Guest post: Jed Lowrie on his Diamond Diplomacy trip to Colombia

We’re delighted to introduce our first Mission Control guest post! Today’s post is courtesy of new/returning Astros shortstop Jed Lowrie, who recently returned from a trip to Colombia as part of the Diamond Diplomacy program. We’ve got photos from Jed’s trip as well as a first person account of his experience.  We’re looking forward to having more guest posts here at Mission Control as we head into the 2015 season and are honored to have Jed leading off. All photos courtesy of Jed Lowrie.

 

Jed Lowrie recently toured Colombia on a baseball diplomatic mission

Jed Lowrie recently toured Colombia on a baseball diplomatic mission

 

I recently had the opportunity to travel to Colombia as part of the Diamond Diplomacy program, a joint partnership between the United States State Department and Major League Baseball. We traveled to three cities in three days working with kids from underprivileged neighborhoods.  With the help of U.S. Ambassador Kevin Whitaker, Anna de Pelaez, director of Little League in Colombia, and Justin Halladay, President and Founder of Project Beisbol, we were able to run three successful baseball clinics in Bogota, Barranquilla and Cartagena.

 

Bogota started off the program, and the kids were very enthusiastic about the game. Although Bogota is a city of around 8 million, I was told there were only four baseball fields in the whole city.  I was delightfully surprised to see the skill the kids put on display. Those skills represent a lot of hard work that people like Anna and Justin put in well before I got there. This partnership provides kids in Colombia the opportunity to learn skills like teamwork, leadership, and work ethic that will help both on and off the field.

 

Ambassador Whitaker made opening remarks to the kids of Bogota before we started our clinic. It was a pleasure getting to meet the Ambassador and witness his passion for the game and his vision for baseball in Colombia.

Baseball is much more popular on the coast of Colombia, with coastal cities having produced many successful Major League players. Barranquilla was the first destination on the coast, and the kid’s enthusiasm was contagious. Through the translator, I fielded many advanced questions about the game. We spent over an hour talking about the game, my path to the Major Leagues and the qualities it takes to be a Major League player.

As in Bogota, the U.S. Embassy provided the kids with shirts, hats and snacks.  It is very challenging to conduct a fruitful two-hour clinic, but the coaches were very knowledgeable and without their support the clinic there wouldn’t have run so smoothly. I decided to have two different stations, fielding and hitting, to focus on what I know the best and hopefully impart some of the knowledge I’ve acquired playing the game for seven years at the highest level.

My experience in Cartagena was special for a lot of reasons: I got to visit the professional stadium and see where the great talent from this country train and play; I got to talk baseball with coaches, parents and kids for nearly two hours; but the most memorable moment was meeting Deimer Morelos. Deimer is a young man who has a big league arm, but, due to an unfortunate misunderstanding with the police, lost his right leg from the knee down. I encourage everyone to read about his story (English translation and Spanish). His is not a sad story though. He stood before me with the look in his eyes and the belief that he will still become a Major League pitcher and frankly I believe him; we played catch and he has a great arm.

With Deimer Morelos

With Deimer Morelos

 

While my experience with Deimer was the most moving, the kids of Cartagena were not overlooked. By the third day of the clinic, our team of Anna de Pelaez, Justin Halladay and Cindy Kierscht, of the U.S. Embassy and vital to the whole operation, had all of the kinks worked out. We had the largest and most engaged crowd of the three cities and a group of supportive parents that were to be lauded. The support of the coaches was once again vital with a special guest, Neder Horta, local scout for Colombia and Dominican Summer League coach for the Astros. With the help of Neder and the other coaches, the clinic in Cartagena was seamless. We were able to cover more topics in a shorter amount of time than previously.

 

I’m truly grateful for the opportunity to travel to Colombia and for all of the work that was put in by many that weren’t mentioned in this short entry. I hope to continue traveling and sharing my experiences with other cultures around the world. Baseball is a stronger game with the addition of more and more nationalities being represented.

 

#BiggioHOF: Craig Biggio Day Hall of Fame Celebration Highlights

Friday afternoon, over 1600 Astros fans braved the cold and wet weather to join us at Minute Maid Park to celebrate Craig Biggio’s Hall of Fame election. The celebration’s highlights included introductory remarks by fellow Hall of Famer Nolan Ryan (Biggio’s Astros teammate in 1988, his rookie season), Astros president Reid Ryan, owner Jim Crane and of course the man of the hour: Craig Biggio. Houston Mayor Annise Parker was on hand to officially proclaim Friday, January 9, 2015 as “Craig Biggio Day” in the city of Houston.

