Hi all! Earlier this afternoon, General Manager Jeff Luhnow took over @astros for a post-season/offseason Q&A. Luhnow answered questions about top prospects Carlos Correa and Mark Appel, the team’s offseason needs, new manager A.J. Hinch, Jose Altuve and even our beloved mascot, Orbit. If you missed it, we’ve got the full Twitter chat right here. Enjoy!
Carlos Correa status update:
Players who impressed/surprised within the Astros organization in 2014 at all levels:
New Astros manager A.J. Hinch:
Setup for the Twitter takeover:
Projected payroll for 2015:
Arizona Fall League and top pitching prospect Mark Appel:
Orbit’s MVM (Most Valuable Mascot) season in 2014:
Astros offseason needs:
Visiting new AAA affiliate Fresno Grizzlies:
On having two of top 5 picks in 2015 draft:
Status of new coaching staff for 2015 season:
Jose Altuve’s long-term future with the Astros:
George Springer’s upside:
Final question: on regular season vs. offseason:
Any time a baseball player is mentioned in the same sentence as Ty Cobb for on the field accomplishments, you know that player is having a special season. The Astros’ 2014 season ended on September 28 and Jose Altuve’s season was historically brilliant. Altuve won the Astros’ first ever batting title with an MLB-best .341 batting average. He had an MLB-best 225 hits (25 more than second place in the AL). Those 225 hits shattered the previous club record held by Craig Biggio (210 in 1998). Altuve had 69 multi-hit games, most in the majors and 47 doubles (2nd in the AL). He led the AL with 56 steals. The last Major League player to reach 225+ hits, 46+ doubles and 56+ steals was Ty Cobb in 1911. That’s crazy. On the final day of the season, the Houston Chapter of the Baseball Writers Association of America named Jose Altuve the Astros 2014 MVP.
It’s been an honor and a privilege to watch Altuve play every day on his way to history. And I figured that his Astros’ teammates might have some things to say about what it’s like to watch Altuve every day. So I asked them. And here’s what they had to say:
OF Dexter Fowler: “Unbelievable. I was either on deck or on base to see it. It’s been awesome to see the heart and determination.”
LHP Dallas Keuchel: “Altuve has been pretty spectacular. It’s kind of flown under the radar because of our team. I feel if it was the Tigers or Cardinals it would be getting more national attention and he deserves it. He’s worked his butt off to get where he is and deserves all the attention and respect.”
OF Jake Marisnick: “Altuve’s 211th hit to break the record [was my favorite moment of the season]. That was pretty special.”
RHP Josh Zeid: “I was lucky to be able to work out at MMP last winter and when Altuve came back to Houston to work out in January, there was a different edge to him. He was ready to go and prove that last year wasn’t a fluke. And I’d say he did just that. He didn’t let anyone stand in his way. He took what pitchers gave him and made them pay. If it wasn’t an extra base hit, then it was a single that he’d turn into a double or even a triple- all season long and he never slowed down. He was the catalyst to our team turn around this year and I can’t wait to see what he brings next year.”
OF Alex Presley: “Altuve just the whole year in general, just whatever he’s been doing has been absurd to watch. We would have all been shocked if he didn’t break [the record].”
C Jason Castro: “What Altuve has done for us night after night…what can you even say at this point?”
OF Robbie Grossman: “Just watching Altuve is unbelievable. We probably won’t see anything like that for another 20 plus years.”
IF Gregorio Petit: “He’s amazing.”
RHP Collin McHugh: “Watching Altuve do his thing has been nothing short of amazing.”
OF George Springer: “Jose. Altuve. Just what he has done is incredible to me.”
LHP Tony Sipp: “Altuve and his single season record is the most exciting thing I’ve seen in my career. By far the most exciting and memorable thing.”
RHP Chad Qualls: “Pretty cool I have to say. If I had to sum it up one word, I’d say magical. Every time he got his bat on the ball with one strike, two strikes it didn’t matter.”
1B Jon Singleton: “It’s been crazy. He’s an exiting player he plays the game like anything can happen out there. Getting hits. Stealing bases. Driving in runs. Making great plays. He does it all. SPECTACULAR.”
C Carlos Corporan: “Perseverance and dedication.”
