Meet the Bergs, Carlos Correa’s Honorary “Aunt and Uncle”

Jeff and Suzie Berg proudly watch Carlos Correa in Anaheim

Jeff and Suzie Berg proudly watch Carlos Correa in Anaheim

By Maren Angus, special to Mission Control

Anaheim, CA – In a sea of red on Monday night in Anaheim, fans could see a spot of orange behind the Houston dugout. The spot couldn’t be missed, not just because of the two people wearing bright orange Correa shirts, but the huge smiles on their faces.

Jeff and Suzie Berg are members of the Lancaster JetHawks Booster Club and sponsor players on the team, the Astros’ Advanced-A affiliate in Lancaster, California. The first player they sponsored? A young baseball player named Carlos Correa.

The Bergs met Correa at a team dinner hosted by the Booster Club before the start of the 2014 season, when Correa was 19 years old.

“We were having a team dinner and everybody was picking players,” said Correa. “I crossed paths with them and they asked if they could be my sponsors and I told them yes, of course.”

Carlos Correa starred for the Lancaster JetHawks in 2014.

Carlos Correa starred for the Lancaster JetHawks in 2014.

The Bergs sponsored Correa for the duration of his time in Lancaster and became what they call his “aunt and uncle.”

“We run errands for them and are there for support,” said Suzie. “We cheer them on and have them over for holidays because they are alone.”

After the Bergs began sponsoring Correa, they got in touch with his family in Puerto Rico. They wanted to tell them who they were and that they would be looking out for Carlos.

“They helped me a lot when I was there. There’s not much to do in Lancaster, so it was nice having a house to go to and eat or just talk,” said Correa. “It’s a long season and that year I got hurt. They took care of me and I will always be thankful for that.”

This time last year, the Correas and Bergs met for the first time.

“Carlos’ mom, dad, brother, little sister and grandmother came to visit. They had traveled all day to get there (Lancaster) and we took them out to dinner,” said Suzie. “By the time dinner was over, it was signed, sealed and delivered that we were doing our 30th anniversary in Puerto Rico. In January and February, we stayed with his family in Puerto Rico.”

Carlos Correa's family

Carlos Correa’s family

When the Bergs arrived in Puerto Rico, they really didn’t know what to expect. All they knew of Correa was that he played Advanced-A ball in Lancaster. Imagine the shock on their faces when they saw Correa’s face on a billboard on the side of the freeway.

“We’re looking at them from the single A level going up and for us it’s hard to see how important they are to people coming from the top,” said Suzie.

Correa and the Bergs stay in touch via texts or phone calls about twice a week. Jeff always makes sure he has enough suits and that he is staying healthy.

“They came to watch me play in Fresno and it was really great to see them there,” said Correa, who played with the Astros’ AAA affiliate Fresno Grizzlies from May 12-June 7 before his promotion to the Astros. “They are really great people and it’s always great to be around them.”

On June 8, everything Jeff and Suzie hoped would happen with Correa came true. He made his Major League debut and on Monday they watched the 20-year-old run out of the Astros’ dugout onto a Major League field.

The Bergs are all smiles as they watch Correa on the field

The Bergs are all smiles as they watch Correa on the field

“It’s exciting, when he came out of the dugout and looked and saw us, he had a big smile on his face,” said Jeff. “It was worth everything just to see the huge smile on his face.”

Covering the Bases: Q&A with Astros OF Preston Tucker

Houston Astros' Preston Tucker hits a home run during the ninth inning of a baseball game against the Detroit Tigers, Thursday, May 21, 2015, in Detroit. (AP Photo/Carlos Osorio)

Houston Astros’ Preston Tucker hits a home run during the ninth inning of a baseball game against the Detroit Tigers, Thursday, May 21, 2015, in Detroit. (AP Photo/Carlos Osorio)

Hi there and welcome back to Mission Control! As promised, we’re going to be bringing you some fun, quick Q&As with some of our newer players so you can get to know them a little better off the field. Our next subject is Astros rookie outfielder Preston Tucker, not to be confused with this Preston Tucker.  The 24-year old left-handed slugger grew up in Tampa, Florida, as a Devil Rays fan and graduated from Plant High School in Tampa. The University of Florida graduate made his MLB debut with the Astros on May 7 and has made quite an impression since then. In his first game at the Angels, he singled to right for a game-tying RBI in the 9th inning for his first MLB hit (the Astros went on to win the game 3-2).