The fans inside Union Station greeted the Astros legend with his iconic “B-G-O” chant and several fans brought signs and banners. It was pretty much an outpouring of mutual love and admiration between a fan base and their hero. It was awesome. Biggio, who attended the event with his entire family (wife Patty, sons Conor and Cavan and daughter Quinn), was visibly moved on several occasions, overwhelmed with the event and the emotion, telling the fans, “I love you guys, I love this city.”

We’ve got his entire speech for you here:

 

And a fun photo gallery!

And Nolan Ryan’s speech:

We’ve also got an interactive photo gallery of fan photos at our dedicated Biggio Hall of Fame landing page: Astros.com/BiggioHOF. Check it out!

Thanks to all the fans who came out and celebrated with us on Friday. We’ll have lots more opportunity to celebrate Craig’s Hall of Fame career throughout the 2015 season.

- Amanda
@amandarykoff

#BiggioHOF: Craig Biggio Took Over @MLB And Here’s What Happened

Biggio looks good in the official Hall of Fame jersey and cap

Biggio looks good in the official Hall of Fame jersey and cap

During his visit to NYC on the required post-Hall of Fame election media circuit, Astros legend Craig Biggio stopped by the MLB Network studio where he chatted with the MLB Now crew and took over the @MLB Twitter account. Here’s a tweet by tweet account of the Q&A session.

#BiggioHOF: Support from Houston and Beyond for Craig Biggio’s Hall of Fame Election

Biggio is all smiles as a new Hall of Famer

Biggio is all smiles as a new Hall of Famer

How did anybody celebrate anything or show their support for their favorite sports heroes before social media? I don’t even want to remember back to the dark days of the 1990’s. Tuesday, Astros legend Craig Biggio was elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame in his third year on the ballot. The Astros celebrated. Houston celebrated. The sports world celebrated. ASTRONAUTS IN OUTER SPACE CELEBRATED. And how do we know this? Because Twitter and Instagram blew up with congratulations messages.

We’ve taken the liberty of rounding up our favorites for your enjoyment. Thanks for the support, everyone. On behalf of the Astros and Hall of Famer Craig Biggio, we appreciate it.

J.J. Watt of the Houston Texans, who is pretty good at that football thing and longtime fan of Craig Biggio, immediately tweeted his excitement with just a single word:

Brad Davis of the Houston Dynamo:

Houston’s pro sports teams showed their #HTownPride and chimed in with their congratulations.

Houston Texans:

Houston Rockets:

Dynamo:

Astros players and executives:

Astros top pitching prospect Mark Appel:

Appel also shared this amazing tweet and photo — yes, that’s young Mark Appel getting Craig Biggio’s autograph!

Astros catcher Jason Castro:

Astros LHP and fellow Gold Glove winner Dallas Keuchel:

Astros RHP Collin McHugh:

Astros manager AJ Hinch:

Astros president Reid Ryan:

Former Astros player and current Astros minor league special assignment coach Morgan Ensberg:

Former teammate Chris Burke:

Around the wide world of sports:

Washington Redskins:

Notre Dame Baseball (Biggio’s two sons play for the Fighting Irish):

Hall of Famer Yogi Berra, who mentored Biggio when he coached the Astros and with whom Craig Biggio shares a special bond:

Of course Astros superfan and Houston great Bun B posted his congratulations on his Instagram feed:

No sir. Hats off to you Mr. Biggio. Congrats to you. It's deserved. #HOF

A photo posted by Bun B (@trillog) on Jan 1, 2015 at 6:15pm PST

The Mayor of Houston, Annise Parker, tweeted her excitement:

Texas staple Whataburger chimed in with a congratulations message and a new stat:

AND CONGRATULATIONS CAME IN FROM SPACE. Astronaut Terry Virts congratulated Biggio from the International Space Station!

Thanks all for your words of congratulations and support. The entire Astros organization appreciates it.

Please join us on Friday, January 9 at Minute Maid Park to celebrate Craig’s Hall of Fame election with a special Craig Biggio Day celebration. Visit Astros.com/BiggioHOF for details.

- Amanda
@amandarykoff

Mark Appel Live-Tweeted His Day at the Zoo

Astros top pitching prospect Mark Appel went to the Cheyenne Mountain Zoo in Colorado Springs, Colorado last week. And like any self-respecting red-blooded American, he took photos of animals. And selfies with those animals. And live-tweeted the experience from his Twitter account.

Behold the glory of Mark Appel’s Day at the Zoo.

First the photos of the animals:

And now…the selfies!

You can ask Appel about his day at the zoo on this week’s episode of Astroline with guest host Robert Ford. Tweet your questions using #Astroline. All episodes can be streamed live at Astros.com/Astroline.

