Greetings from not-so-sunny Kissimmee, Florida, spring home of the Astros, where it was a chilly 69 degrees at first pitch today. Many fans in the crowd of 4,444 in attendance had to wear hoodies. The horror! Though the game ended up a 9-4 loss to the Yankees, the Astros enjoyed many bright spots, including a three-run first inning featuring five consecutive hits highlighted by a leadoff hustle infield single by Jose Altuve and a booming two-run double by Chris Carter. Astros pitchers Dallas Keuchel, Luke Gregerson, Chad Qualls, Josh Fields and Tony Sipp combined for 6 IP, 3 H, 2 BB, 5 K, 1 ER vs. the Yankees. But enough about the game, here are some of the photos I took around the ballpark before and during the game. Enjoy!
Hank Conger took batting practice before his first Spring Training game as a member of the Astros.
National Anthem time. The skies were gray but we didn’t get any rain.
Manager A.J. Hinch settles in next to the on deck circle before the game.
Bench coach Trey Hillman gives “Play Ball” girl Macy a pep talk. Macy came all the way from England and delivered the “play ball” announcement in an utterly charming British accent.
First pitch from Dallas Keuchel to Didi Gregorius.
2014 Al Batting Champion Jose Altuve led off the game with – what else? — a hustle infield single:
Altuve on deck before his next at bat.
Chris Carter waits on deck with George Springer at the plate.
Jed Lowrie on deck before his third inning triple in his first Spring Training game of the season.
And Elvis I mean Orbit performed Hound Dog on the Astros home dugout:
Full video of Orbit’s awesome Hound Dog performance:
We found these fans horsing around in the stands:
And of course during the 7th Inning Stretch, Orbit visited the crowd and took selfies.
Thanks again for stopping by at Mission Control. See you next time!
Greetings from sunny Kissimmee, Florida, spring home of the Astros. We kicked off our Spring Training game schedule with a 6-3 win over the Phillies at Osceola County Stadium, highlighted by Collin McHugh’s sharp two innings of work and home runs from Luis Valbuena, Robbie Grossman and Marwin Gonzalez. But you can read all about the game in the recap. Here are some of the photos I took around the ballpark before and during the game. Enjoy!
The field looked fantastic on a beautiful 82 degree day.
Of course there were people eager to get autographs from the 2014 AL Batting Champion.
Collin McHugh got ready to take the bump in the Spring Training opener.
Orbit posed for photos with fans.
George Springer’s dad, George Jr., was thrilled to meet Astros Legend Nolan Ryan. “When I pitched, I used to pretend to be Nolan Ryan,” Springer told me after he was introduced to the Hall of Famer before today’s game. Springer and his wife Marie came down from Connecticut to escape the snow and see their son’s 2015 Spring Training debut.
Orbit worked on his tan.
Max Stassi warmed up before his start at catcher.
Time for the National Anthem!
Our “Play Ball!” Kid and his dad were thrilled to be there
George Springer on deck before his first Spring Training at bat of the year.
Chris Carter loomed large in the on deck circle
And finally, a mascot dance-off, starring Orbit:
Thanks again for stopping by at Mission Control. See you next time!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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:
#7 in…. Now #5
— Morgan Ensberg (@MorganEnsberg) January 7, 2015
Former teammate Chris Burke:
Around the wide world of sports:
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:
— Jeff Idelson (@HallofFamePrez) January 6, 2015
Of course Astros superfan and Houston great Bun B posted his congratulations on his Instagram feed:
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!
— Terry W. Virts (@AstroTerry) January 6, 2015
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.
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.
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.
Until next time, sayonara!
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.
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.