In 14 games and 47 plate appearances since his call-up from Fresno, Tucker is batting .341 (14×41) with 2 home runs (both pinch-hit, game-tying home runs — see video below), 4 doubles, 7 RBI, .585 slugging percentage and 1.011 OPS. There’s a reason his nickname is Bam Bam (more on that below).

Now let’s get to know Tucker a little better:

Mission Control: What posters did you have on your wall growing up?

Preston Tucker: I had a Ken Griffey, Jr. poster along with a ton of signed balls and cards, a Chipper Jones poster and a John Elway poster.

MC: As a kid, what players did you love watching? 

Tucker: Ken Griffey, Jr. and Jim Edmonds. Left-handed centerfielders. I have to stick to the corners now.

MC: What’s your guilty pleasure song on your phone?

Tucker: No song in particular, but I do have a Taylor Swift station on my phone. Big fan and I know she’s coming to Minute Maid and I’m pretty excited about it. Hopefully she’ll come to a ballgame.

MC: What’s your hidden talent? 

Tucker: I used to be pretty good at guitar I played all high school played all through college. Once I got to pro ball I stopped bringing it with me so I’ll have to brush up in the off season.

MC: What’s your go-to karaoke song?

Tucker: Probably Journey, pretty standard. I’m a big country guy but I like signing along to Journey.  I’m not good.

MC: What’s the story behind your nickname, “Bam Bam”?

Tucker: It definitely came when I got to pro ball. Still not sure where it started or the story behind it, but I just embraced it and stuck with it.

MC: Favorite ice cream flavor?

Tucker: Mint chocolate chip for sure.

MC: Where is the baseball from your first Major League hit? 

Tucker: Sent my first hit home with mom and pops. I’m assuming it’s safe at home somewhere.

MC: Any person, living or dead, who would you want to have dinner with?

Tucker: Other than Taylor Swift?

Thanks for being a good sport, Preston, and keep on mashing those baseballs.

– Amanda Rykoff
@amandarykoff

Astros OF Preston Tucker Makes MLB Debut, Family Makes Whirlwind Trip to Be There

Preston Tucker high fives with teammate Hank Conger after the Astros big win. (Photo by Victor Decolongon/ Getty Images)

Preston Tucker high fives with teammate Hank Conger after the Astros big win. (Photo by Victor Decolongon/ Getty Images)

By Maren Angus, special to Mission Control

Anaheim, CA – It’s been a whirlwind 24 hours with little sleep for Preston Tucker and his family.

The Astros outfielder went from Triple-A Fresno on Wednesday to the starting lineup against the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim on Thursday to first Major League hit and RBI that tied the game in the 9th inning.

“It’s a special night for him,” said Astros’ manager A.J. Hinch.  “I’m not sure you draw it up any better for him.  The guys were excited for him and welcomed him to the big leagues after the game.  A big hat tip to him for competing tonight.”

Tucker, a seventh round draft pick out of the University of Florida in 2012, found out he’d been promoted to the Astros from Triple-A Fresno on Wednesday. One day later, he was in the starting lineup for his Major League debut against the Angels, batting eighth and playing left field.

Tucker was 0-2 with a walk when he stepped up to the plate in the top of the ninth inning against Angels closer Huston Street. With two runners on base, Tucker, who was looking fastball, ended up taking a changeup off Street to right field, scoring Robbie Grossman to tie the game at 2-2.

Preston Tucker's first MLB hit and RBI (photo courtesy Angels Photo Services)

Preston Tucker’s first MLB hit and RBI (photo courtesy Angels Photo Services)

“It’s pretty exciting,” said Tucker on getting his first hit and RBI. “I don’t know if it’s set in yet.”

Playing on a new field in a different city didn’t seem to affect Tucker. He said he was fine in the box but was a little nervous out in the field.

“I was pretty relaxed during the game. Going into the game there was a lot more nerves but once I got to the locker room I got into my routine again and I felt pretty comfortable.”