- Amanda
@amandarykoff

#AstrosInJapan: Jose Altuve Shines in Japan Series

Altuve brought his big bat to Japan

Altuve brought his big bat to Japan

How good was Jose Altuve’s 2014 season? So good he set the Astros franchise record for hits in a season with 225 and won the team’s first ever batting title with a ridiculous .341 batting average. The two-time All-Star also led the AL with 56 stolen bases, becoming just the second ML player since 1946 to lead his league in batting, hits and stolen bases. We called it the “Hustle Triple Crown.”

Altuve continued his roll as a hit machine with the MLB All-Stars in Japan, hitting a team-best .429 (6×14) with two doubles, two RBI and a 1.000 OPS in the five-game series against Samurai Japan. In leading the MLB All-Stars to consecutive wins over Samurai Japan at the Tokyo Dome, Altuve had back-to-back three-hit games and also made several sparkling defensive plays at second base.

Check out the highlights here:

The MLB All-Stars ended with a 2-3 record in the official five-game series vs. Samurai Japan. The two clubs will play an exhibition game on Thursday, which will be broadcast live from Okinawa Cellular Stadium on MLB Network and MLB.TV at 3 am CT, and then re-aired at 8 pm CT on MLB Network.

No, Altuve, you the man

No, Altuve, you the man

Until next time, sayonara!

- Amanda
@amandarykoff

#AstrosInJapan: Orbit joins MLB All-Stars at Kabuki Theater in Tokyo

Konnichiwa, Astros fans. We’re back with more fun stuff from the MLB All-Star tour of Japan. And what’s today’s subject? Kabuki, the centuries-old Japanese dance-drama tradition.

We all know Orbit is a natural showman, so of course he was recruited to accompany Angels’ pitcher Hector Santiago and Nationals’ pitcher Jerry Blevins when they visited a kabuki theater in Tokyo.

Please enjoy this lovely gallery of photos from the visit. (Photos courtesy of YUKI TAGUCHI/MLB).

We’ll be back with more updates from our Astros’ adventures in Japan both on and off the field as the trip winds down this week.

- Amanda
@amandarykoff

#AstrosInJapan: Fowler, MLB All-Stars Enjoy Traditional Japanese Tea Ceremony

Konichiwa, Astros fans. Checking in with you for another update on your Astros In Japan as part of the MLB All-Star Japan Series.

Yesterday in Tokyo, Astros outfielder Dexter Fowler and his lovely wife Aliya joined other MLB players including Hector Santiago of the Angels for a traditional Japanese Tea Ceremony at the Hotel Chinzanso Tokyo.

Please enjoy this lovely gallery of photos from the afternoon (photo credit: Yuki Taguchi/MLB Photos).

While the players are certainly enjoying Japanese culture, there is work to be done on the playing field. The MLB All-Stars have another week of baseball left in Japan.

If you’re interested in checking out baseball over the weekend, here’s the schedule:

Saturday, November 15

Game #3 at Tokyo Dome, Tokyo

4 am ET/3 am CT live broadcast/9 pm ET/8 pm CT re-air on MLBN

Sunday, November 16

Game #4 at Tokyo Dome, Tokyo

4 am ET/3 am CT live broadcast/9 pm ET/8 pm CT re-air on MLBN

Sayonara, Astros fans! See you next time.

- Amanda
@amandarykoff

#AstrosInJapan: Some of our favorite photos so far

What’s the point of having a team blog if you can’t just post great photos? Here are some of our favorite photos so far from the Astros’ trip to Japan as part of the MLB All-Star Team for the 2014 Japan Series. The official Japan Series starts tonight/this morning at 4 am ET/3 pm CT but last night the team played an exhibition game against players from the Hanshin Tigers and Yomiuri Giants at Koshien Stadium in Nishinomiya (between Osaka and Kobe). The MLB All-Stars won the game 8-7 and Dexter Fowler provided several highlights including a solo home run and two hits.

Now let’s get to the photos!

 

Please enjoy this photo of @josealtuve27 with @salvadorp13 @alcides02 and local fans in Japan. #AstrosInJapan #JapanSeries

A photo posted by Houston Astros (@astrosbaseball) on

 

All five Astros' MLB All-Stars!

All five Astros’ MLB All-Stars!

 

Astros strong in the pre-game introductions

Astros strong in the pre-game introductions

 

Orbit has a special greeting for Chris Carter   Ben Platt/MLB.com

 

Jose Veras pre-game handshake

Jose Veras pre-game handshake

 

Orbit takes a selfie with a Japanese fan

Orbit takes a selfie with a Japanese fan

 

Orbit made new mascot friends!