DH/1B Chris Carter: “Altuve is our favorite moment every day. He is our bright spot every day no matter what.
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 Mike Foltynewicz (aka Folty). The 23-year old (as of today — happy birthday, Folty!) who grew up in Illinois joined the team on August 1 after being promoted from Triple-A OKC. He hits 100 MPH on his fastball regularly and came out of the bullpen during the final two months of the 2014 season.
In his best performance in his young MLB career, Folty struck out four Cleveland Indians in 1.1 innings of work. That’s pretty good.
Let’s get to the interview. Enjoy!
Mission Control: What posters did you have on your wall growing up?
Mike Foltynewicz: I had quite a few, actually. Vince Carter was one of them back when he won the dunk contest in a Raptors uniform. He was one of my favorite players back then. Mark McGwire was always up there. My family is St. Louis fans and my mom’s brother was a Cubs fan so he liked Sammy Sosa and we liked Mark McGwire so we had a couple of those competitions going around. And I had WCW wrestling guys like Sting and Goldberg. Me and my dad always used to watch them when it was on, so those were most of the sports posters up on my wall.
MC: What is your hidden talent — something that you can do that maybe not everyone knows that you can do?
MF: It might not be hidden. I’ve told quite a few people I drum as a hobby. I was in a band back in the day. I was drumming since I was about 12 years old; just took a couple lessons and other than that just trying to run off music and just try to do it all myself.
MC: What is one of your favorite songs to air drum to?
MF: I’m into kind of heavy metal music, so, not many people know that. That music gets me pumped up and I like to air drum to that.
MC: What is your pump-up music to get yourself ready?
MF: Heavy metal music is the top on the list when I’m going to get ready to pitch. A couple bands to toss out there is A Day to Remember, Five Finger Death Punch; I’m going to try to get my walk-up music to Limp Bizkit Rollin’. A lot of people might know that around here– that’s a good song to get pumped up to, especially if you’re coming out of the bullpen in a close-game situation. That’s kind of my music in that area.
MC: What is your guilty pleasure song on your iPod?
MF: Michael Bublé Haven’t Met You Yet. You know, that’s a good jam that a lot of people kind of like, and other people are like what is this stuff? But that was a good song that was a little on the girly side, but that was a good song five-six years ago that I still like.
MC: It’s no secret that your last name is a bit complicated. What are some of the most hilarious mispronunciations you’ve had of your last name? [Pronounced Folta-NEHVICH - switch the "y" with an "a" and the "w" with a "v”]
Folty: Full-tuh-nay-which is what they always do. And there’s a lot of people that, when they call the house they just start, they just go with Folty, and then after that they just say full-tuh…full-tuh…something kind of like that. They can’t even get it out loud. I’ve heard a lot of different names but, they still can’t pronounce it. After they get past Folty I have no idea what’s going to happen after that.
MC: What are some of the craziest spellings you’ve seen?
MF: Qualls actually had a pretty good one the other day for my name tag [above his locker -- spelled FULTYNEVICHZ]. It’s actually, he spelled it how you actually pronounce it. People don’t know how to pronounce it; that’s how you would spell it and pronounce it. They kind of – they don’t even get Folty right. They just go like F-a-l-t-y, you know, n-e-h-z-i-c. I’ve seen a lot of c’s at the end and h’s at the end, so, you might as well just put a bunch of letters up there and get something close. A lot of people do.
MC: How many points is your last name worth in Scrabble?
MF: It would be pretty far up there, I think. You might take the lead in a close game if you get up there with my name. [For the record it’s 31 points with no double or triple letter or word score bonuses]
MC: So, obviously your nickname is just Folty. Is there another nickname that you have that is not necessarily related to your name?
MF: I mean there’s been Folty my whole life. You know, the guys kind of joking around in the minor leagues they always called me Big Dog for some reason. I don’t know how that started, but [Jake] Buchanan got that kind of going, you know, last two years and it’s just guys, not up here, don’t know it yet because Buch and a couple other guys down below know. Just Folty is what they stick with.
MC: And what’s the 25 in your twitter handle (@Folty25) for?