Making a big league debut only happens once and Tucker’s immediate family, girlfriend and high school baseball coach weren’t going to miss it, even on such short notice and with 3000 miles to travel from Florida to Anaheim.

“It’s always a thrill to come out and see your son put on a Major League uniform for the first time,” said Tucker’s father Mike.  “It’s something he has been looking forward to for many many years and it’s exciting to be able to bring the whole family out here.”

The Tucker crew — dad, girlfriend, brother Kyle, sister Hannah, mother Lisa Fernandez and Plant (FL) High School baseball coach Dennis Braun — had one hour to pack and head to the airport to make the trip to Southern California.

“He called us and within five minutes we were making arrangements for the trip,” said Mike.

Preston Tucker's family and coach made the trip to Anaheim for his MLB debut

Preston Tucker’s family and high school coach made the trip to Anaheim for his MLB debut

Tucker’s girlfriend Morgan Pirkle packed so quickly she didn’t pack a jacket, leaving her unprepared for the cool Southern California night. No matter, this was a once in a lifetime moment.

Everything happened so fast for the family to make it to the stadium on time for batting practice but the experience is something that Preston’s younger brother, Kyle, has been anxiously waiting to see.

“I’ve been watching him play throughout his life but getting to see him play at the Major League level is something I know he’ll never forget but we’ll never forget either,” said Kyle.

Before the game, Tucker met with manager A.J. Hinch. During that meeting Hinch reminded the rookie to take a deep breath and take it all in.

“There’s only one first day. Enjoy it, take a deep breath and take in as much as you can,” said Hinch.  “It’s exciting to reward a guy for getting off to a good start.  He’s done everything he’s needed to do to become a real option for us.”

Tucker, 24, was hitting .320 and led all of minor league baseball with 10 HR and 32 RBI in 25 games for Fresno this season. Tucker posted a .378 on-base percentage and a 1.028 OPS.

Starting Thursday night’s game was Hinch’s plan when the team called him up. It’s his way to allow a young player making his debut to get the jitters out and get into the flow of a Major League game.

“There’s opportunities and at bats to be taken here,” said Hinch about Tucker’s playing time.  “A lot depends on how he presents himself. If he can help us win, then he will get the opportunity.”

Preston Tucker's first MLB postgame on field interview (photo courtesy Angels Photo Services)

Preston Tucker’s first MLB postgame on field interview (photo courtesy Angels Photo Services)

With a game-tying RBI single in a road game against a division rival, that’s a pretty good start.

Mission Control Guest Post: Orbit Dishes on the BP MS150 Bike Ride!

This is how I roll

This is how I roll (photo credit @Marco4rmHouston)

It’s been a little busy around here lately with the whole 10-game winning streak and being in first place, so we didn’t have a chance to share this extra special guest post until now. And it’s worth the wait, trust me. You know Orbit’s antics on the field make him an MVM (Most Valuable Mascot), but he’s also pretty awesome off the field. Two weeks ago, while in the middle of a homestand, Orbit teamed up with his mascot buddies Clutch of the Rockets and Diesel of the Dynamo, to ride the BP MS150 bike ride to raise money for multiple sclerosis. And what’s more, he had actually completed the entire 180 mile course BY HIMSELF last year. Yeah, he’s awesome. But enough from me yammering on. Here’s our favorite mascot and yours in his own words talking about this unique experience. Take it away, Orbit!

———————————————–

Hey Astros fans! Yes, it’s really me, your favorite mascot. Welcome to my first foray into the blogosphere. I’ve trained these fuzzy fingers of mine this off-season, and at the request of my esteemed co-worker and social media guru, Amanda Rykoff, I’ve decided to take my talents to more than 140 characters of semi-hilarity.

In case you missed it, on April 18-19, I teamed up with my mascot buddies, Clutch of the Houston Rockets, and Diesel of the Houston Dynamo, to ride the BP MS150. The BP MS150 is a two-day, 180 mile bike ride from Houston to Austin. Yes, you read that right. 180 miles of tubby mascots on bicycles, but it’s not as crazy as it sounds!

