from a restful All-Star break usually wear off within a week or two, and by the time August arrives, full-out fatigue has set in. Middle-of-the-night arrivals take on a whole new life when you’re four months into baseball season. You wake up in the morning and have no idea what city you’re in. You get back to the hotel after a game and can’t remember your room number.

Or, as illustrated in Raymond’s blog, you can pull a Bill “Brownie” Brown and try to use your Starbucks gift card to get into your hotel room, fail miserably, lug your belongings back to the front desk, pull out your driver’s license and get a new key, only to discover the original one would have worked just fine.

I kid because I care. And because I’ve been there before. A lot. Regardless of how spry and able-bodied you are, from time to time, you will have a senior moment. It’s not cause for alarm. It’s just that with around 60 games left in the season, baseball people start running on fumes. Some get through it better than others, but forgetfulness is a common symptom, across the board. It’s not so much, “What time is it?” as it is “What day is it?”

I recall one particularly harrowing roadie way, way back in 1999. The Astros played a Thursday night game in Arizona that, of course, went 11 innings, followed by an overnight flight to Kansas City. The buses pulled up to the hotel in Kansas City around 7 a.m. The sun was up. Rush hour traffic was in full force. And the Astros hadn’t been to bed yet.

I was working for the Astros’ media relations department at the time, and a local radio station that did a weekly segment with Ken Caminiti every Friday asked me to send along a message to Cammy to remind him to call in later that day. The hosts sensed that with the early morning arrival and no real concept of one day becoming the next, this could be an issue for the third baseman.

They were right. I saw Caminiti on the team bus and said, “Don’t forget to call the radio station for your show today.” He shook his and said, “I do the show on Fridays.” I said, “Cammy. It is Friday.”

Blank stare. Then a slap of the forehead. “Ohhhhhh….right.”

After the game, the team bus dropped us off at the hotel and I stood at the elevators, having no idea, at all, what floor I was on or what room I was in. That was the first time it happened. It most certainly wasn’t the last.

As recently as two years ago (or was it last year?) I worked a little later after a game at Wrigley Field, took a cab back to the hotel and couldn’t for the life of me remember what floor I was staying on. I stopped on six. Then eight. Then six again. I ran into Ed Wade on one of my stops and said, “I have absolutely no idea where I am.” He looked amused, but not surprised.

Finally I called the one person who I was certain would sympathize with my plight — Dave Raymond, of course. I asked him to look at the rooming list and tell me where to go.

I would have felt foolish, if not for the fact that I was fairly certain I wasn’t the only one who this happens to. Reading that it happens to people like the astute and organized Brownie was oddly comforting.

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How well you hold up during a season is largely contingent on how well your team is positioned in the standings. That’s just how it is. Losing has a ripple effect. When your team is not anywhere close to a pennant race, it’s hard to stay perky in August and September, even with Starbucks locations on every street corner across the country.

But when you’re winning? Man, oh man. Nothing can ruin the mood. Exhaustion? Bah. The one thing I remember better than anything else about that aforementioned 11-inning game in Arizona in ’99 was that the Astros lost that game, and just before they began the boarding process for their red-eye to Kansas City, Mike Hampton stopped, busted out with his best attempt at the moon walk, cracked up his teammates and THEN got on the plane. Extra-inning losses are a lot more tolerable when it’s the only game you’ve dropped in a week.

Later that season, the Astros swept a Montreal-Philadelphia road trip and ended up stuck on the tarmac for at least five hours, maybe more, due to torrential downpours. Problem? Nah. Some played cards. Others watched movies. The broadcasters engaged in their usual two-hour fantasy baseball debate. Bench coach Matt Galante and I went toe-to-toe in a makeshift baseball trivia contest. We had pizzas delivered to the plane (this was pre-9/11) and everyone remained, for the most part, exceedingly happy.

That’s what happens when your team is in a pennant race. Baseball is fun. You like your colleagues. You can’t wait to get to the ballpark the next day.

When you’re losing…well, let’s just say the countdown to October takes on an entirely different meaning.

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Rough night for Bazardo, Hampton. Carlos hits 300.

The Astros had their eye on Yorman Bazardo as early as last offseason, when they offered him a Minor League contract and an invite to big league Spring Training. But Bazardo received what he felt was a more enticing offer from the Phillies, took that one, and spent the spring in Clearwater.

Bad mechanics and poor numbers led to the Phillies releasing Bazardo about a week before Opening Day. His representatives went back to the Astros, who briefly considered sending him to extended spring in Florida. With too many players there already, they instead assigned him to Triple-A Round Rock.

