Results tagged ‘ opening day ’
Opening Day is special, and you instantly can feel the vibe. It’s festive, it’s fun and everyone’s in a good mood. And, least importantly, it’s the one game of the year where people get all gussied up.
On Opening Day, just about everyone who covers baseball, or broadcasts baseball, or signs free agents, or helps design bobbleheads, or sits in a suite with other like-minded very important people, is dressed to the nines. The men look a little like secret service agents (without the ear buds and scowls worn by the real secret service agents who are there to protect Minute Maid Park regulars George and Barbara Bush).
Opening Day means something. The ballpark is the place to be. Even if it’s just one game of 162 played every year, what Opening Day symbolizes is recognized, and respected.
That doesn’t mean Opening Day is some stuffy cocktail party. No, quite the contrary. Opening Day is a big party, and that was never more apparent than in the nearly seven hours leading up to first pitch, when the streets surrounding Minute Maid Park were closed off and transformed into the annual rite of passage known as Street Fest.
The festival on the streets by the ballpark (hence the name Street Fest) included a little bit of everything — bands, food, beverages, fans and appearances by significant members of the team, both from the front office and the uniformed staff.
Street Fest started early and ended late and featured visits from some of the most recognizable members of the team. Two groups of Astros dropped by for two separate pep rallies.
Unsurprisingly, the second crowd, on hand for the appearance by Jose Altuve, J.D. Martinez and Bud Norris at 4:30-ish, was slightly more spirited and, shall we say, less inhibited than the fans who moseyed over to the stage for the 12:30 show with Jeff Luhnow, Brad Mills and Larry Dierker. Hey, certain libations just flow more freely in the late afternoon hours.
Pep rallies were just one element of the Opening Day celebration. Pregame ceremonies included trotting Budweiser Clydesdales, an anthem-singing country music star (Clay Walker), ceremonial first pitches by those who contributed to the Astros’ storied history (Jimmy Wynn, Dierker and Jose Cruz) and those who are ready to usher in a brand new era of Astros baseball, including owner Jim Crane and his many board members.
Crane’s afternoon began with a lengthy visit to batting practice and brief remarks to the team assembled in the locker room a couple of hours before first pitch.
We have lots of pictures and videos to share from the day. We’ll start with Crane’s remarks to the team:
“Congrats on making the team. I know for a lot of you guys it’s your first time making the team, your first Opening Day. Have some fun.
“There’s a lot of opportunity here. We’re going to try to do things right and try to make this a fun place to be. This should be a fun team to be on so anything we can help you with, you’re part of my family now.
“One thing you’ve got to remember — those people outside (in the stands) pay the bills. We put up the money to buy the team, and we need to engage the fans, stay close to the fans. We need to be nice to the fans. We’ve worked hard at that. I’m going to ask a lot of you throughout the season when you’ve got the time. We won’t take away from your work.”
The dugout scene before the game always includes plenty of hugs and handshakes among teammates. This is the one game of the year where the sense of brotherhood is front and center. Although the camaraderie doesn’t dim through the season, you don’t see a lot of outward affection between teammates from day to day. That’s mainly saved for the opener.
Enjoy the photos from an eventful day at Minute Maid Park:
The Astros rode the super-sized version of a commercial jet to Corpus Christi, and while they’ll take the same plane back to Houston following the game against the Double-A Hooks, there will be considerably fewer people on that leg of the flight.
The Astros broke camp late morning on Monday and left town with both teams that will play in the exhibition game at Whataburger Field that night: the Corpus club (whose roster will be officially set sometime in the next day or so), and the thirty-some players remaining in Astros big league camp.
After the game, the Hooks players will stay put and the Astros crew will head to Houston. The exhibition season will continue (and thankfully end) at Minute Maid Park this week. They play a night game versus the White Sox Tuesday (7:05 CT), a day game Wednesday (1:05 CT) and will work out for a couple of hours on Thursday, an offday. Then it’s go time.
As we continue to count the days down until that first pitch is thrown on Friday, April 6 at 6:05 CT, here’s a visual perspective of the day so far, with more to come later:
Asked for his impression of top pitching prospect Jarred Cosart on Sunday, manager Brad Mills used one word: “Electric.”
Sunday’s game, a split-squad affair with the Pirates in Kissimmee, presented Cosart with his first real opportunity to impress the Astros’ skipper. The 21-year-old righty was slated to throw the final four innings and he nearly made it: Over 3 1/3 innings, Cosart allowed seven hits, four runs, one walk and five strikeouts. He struck out the side in his first frame and consistently hit 96 mph with his fastball, reaching 98 a couple of times.
Mills didn’t want to take any chances after Cosart started to labor through his final inning and ended the right-hander’s day after his 64th pitch. Mills sensed Cosart was still pretty amped up to be making his first appearance in a Major League spring game and thought it best to not let things get out of hand and risk injury.
Cosart was one of the marquee names, along with first baseman Jonathan Singleton, in the Hunter Pence trade. He’s been ranked as the Astros’ No. 2 prospect by Baseball America. He’s likely ticketed for Double-A Corpus Christi to start the season.
Jordan Schafer was originally planning to play in the Astros’ game on Monday in Viera, but he’s been bumped back a day. Schafer sprained his wrist about a week ago and is still slowly working his way back. Tentatively, he’ll play two or three innings when the Astros host the Tigers on Tuesday.
(UPDATE, 3:45 ET): Mills tells reporters Schafer will not play Tuesday. Also, Bud Norris will be given two extra days of rest to ensure his elbow is OK. Norris will now start Friday at home vs. the Braves).
General manager Jeff Luhnow will appear on the final Astroline of the 2011-12 offseason, joining Milo Hamilton at the ESPN Club at the Disney Boardwalk on Wednesday at 8 p.m. ET/7 CT.
The show can be heard on 740 am KTRH and Astros.com.
One week from today, the Astros will be on their way to Corpus to play the Hooks in an exhibition game (April 2), and then will head to Houston to get ready for Opening Day (April 6).
In the meantime, there’s still business to finish up in Florida. Enjoy these images from batting practice in Viera Monday morning:
As we inch toward the beginning of the regular season, we’d like to pass along some information about the upcoming exhibition game at Minute Maid Park, along with a couple of ticket tidbits you may have missed…
March 30 vs. Boston Red Sox
Before Brad Mills joined the Astros, we didn’t see much of the storied AL East Red Sox beyond an Interleague series every four years or so. But I sense it’s no coincidence that we’ve seen more of the Red Sox in the last two years than we did in the 15 years prior, now that Mills is in the mix.
For a baseball fan living in Houston, that can only be viewed as a good thing. While having the Royals and Blue Jays as our exhibition guests at Minute Maid Park for the better part of a decade was nice and all, it’s simply more fun to have a team like the Red Sox in town. And they’ll be here March 30 at 7:05 CT (in addition to a three-gamer in early July.)
Also, we’re offering a First Pitch sweepstakes for the Astros-Red Sox game. Fans can text “pitch” to 26099 for the chance to throw out the first pitch on March 30. The contest ends Thursday afternoon and the winner will be notified on Friday.
If you’re more focused on the regular season, check out this new cheap ticket, premium game package: The Opening Day 3-Game Hot Pack.
The package includes a ticket to Opening Day (April 8 versus the Marlins), a ticket to the June 28 game versus the Rangers and July 3 versus the Red Sox.