Last year I jumped in the deep end of the pool with both feet and rode the entire ride by myself. Probably a little ambitious, but if you’ve ever seen my antics on the field, you know that I’m not one to shy away from many things!

Orbit celebrates completing the MS150 in 2014.

I celebrated completing the MS150 in 2014 like a boss.

As fun of an experience as it was, I walked like a baby giraffe for a week. So when Clutch and Diesel offered to team up with me to ride this year, I welcomed the help! The idea was for each of us to split the ride into thirds each day, making for a more mascot-friendly ride. Now, I may consider myself an adopted Texan, but this heat is still no joke and made me consider strapping an AC unit to my bike.

Before the ride, I attended the BP MS150 Expo on Friday. The Expo provides an opportunity for participants to pick up their rider packers, catch up with friends or check out some new gear for the ride. It’s open to all who want to ride – including green aliens, bears and foxes. I saw some cool stuff, but I opted to stick with my custom Astros jersey. Nothing personal to the vendor selling the jersey, but nobody needed to see this much handsome inside that small of a jersey.

I checked out the MS150 Expo. The shirt's a little small.

I checked out the MS150 Expo. The shirt’s a little small.

Coincidentally, a few of their other products seemed to be of more interest to me. 

Now we're talking Orbit fuel

Now we’re talking Orbit fuel

While at The Expo, word came down that the first day of the ride had been cancelled due to all of the rain the area had received. As disappointing as this was, me and my mascot crew did not let the decision rain on our bicycle parade. Saturday was out, but Sunday was still a go!

 The plan on Sunday was for me to start the ride, tag-in Diesel, and then have Clutch finish the ride into Austin. After the Astros big win on Saturday night over the Angels, Sunday morning came awfully early as me and my spot-rider/resident Astros ticket sales rep extraordinaire, Christian, made the 100 mile trek to La Grange to start day two. Christian rode the entire ride with me last year and agreed to help me out again this year. Spending the better part of 23 hours on a bike next to one another during the 2014 ride made us quite the bros, and I owe a big “Thanks!” to that guy both this year and last. I guess you could say Christian is an honorary Mascot Bro.

With my honorary Mascot Bro, Christian.

With my honorary Mascot Bro, Christian.

We arrived and lined up at the starting line ready to take on our 26 mile leg from La Grange, to the Smithville area. As always, there was excitement in the air and the previous day’s rain didn’t put a damper on the mood of the riders.

While one may argue my belly’s fame only comes in behind Santa, it isn’t exactly ergonomically designed for a normal bike. This necessitates me riding a three wheeling tricycle-like bike. Imagine if a bike and a hand gliding rig had a child….that’s my bike. While comfortable and ideal for coasting down a mountain, it creates some challenges in the Texas hill country, more specifically, going up hills. That being said, it was nothing a moon pie and a supreme athletic prowess couldn’t handle.

The support we’ve received from the MS Society and our fellow riders was nothing short of fantastic. Lots of encouraging words and the occasional odd look made the 26 mile ride a breeze. And of course there were selfies. So. Many. Selfies. I cruised into La Grange around 10:30am and tagged in my buddy Diesel.

Time for Diesel to take the wheel

Time for Diesel to take the wheel

It wasn’t a moment too soon, as I was able to jump in my van and cruise back to Houston in time for our 1:10pm game….and a game of Jenga with a few “friends”.

Meanwhile, Diesel and Clutch moved on without me and finished the big ride and successfully completed our 80 mile mascot bicycle adventure.

Mascot Bros are awesome!

Diesel and Clutch finished the race! Mascot Bros are awesome!

The ride was challenging and a lot of fun, but I’m most proud of the awareness we were able to bring to the MS Society, as well as raising money on their behalf. If you’d still like to donate to our team, it’s not too late! You can go to our mascot team page here and donate!

 Be on the lookout for more joint amazing mascot feats in the coming months and I’ll see you at the ballpark!

– Orbit
@OrbitAstros

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Day Jose Altuve Got Asked to Prom…sort of

Will you go to prom with me, Jose?

Will you go to prom with me, Jose?