MF: That’s been my favorite number. Like I said, it would go back to the Mark McGuire poster. He was 25, and, you know, I really liked Barry Bonds when he was playing too, so 25 really stuck with me. I’ve had that number ever since, even in playing basketball, and baseball; all the leagues I’ve played in: Pony ball and all that’s been 25 until Double-A and Martinez got it. So he’s kind of been taking it away from me the last couple years. I even had it when I got drafted when I came out here and [Jose] Cruz was actually up there when I got to go up in the press box Cruz was giving me a little…he’s like “hey, you’ve got my number, huh?” I had no idea, so, I was kind of making a little joke about that, so that was fun.
Today was the final home game of the 2014 season and wow it was a doozy. We had tons of special guests, fan surprises on Fan Appreciation Day and a great 8-3 win over the Mariners. The Astros finished the season 38-43 at Minute Maid Park, the most since 2010 (42). And with just one more win in our next six final games, we will hit 70 wins.
On the social media side, we were busy posting photos and highlights from today at the ballpark, but there was just so much good stuff, I wanted to do a blog post for Mission Control which includes some of the photos and videos we didn’t have the time or the room to share elsewhere. I mean, if you’re going to have a team behind the scenes blog, that’s what it’s here for!
The day started with the annual Season Ticket Holder photo day. This is a special event for our full season ticket holders. Here are some of the photo highlights:
And OF COURSE there were selfies:
Then Orbit danced with Logan Morrison to ‘N Sync’s Bye Bye Bye:
Then we had the ceremonial first pitches:
Brad Piel, off-duty HPD officer retiring after 37 years of work with the Astros:
Pat Beverley, Houston Rockets point guard and University of Arkansas alum, here with his Razorbacks buddy, Dallas Keuchel:
Marie “Red” Mahoney, the only Houston native to play in the All-American Girls Professional Baseball League. Red turned 90 years old on Sunday and celebrated at Minute Maid Park with over 40 friends and family who came in from all over the country. Her first pitch was a surprise to her!
Red got escorted off the field by Orbit, who was of course nothing but a gentle-alien:
And Jake Marisnick hit his second three-run home run in the 7th inning in as many games, driving in Fowler and Presley both times!
Then finally there was Jose Altuve. Altuve had hits number 219 and 220 in his final home game this season, scored two runs and drove in a run for good measure. Hit number 219 was the most by an MLB second baseman since 1937. Speaking of good MLB second baseman, Mariners’ second baseman Robbie Cano gave Altuve some love at second after his double for hit number 219:
And here’s hit number 220, his final hit at Minute Maid Park of the 2014 season. Altuve batted .364 at home this season and 116 of his 220 hits came in front of the home crowd.
Interim manager Tom Lawless smartly pulled Altuve from the game with two outs in the top of the 9th and the Astros leading 8-3 so Altuve could get a proper ovation from the crowd. And this is what happened. Watch:
Thank you, fans, for all your support this season. And thanks for stopping by Mission Control. We hope you’ve enjoyed it and we’ll continue to bring you content during the off-season.
I’m making the trip to New York so I will have some fun end of season stuff as well.
Hi again and welcome back to Astros Mission Control. We’ve been a little busy with the whole Jose Altuve heading towards history thing, so sorry for not posting the final homestand preview post sooner. But here we are. It’s the final Astros homestand of the 2014 season. Can you believe how quickly the season has flown by?
With just six home games left, come out and join us at Minute Maid Park this week. Here’s what we’ve got in store for you:
Tuesday, September 16 – 7:10 p.m. vs. Cleveland
Altuve Watch: After another multi-hit game (his fifth in a row and 63rd this season), JOSE ALTUVE IS AT 209 HITS, JUST ONE AWAY FROM TYING THE FRANCHISE RECORD FOR HITS IN A SINGLE SEASON AND TWO AWAY FROM BREAKING IT. COME OUT AND WITNESS HISTORY.
Bun B First Pitch: Houston rapper and Astros supporter Bun B will throw out the first pitch before Tuesday’s game to promote he new, limited edition Astros cap he designed with artists from New Era. The cap will be exclusively available at Academy Sports + Outdoors retail locations and at the Astros team stores in Minute Maid Park starting Tuesday. (You can order online at Academy.com or call the Astros team store at 713-259-0977 if you’re not in the Houston area).
In recognition of Childhood Cancer Awareness Month, the Astros will also honor the Candlelighters Childhood Cancer Family Alliance, which provides emotional, educational and practical support to families of children with cancer.