Orbit made new mascot friends!

 

And finally, here’s Dexter Fowler’s home run as called by the Japanese broadcast. Enjoy!

 

See you again soon with more updates and photos from Japan. Follow #AstrosInJapan on Twitter and Instagram.

- Amanda
@amandarykoff

#AstrosInJapan: Four Astros Representing MLB on Japan All-Star Tour

Say "Konichiwa!"

Say “Konichiwa!”

Konichiwa, Astros fans! We’re thrilled that four of our Astros players — second baseman Jose Altuve, outfielder Dexter Fowler, DH/1B/OF Chris Carter and relief pitcher Jose Veras — as well as the MLB’s MVM (Most Valuable Mascot) Orbit have been selected to represent MLB in the Japan All-Star Series 2014. The quartet of players join All-Stars Robinson Cano, Yasiel Puig, Evan Longoria, Salvador Perez, Carlos Santana and others from around MLB. The Astros and American League champion Kansas City Royals are the only teams with four players.

MLB.com’s Anthony DiComo caught up with the Astros’ representatives to talk with them before the Japan Series gets underway. You can read the full story here.

Before leaving the continental U.S. and heading to Japan, the MLB players gathered at Dodger Stadium for two days of workouts.

Dodger Stadium workout before heading to Japan

Dodger Stadium workout before heading to Japan

After traveling via charter flight for 13+ hours from Los Angeles to Osaka, the MLB stars arrived in Japan on Sunday, ready for action.

But first, let them take a selfie:

Altuve, Fowler, Cano with a Puig Photobomb

Altuve, Fowler, Cano with a Puig Photobomb

 

The games will be hosted in Osaka (Kyocera Dome), Tokyo (Tokyo Dome) and Sapporo (Sapporo Dome).  The team will also play two exhibition games in addition to the five-game series, with one game in Osaka (Koshien Stadium) and the other in Okinawa (Okinawa Cellular Stadium). If you’re a night owl or super-early riser looking to watch the action live, MLB Network will exclusively televise every game of the Japan All-Star Series here in the U.S., starting with the exhibition game on Tuesday, November 11th at 4 am ET/3 am CT.

MLB.TV subscribers can watch every game live and on-demand across supported devices, including via the MLB.com At Bat app.  The games will be called live by a rotating on-air team of MLB Network announcers that includes play-by-play by Paul Severino and analysis from Mark DeRosa and Darryl Hamilton.  Each game will re-air later the same day at 9 pm ET/8 pm CT.

Full MLBN broadcast schedule is here:

Tuesday, November 11

Exhibition Game vs. Hanshin Tigers/Yomiuri Giants at Koshien

4 am ET/3 am CT live broadcast/9 pm ET/8 pm CT re-air  

Wednesday, November 12

Game #1 at Kyocera Dome, Osaka

4 am ET/3 am CT live broadcast/9 pm ET/8 pm CT re-air  

Friday, November 14

Game #2 at Tokyo Dome, Tokyo

4 am ET/3 am CT live broadcast/9 pm ET/8 pm CT re-air  

Saturday, November 15

Game #3 at Tokyo Dome, Tokyo

4 am ET/3 am CT live broadcast/9 pm ET/8 pm CT re-air  

Sunday, November 16

Game #4 at Tokyo Dome, Tokyo

4 am ET/3 am CT live broadcast/9 pm ET/8 pm CT re-air  

Tuesday, November 18

Game #5 at Sapporo Dome, Sapporo

5 am ET/4 am CT live broadcast/9 pm ET/8 pm CT re-air  

Thursday, November 20

Exhibiton Game vs. Team Japan, Okinawa

4 am ET/3 am CT live broadcast/9 pm ET/8 pm CT re-air  

 

During the workouts at Dodger Stadium, Astros DH Chris Carter worked on his outfielding skills (the team only has 3 outfielders, so Carter will have to play the field). Carter talked about his visit to Japan and what he looks forward to during the Japan Series.

If you’re looking to follow our players via social media during the Japan Series, Altuve and Fowler will be posting from their Instagram accounts. Here are a couple of posts from the trip so far:

 

The beginning of a dope trip #japanallstarseries

A photo posted by Dexter Fowler (@dexfowler) on

@robinsoncano @salvadorp13 @alcides02 @bracamonte85 proxima parada 🇯🇵

A photo posted by Jose Altuve (@josealtuve27) on

We’ll be sharing social content wherever on Twitter (@astros), Instagram (@astrosbaseball) and Facebook (Facebook.com/astros) and Orbit will be tweeting from @OrbitAstros using the hashtag #AstrosInJapan so follow along!

Sayonara!

- Amanda
@amandarykoff

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