The story behind this post started last month when we had a social media contest for fan-created movie posters to promote the Jose Altuve documentary Big Dreams: The Jose Altuve Story. One of our winners was Sophi Mora, a high school senior in Austin who is a huge Altuve fan and runs an Instagram page devoted to Jose Altuve edits. Here is the poster she created:

. Gahhh yes I'm entering! I'm scared oops. Hope y'all like it! #altuvethemovie #josealtuve #houstonastros

A photo posted by Jose Altuve (@josealtuvedits) on

Because Sophi lives in Austin, she could not attend the movie premiere in Houston so we invited her to come to a game and meet Jose and take a picture with him. Of course she was coming to tonight’s game against the Mariners which just happens to be Jose Altuve Bobblehead night (she says it was a coincidence). It’s also her prom night in Austin at Bowie High School. Which she’s missing. Because she’s at Minute Maid Park to root on her Astros and her favorite player.

Why is Jose Altuve Sophi’s favorite player?

“I used to play softball and I played second base,” Sophi said. “My coaches didn’t believe in me and told me I wasn’t good enough so I know how it feels. He’s an inspiration to me.”

So what’s a girl to do when she is going to meet her inspiration and favorite player on prom night? Make a corsage and boutonnière in Astros blue and orange and bring them to the ballpark, of course. Which is what Sophi did. And when Altuve came over to say hello and sign autographs and take a photo, he ended up getting a big surprise — being asked to prom by Sophi, who presented Jose with the custom-made boutonnière.

Jose Altuve meet a superfan today

Jose Altuve met a superfan today

Jose graciously accepted and then signed Sophi’s Big Dreams poster!

Jose Altuve signs his Big Dreams poster

Now let’s make it the best prom night ever and get 9 straight wins and 10 straight multi-hit games for Jose.

– Amanda Rykoff
@amandarykoff

 

Astros Baseball 2015: Best of Social Week 1

Hi fans and welcome back to Mission Control! It’s been a while so in case you’ve forgotten what’s going on here, we’ve got a quick recap for you. This is the official team blog where you’ll find photos, fun stories and quick hits, bringing you the stories behind the stories and the explanations behind the tweets. We’re excited for a great season of Astros baseball in 2015 and glad you’re along for the ride.

Today we’re introducing a new feature we will be bringing you on a weekly basis throughout the season — the Best of Astros Social Media. Did you miss a great post from us on Instagram (@astrosbaseball) or Twitter (@astros)? You’ll find it here.

Last week was quite a week here at Minute Maid Park where we opened up the season at home against Cleveland and then visited the Rangers for a quick three game weekend series. We hosted the division rival A’s for three games before an off day today. Which, coincidentally, is why I’ve got a little bit of time to bring you the best of the past week!

So here you go — the best Astros Social from April 6-April 15.

Let’s start with the best of Opening Day, a fantastic 2-0 win over Cleveland.We introduced this beautiful new lineup graphic:

 

National Anthem with extra giant American Flag:

Fantastic National Anthem by Clay Walker and it's almost time for #Astros baseball! #OpeningDay

A photo posted by Houston Astros (@astrosbaseball) on

 

Orbit introduced his new Astros flag:

 

Hall of Famer Craig Biggio threw out the ceremonial first pitch to Jose Altuve:

 

We introduced the Methodist Hospital Space Race, featuring Apollo (White), Squeeze (Orange) and Doc Rocket (Blue). The Space Race will run every Astros home game after the 5th Inning.

 

Emily West honored America and our servicemen and women with a fantastic rendition of God Bless America:

 

And we had our first Handshakes and High Fives of the season!

Handshakes and High Fives on #OpeningDay! #Astros 2, Cleveland 0. #HTownPride

A photo posted by Houston Astros (@astrosbaseball) on

 

Before our second game of the season, we had fun with the Twitter Mirror:

 

 

And we had our first $1 Hot Dog Wednesday at Minute Maid Park:

 

 

On Thursday, April 9, we celebrated the 50th Anniversary of the Astrodome:

 

 

In Arlington, Colby Rasmus connected for his first #ColbyJack of the season:

 

 

And George Springer made the catch of the year when he robbed a game-winning grand slam from Leonys Martin. Let’s watch that again. And if you haven’t voted for Springer’s catch as ESPN’s Best of the Best, why not?