Wednesday, September 17 – 7:10 p.m. vs. Cleveland
On Wednesday, Jason Castro will be honored as the 2014 Astros Roberto Clemente Award nominee, presented by Chevrolet, during a pregame ceremony. Jason and his wife, Maris, have been active in promoting literacy in HISD schools through “Castro’s Kids.” As part of the ceremony, Castro will be awarded $7,500 from Chevrolet to donate to the charity of his choice. He has selected the Astros Foundation, the official team charity, to receive this donation.
The Astros will also honor the Ronald McDonald House Houston, which offers a home away from home providing care, compassion and hope to families with seriously ill children being treated in Texas Medical Center member institutions.
Thursday, September 18 – 7:10 p.m. vs. Cleveland
Long-time radio broadcaster and the newest inductee to the Astros Media Wall of Honor Alex Trevino will be honored in a pregame ceremony on the field on Thursday, September 18.
On Thursday, the United States Air Force celebrates its 67th birthday. In recognition of this day, the Astros welcome Lieutenant Colonel Rolando “Rolo” Aguilar, who recently retired from the U.S. Air Force, to throw out the ceremonial first pitch. Lt. Col. Aguilar was an F-16 pilot who provided an armed air escort for Air Force One as it carried President George W. Bush over the Texas and Louisiana skies on September 11, 2001. Cold Springs-Oakhurst Air Force Junior ROTC will be presenting the nation’s colors before Thursday’s game.
$1 Hot Dog Thursday: It’s our last Thursday home game of the season! Come on out for the last Dollar Hot Dog Thursday of the season, where fans can purchase an unlimited number of Nolan Ryan Beef hot dogs at $1 each while supplies last (limit of four per person per concession visit). Look for specially marked concessions around the ballpark.
Friday, September 19 – 7:10 p.m. vs. Seattle
Friday Night Fireworks: our last Big and Bright Friday Night of 2014 features a Friday Night Fireworks show, presented by Marathon Oil Corporation, following the conclusion of the game vs. the Mariners. This week’s show features a “2014 chart toppers” themed fireworks display.
The Astros Foundation will be selling special mystery grab bags, featuring baseballs and jerseys signed by current and former Astros players and coaches. Mystery grab bags will be sold at the Community Clubhouse located near section 111 on Friday, September 19, from the time gates open until the end of the 4th inning. All proceeds from mystery grab bag sales benefit the Astros Foundation.
Beer lovers? We’ve got you covered with two great options. Every Friday from 4:30-6:00 p.m. is St. Arnold Happy Hour, featuring $5, 12-ounce beers at the St. Arnold’s Bar in left field (behind Section 105). Also on Fridays, the Budweiser Patio behind center field serves Budweiser Day Fresh Draught, kegged and delivered the same day.
Saturday, September 20 – 6:10 p.m. vs. Seattle
Fiestas Patrias Street Fest: On Saturday, the Astros will help celebrate Fiestas Patrias with a pregame street fest, presented by United Airlines, before the Astros host the Seattle Mariners at 6:10pm. Join us on the Plaza on Crawford Street from 3:00 p.m. – 6:30 p.m. to pay homage to Mexico’s culture and traditions, complete with live music by La Orquesta Salmerum, an autograph session with Astros legend Jose Cruz and Spanish radio broadcasters Alex Trevino and Francisco Romero, traditional Latin dance lessons, food trucks and a special Q&A session with Juan Pablo from ABC’s The Bachelor. THE STREET FEST IS FREE FOR EVERYONE; NO GAME TICKET IS REQUIRED.
The Astros players will also be sporting their Los Astros jerseys during the game in honor of the special day.
#Altuve200: In honor of Jose Altuve’s 200th hit, fans can purchase a special “200 hits” ticket package, which includes a commemorative 200 Hits T-shirt. The Astros and Minute Maid will also recognize Altuve’s monumental achievement in a pregame ceremony. Fans can visit www.astros.com/Altuve to learn more about the “200 hits” ticket package.
Sunday, September 21 – 1:10 p.m. vs. Seattle
Fan Appreciation Day: Sunday, September 21 is Fan Appreciation Day at Minute Maid Park. To thank our amazing fans, the Astros will be giving away prizes every half inning throughout the game to randomly selected fans.