Bazardo, working with Express pitching coach Burt Hooton, started the season in the bullpen and eventually moved to the rotation. Prior to his callup to the Astros on Friday, he became one of Round Rock’s best performers.

Bazardo was brought up to the big leagues to serve as the long reliever, but his first outing Saturday night was long only in terms of pitches thrown (41) and minutes on the mound. His performance was wholly unimpressive — one inning, three hits, five runs (three earned).

Quite frankly, I was surprised to see Bazardo in the game, considering beforehand, manager Cecil Cooper said he was going to try not to use him. Bazardo had started for the Express three days earlier. “Probably not tonight,” Coop said of Bazardo’s availability. Definitely (Sunday).”

A right knee sprain forced Mike Hampton out of the game in the second inning, which necessitated Bazardo’s hasty entry. After the game, Coop took full responsibility for what happened next. “I’ll take the heat for that,” he said. “I talked to the young man, Bazardo, about not pitching today and we got into a situation where we needed him. He sucked it up.

“The kid just pitched (three) days ago — 75 pitches. Today would probably have been a side day. I was hoping to get through a couple of innings with him.”

Said Bazardo: “It’s obvious my stuff wasn’t there today. I tried to get out of the inning. Hopefully, next time I’ll do better with two, three days of rest. I’ll be fine.”

It’s important to note that while Bazardo is young, he’s not exactly inexperienced. He’s been with the Marlins, Tigers and Phillies and failed to stick with any of those organizations. The Astros felt he had enough to offer to take a chance on him, and it’s likely they didn’t envision him working his way onto the big league staff this quickly.

It’s probably prudent to remember that Bazardo is not the true “prospect” that Bud Norris is. In my opinion, it’s important to keep those two separate when talking about the future of this rotation. That said, I’d like to see Bazardo pitch, fully rested, many more times before passing judgment. 

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News and notes:

Puma is getting antsy to return to the field. Asked by reporters about his sore calf, he responded: “If a grizzly ran out of that room right there, I could beat all you guys up the stairs.”

Hampton has a lateral meniscus sprain in his right knee and left the ballpark to have MRIs on both of his knees. The Astros expect to have the results Sunday.

A tip of the cap to Carlos Lee, who became the third Astro to log his 300th career home run (also Pudge and Puma). Even better, the fan who caught the ball gave it back to him, in exchange for a signed bat. “The woman who caught it, it was her son’s eighth birthday,” Lee said. “So, Happy Birthday Hunter.”

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The view from the press box at Wrigley Field, and other leftover odds and ends.

 

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If you took a survey of 100 Major League players and asked them to name their favorite road city, it’s highly likely no fewer than 95 would answer, “Chicago.”

The people. The restaurants. The nightlife. And the ballpark.

Yes, the ballpark. For the most part, ballplayers love Wrigley Field. They love the tradition, the heckling fans, the packed houses every night, the rickety old infrastructure and the elaborate singing of “Take Me Out to the Ballgame” that has continued as a tradition since Harry Caray’s passing 11 years ago.

The clubhouse is cramped, the tunnels smell funny and the dugouts are tiny, but for some reason, none of that matters. Because it’s Chicago, it’s Wrigley Field, and it’s fun. And the showdowns between the Astros and Cubs over the years have been, for the most part, fantastic.

Above is a shot of my view of Wrigley Field from way up in the press box. Day games at Wrigley are preferred, but there’s nothing like the view on a clear, rain-free night.

Cleaning out the photo file…

It was Family Day at Minute Maid Park on Sunday, the one day players are invited to bring their kids on the field for a free-for-all run around the bases (and the outfield and the dugouts and the mound…must be a fun day for the grounds crew).

I’ve been to a dozen family days but for some reason this one seemed more well-attended than those in the past. Check out this photo…and that’s only part of the group.

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Darin Erstad and family…

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Sean Berry and family…

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On Saturday, I attended the annual Texas Italian American Sports Foundation Scholarship Awards luncheon, a yearly ritual that involves Astros players, great food and a terrific cause.

The event is held at Damian’s Cucina Italiana every year and provides scholarships for student-athletes headed for college in the fall.

Representing the Astros were Jeff Fulchino, Mike Hampton, Jose Cruz, Hunter Pence and emcee Milo Hamilton. And the bread pudding was to die for.

Milo, with a young fan…

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Pence, Fulchino.

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Jose Cruuuuuuuuuuuz

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Hampton.

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Hampton day to day, what to do with Backe, and, most importantly, remembering Arnie.