 

George Springer saved the game single-handedly. Literally. #Hustle #CatchOfTheYear?

A video posted by Houston Astros (@astrosbaseball) on

 

Tony Sipp, who gave up the long fly ball, expressed his gratitude to Springer with one of the best hugs of all time:

 

 

Back at Minute Maid Park against the A’s, we had an amazing sunset:

 

 

Orbit was up to his old tricks, digging for gold and finding Josh Reddick’s tidy whities:

 

For the full video of Orbit’s adventures with Reddick:

 

The Astros joined MLB in honoring the legendary Jackie Robinson on April 15:

Respect. #Jackie42

A photo posted by Houston Astros (@astrosbaseball) on

 

And of course we celebrated National High Five Day:

 

See you at the ballpark this weekend for our 50th Anniversary Celebration! And see you back here on Mission Control soon.

– Amanda
@amandarykoff 

#AstrosST 2015: Spring Training Game 3 Photos

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.

Conger takes BP before Saturday's game

Conger takes BP before Saturday’s game

National Anthem time. The skies were gray but we didn’t get any rain.

National Anthem

National Anthem

Manager A.J. Hinch settles in next to the on deck circle before the game.

Manager A.J. Hinch pregame

Manager A.J. Hinch pregame

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.

Trey Hillman gives Macy a pep talk

Trey Hillman gives Macy a pep talk

First pitch from Dallas Keuchel to Didi Gregorius.

First pitch from Keuchel to Gregorius

First pitch from Keuchel to 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.

Jose Altuve on deck

Jose Altuve on deck

Chris Carter waits on deck with George Springer at the plate.

Chris Carter waits on deck

Chris Carter waits on deck

Jed Lowrie on deck before his third inning triple in his first Spring Training game of the season.

Elvis is in the building!

Jed Lowrie on deck

And Elvis I mean Orbit performed Hound Dog on the Astros home dugout:

Elvis is in the building

Elvis is in the building

Full video of Orbit’s awesome Hound Dog performance:

A special guest at #AstrosST today: Orbit Elvis was in the building! #MascotShenanigans #HoundDog #Astros

A video posted by Houston Astros (@astrosbaseball) on

We found these fans horsing around in the stands:

Horsing around in the stands

Horsing around in the stands

And of course during the 7th Inning Stretch, Orbit visited the crowd and took selfies.

But first let Orbit take a selfie

But first let Orbit take a selfie

Thanks again for stopping by at Mission Control. See you next time!

– Amanda
@amandarykoff

 

 

#AstrosST 2015: Scenes from Spring Training Game 1

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.

Prepping the field before the Spring Training opener

Prepping the field before the Spring Training opener

Of course there were people eager to get autographs from the 2014 AL Batting Champion.

Jose Altuve signed autographs before the game

Jose Altuve signed autographs before the game

Collin McHugh got ready to take the bump in the Spring Training opener.

Starter Collin McHugh warming up pregame

Starter Collin McHugh warming up pregame

Orbit posed for photos with fans.

Orbit posed for an Astros fan before the game

Orbit posed for an Astros fan before the game

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.

George Springer, Sr. met Astros Legend Nolan Ryan

George Springer, Sr. met Astros Legend Nolan Ryan

Orbit worked on his tan.

Orbit catching some rays

Orbit catching some rays

Max Stassi warmed up before his start at catcher.

Max Stassi warming up pregame

Max Stassi warming up pregame

Time for the National Anthem!

National Anthem

National Anthem

Our “Play Ball!” Kid and his dad were thrilled to be there

Our play ball kid and his dad!

Our play ball kid and his dad!

George Springer on deck before his first Spring Training at bat of the year.

George Springer on deck

George Springer on deck

Chris Carter loomed large in the on deck circle

Chris Carter on deck

Chris Carter on deck

And finally, a mascot dance-off, starring Orbit:

Mascot dance off! Orbit strutting his stuff. #Astros #AstrosST

A video posted by Houston Astros (@astrosbaseball) on

 

Thanks again for stopping by at Mission Control. See you next time!

– Amanda
@amandarykoff

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

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