Season Ticket Holder Photo Day, where Season Ticket Holders will have the opportunity to take photos with Astros players, will also take place from 10:45 a.m. – 11:30 a.m. on the warning track prior to Sunday’s 1:10 p.m. game vs. the Mariners.
Houston Rockets guard Patrick Beverley will throw out a ceremonial first pitch on Sunday. Beverley attended his very first Astros game this season in support of his fellow Razorback, Astros lefty Dallas Keuchel.
Marie “Red” Mahoney, an outfielder who played in the All-American Girls Professional Baseball League, will also be throwing out a ceremonial first pitch on her 90th birthday.
The Astros final giveaway of the 2014 season will be a Team Poster for 10,000 fans, courtesy of the Houston Chronicle.
Kroger Family Sunday: Bring the whole family out to Minute Maid Park this Sunday for only $70 with a Kroger Family 4-Pack (ticket package includes 4 View Deck II tickets; 4 hot dogs; 4 sodas, Lot C parking pass). For tickets and more information, click here.
We look forward to seeing you at Minute Maid Park this week!
Manny Diaz is a die-hard Astros fan in the Seattle area. He attends every Astros-Mariners game and always represents at Safeco Field. He is a big fan of our longtime bullpen catcher, Javier Bracamonte.
Bracamonte is a great guy — he throws Astros batting practice, works with the pitchers in the bullpen and often has a pre-game catch with kids in the stands when the Astros are on the road. It’s no wonder Manny is a fan.
Manny began a campaign last year, asking Bracamonte for a jersey. He brought a sign to every game. “Bracamonte. Can I have your jersey?” He campaigned on Twitter using the hashtag #BracamonteJerseyForManny.
We noticed him. Bracamonte noticed him. But still no jersey for Manny.
The two became friendly and Bracamonte always looked forward to seeing him during the trips to Safeco. Earlier this season, I talked to Bracamonte about Manny and he told me he wanted to figure out a way to make Manny’s dream come true.
Bracamonte talked to our clubhouse manager and it turns out that there was an extra batting practice jersey from last season that Bracamonte could give Manny.
Tonight, before the Astros’ final game at Safeco Field this season, this happened:
Happiness is a Javier Bracamonte batting practice jersey.
Thanks for your support, Manny. We’ll see you next season at Safeco. And we know which jersey you’ll be wearing.
Hi there and welcome back to Mission Control. 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. First up is Jake Marisnick. The 24-year old who grew up in California joined the team at the trade deadline from the Marlins. He’s played all three outfield positions since joining the Astros and has made it look easy.
Mission Control: Who were the players you really loved watching in any sport?
Jake Marisnick: Growing up, I liked watching Torii Hunter in baseball. In football, Tom Brady and Peyton Manning. I liked watching them growing up and watching how they went about their business and seeing how they controlled the football game. It was awesome watching them.
MC: At what point did you make that decision to go from football to focus on baseball?
JM: I think it was after my junior year. I had a pretty good year in both sports, football and baseball, and I kind of had a sit-down with my parents and talked about what I wanted to do in the future and I told them I wanted to play baseball for a living. They said alright. That was probably one of the harder conversations I’ve had with my football coach, telling him I was going to be out my senior year.
MC: What’s your guilty pleasure song on your iPod?
JM: There are a lot of them. Probably Taylor Swift’s “Our Song” is one of them. But that’s obvious from my walk out song being [Come & Get It by] Selena Gomez.
MC: What’s your hidden talent? A secret talent that you do off the field or that people don’t know that you can do?
JM: Maybe that I’m good at karaoke. I love karaoke. I wouldn’t say I’m good at it, but I love to do it.
MC: And what is your go-to karaoke song?
JM: “I Believe in a Thing Called Love” by The Darkness.
MC: What’s your nickname?
JM: Big Fudge.
MC: And what is the story behind this nickname?
JM: I don’t know…it just came last spring training with the Marlins when I was on the DL. I was eating everything in sight. They said I put on a ton of weight, but I really put on maybe 10 or 15 pounds. And they thought it was hilarious so Big Fudge came about. It’s just kind of what they went with.
MC: Are you a chocolate guy?
JM: Yup. I’ll eat pretty much anything.