Mike Hampton is tentatively scheduled to start on Sunday when the Astros wrap up their series with the Rangers, but as of Wednesday, the lefty’s status is day-to-day. Basically, this means that either the cut on his thumb will be healed by Sunday, in which case he’ll pitch, or it’ll still be an open wound, in which case he won’t.

“We think he’ll be fine,” manager Cecil Cooper said. “If not, we’ll have to figure out a way to give him a day or something, if he needs it. If there are issues, we might skip him. We’ll have to see.”

Hampton apparently cut his thumb on a soap dispenser while showering in the clubhouse at Wrigley Field on Sunday. I have to admit, it sounds a little strange to me. How does a soap dispenser have something that sharp enough on it that it would cut someone?

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Brandon Backe will make his seventh and final rehab outing on Saturday in Round Rock, but he won’t be reinstated from the DL right away. He can’t make any more rehab starts beyond next Tuesday, per the 30-day rule for pitchers, but that does not mean the Astros have to make an immediate roster move.

Instead, Backe will throw his normal between-start bullpen session and, assuming the team intends to put him on their 25-man roster, a move would be made just prior to Backe’s joining the rotation.

There is no target date for when Backe may appear for the first time in a big league game this season.

“We’ve talked preliminaries, but we haven’t nailed it down,” general manager Ed Wade said. “We’ll have to see how he progresses, how other guys progress and try to figure it out when we have to.”

Presumably, Backe would bump Felipe Paulino from the rotation, considering Paulino is the only starter who has options remaining on his contract and can go back to Round Rock without penalty. Nothing has been decided, however.

“It’s a nice problem to have,” Wade said. “It’s always better to have more than not enough. We tend to be able to figure those kinds of things out and unfortunately, as if often the case, those things figure themselves out. All we want to do is hope Brandon gets through that start on Saturday in good shape and pitches the way he pitched in his previous rehab outings.”

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Sad, sad news about a Minute Maid Park institution, Arnie Murphy, better known as “The Peanut Dude.” Arnie passed away after undergoing a stem cell procedure to aid his ailing heart.

Arnie was a member of the Astros and Aramark family for over 15 years and through the years, in addition to displaying some of the best peanut-tossing moves in the business, he had dedicated himself to bringing comfort to the many young children of the Sunshine Kids — a support group for kids with cancer and their families.

Every night, Arnie would pose with a Sunshine Kid in front of the press box, and the image would be shown on the giant JumboTron for the entire stadium’s viewing. It was a small gesture, but not to the featured youngster. Arnie always had a smile and a kind word, and the ballpark just won’t be the same without him.

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What a strange day.

Usually it’s a very good thing that you never really know what’s going to happen on any given day of Spring Training. That’s one of the interesting parts of this job — you think it’s going to be a normal, ho-hum day, and something strange and unusual happens and all of a sudden, there’s plenty to write about.

But this Mike Hampton thing came out of left field, so to speak. I know it’s probably nothing. But anytime you hear “irregular” in the same sentence as “heart,” it’s scary. Especially when you’re talking about a seemingly healthy 36-year-old man.

So, we’ll hope for the best. Supposedly we’ll hear the results of his appointment with Dr. Muntz on Tuesday, and like the Astros are telling us, it’s probably nothing. But I’ll feel better when I actually see Hampton back in camp this week.

Tuesday is going to be a busy day at Osceola County Stadium. Not only is it the first day the full squad works out together, but Miguel Tejada is due to arrive sometime in the morning. With his sentencing date pending (March 26), it’s highly unlikely he’s going to say much about his involvement in the PED mess that has taken over this sport in the last year. The only saving grace for Tejada is Alex Rodriguez is scheduled to face the media at the very same time Tejada is due to report to Astos camp, so it’s more likely Tejada will have only a handful of reporters waiting for him, as opposed to the circus that awaits A-Rod.

I don’t know what to do with this Pudge Rodriguez thing anymore. This is the most bizarre non-story I’ve covered in a while. We keep reading stories about Pudge considering signing with the Astros, but the interest appears to be one-sided. Ed Wade last talked to Rodriguez’s representatives 23 days ago and he has never made a formal offer to Pudge. But this story won’t go away. I wonder what would happen if Pudge’s asking price dropped to, say, $1 million.

If you’re ever in Kissimmee, you must stop for dinner at La Forchetta, the best Italian restaurant this side of the Mississippi, as they say. Had the veal marsala tonight. If you’re planning a trip to spring training, let me know and I’ll tell you how to get there. You won’t regret it. It’s the Astros home away from home, for good reason.

Alyson 

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