MC: Salty, crunchy, sweet, or…?
JM: Doesn’t matter; I think that’s where it came from. I’ll eat anything you put in front of me. And during that time, I was.
MC: What were you looking forward to about this new challenge of joining a new team?
JM: I’m a team guy. I love when the team has success. It’s exciting starting from where we’re at, being able to work as a team and work our way back up and get to the top where we all want to be, and doing that with a young, core group of guys.
Just because the Rangers and J.P. Arencibia have left town doesn’t mean Orbit can’t get back to his mascot shenanigans. As we know, Orbit’s having an MVP mascotting season this year. Every game he brings his A game, performing at Hall of Fame levels. Fans outside of Houston are starting to learn the genius and wonder that is Orbit.
His antics made the Top 10 MLB Moments of August at number 3, including this gem: “Though Baseball-Reference doesn’t yet award Mascot WAR, we can only assume that this is the greatest single-month performance for a mascot of all-time.”
We’re proud of you, Orbit. You’re our favorite fuzzy green alien.
Last night for the first of a quick two-game series against the Angels, Orbit’s genius came to play once again. As the Angels warmed up on the field, Orbit decided to go Trout-fishing — with Angels’ superstar all-everything center fielder Mike Trout. Complete with an Orbit-sized fisherman’s vest, hat and fishing pole.
Yes, it was as hilarious as it sounds and as the photo above indicates. Here’s the full video of the hilarity and awesomeness that ensued when Orbit broke out the fishing rod on Mike Trout:
How great was that? Words can’t even put it adequately. This is next-level stuff. Kudos to Orbit for continuing to bring it each and every game during this MVP season. And a big shoutout to Mike Trout for playing along and being great mascot bait. We all fell for this hook, line and sinker.
I’m pretty sure there’s a rule that every baseball player’s child is adorable. And the Astros’ kids are no exception. Sunday was the annual Astros Family Field Day. Each year on one Sunday, the Astros Foundation invites the players and their families to join them on the outfield at Minute Maid Park to basically just run around and be adorable. Mission accomplished.
Families and players who were out on the field today included Dexter Fowler, Jesse Crain, Chad Qualls, Carlos Corporan, Matt Albers, Marwin Gonzalez, Marc Krauss, Alex Presley, Collin McHugh, bullpen catchers Javier Bracamonte and Carlos Munoz, strength and conditioning coach Jake Beiting, head athletic trainer Nate Lucero and clubhouse manager Carl Schneider.
Here are some of my favorite photos from today. I had so many to choose from and they were all fantastic. I wish I could share them all.
Here are little Tiffany Corporan and Ava Krauss. I mean, come on.
Bullpen catcher Javier Bracamonte pitching to his daughter Jaelyn:
Marwin and Noel Gonzalez enjoy some father-daughter silliness:
The beautiful Fowler family — Dexter, Aliya and their daughter Naya Iman with grandma (Dexter’s mother who is in town from Atlanta).
Marwin Gonzalez’s daughter Eliana is just too cute.
Jesse Crain and his family relax on the outfield grass:
Chad Qualls has a game of catch with his son at the warning track:
Marc and Ava Krauss — look at her blue and orange Astros bow!
Naya’s learning how to crawl on the grass so her daddy wanted to give her some pointers:
Getting some good hacks in…
Baby Fowler and Baby Qualls just hanging out…
Can’t get any better than that. Have a great rest of your holiday weekend!
If you’re reading this, you already know about the long-running, hilarious frenemy troll rivalry between our amazing mascot Orbit and the Rangers’ J.P. Arencibia. (If for some reason, you’re not, this post will bring you up to speed).
Heading into the third game of the final Lone Star Series in Houston, we all wondered what would be next in this ongoing saga. More signs? More photoshops? Hand to hand combat?
It turns out that Orbit has something else in mind before Saturday night’s game — an intervention.
Orbit had a seat saved for Arencibia, but would the Rangers’ catcher be amenable? Orbit waited patiently….
And after a few words were exchanged, it was time for the bros to hug it out. All is well.
Here’s video of tonight’s intervention.
Thanks to J.P. Arencibia for being such a good sport about this the entire time. Gotta love baseball. And mascots.
Now that Orbit and Arencibia have made peace, who will Orbit’s next victim be? Stay tuned.