Thursday, July 4, 2013

June 20- Houston Astros



It’s funny to see where my life has ended up in just the last 365 days. On this date last year I was sitting exactly where I am now, at my parent’s house in Portland, Oregon with a little over $14,000 in my pocket, a car and nothing to do until school resumed in the fall after I had been sent home from the MLB Fan Cave. Today, I’m broke. My car died back in February when my girlfriend Angie (@sconnieangie) came to visit me, I graduated from the University of Oregon with three degrees, I work in retail and I’m back living at my parent’s place for the first time since I was 19-years-old. There are times when I reflect on what happened over the last year and walk away with a smile as I accomplished more than most than most will do in their lifetime, living out my dream of touring all the Major League Baseball stadiums, meeting and making new friends and realizing that my story-telling abilities have made a lot of people happy including myself. On the inverse, I get the feeling that I’m no better off then where I was when I graduated high school. I’ve never been one to look at things so pessimistically, but without any direction or knowledge of how to attain a job as a writer for a living, things can get to be pretty tough. But like I said, I don’t always feel this way. I know that this is merely a slight fork in the road. I need to regroup and strategize a new plan and I KNOW that the dreariness will soon be left in my wake.

It’s not my intention to be so philosophical with any of these posts, but occasionally that’s where my mind wanders every night. Baseball is a game that I’ve loved since I was a kid, but I also understand that it’s a business. Like life, some days a player will go out and have the game of their life, while other days they’ll struggle and be at the mercy of those who once cheered them on. These are the thoughts I have when I look at this Houston Astros cap. Last week I was supposed to go to at least one game in Seattle to see the Astros take on the Seattle Mariners during a three-game series. Somewhere around the end of May Travis Blackley had hit me up after I posted a tweet in applause of the “lighting of the halo” that takes place in Anaheim whenever the Los Angeles Angels win a game. I’m not at all saying that I support the Angels, I just find it to be a cool gesture that the team does to let fans, who may not have seen the game, but may be driving by on the freeway, know that their team won. No other team does this and I think it’s a nice nostalgic touch for the fans. Travis saw my tweet, thought I was in Southern California and asked if I wanted to meet up while they were in Anaheim for their upcoming series. I was sitting on my couch watching “The Wire” at that moment, but wished more than anything that I was down south. I responded back to let him know that I wasn’t, but looked ahead to see when the Astros would be rolling to Seattle before I responded. Portland is only 180 miles away from Seattle and I figured I could have caught a ride or a bus for one of the games. I let him know this and he said, “Cool, first round is on me.”

Needless to say, I didn’t make it up. It’s not often that I fail to achieve my goals or missions, but this was one of those cases where I didn’t have much of a choice. I couldn’t get a lift, no matter how many people I asked, and the bus was way too problematic based on scheduling conflicts and other bits of nonsense. I sent him a direct message to let him know this and that was it. I was pissed. The last time I saw Travis in person was right after the Oakland Athletics won the final game of the regular season. I wasn’t able to go down for Spring Training this season and I have yet to look him in the eye and truly thank him for being such a stand up guy to all the A’s fans and myself after I wrote about him earlier this year with my post on the Australian World Baseball Classic cap. Even though we have passed words and Instagram photos back and forth to one another, it’s just not the same. I was raised on the principle of always thanking people in person, and I know that time will come soon. Banking on August or September now.

One thing I suppose I can take away from this is that I have a lot of good people in my life who will do what they can to cheer me up. This photo came from a buddy of mine, Mike McDonnell (@IrishCARBomb21). He didn't have to do it, but little things like this really go a long way. Thank you Mike and thank you Travis. First round is on me now.

This is the first of three caps from the now-American League West Astros that I will be writing about, and it will never stop being weird to say that. If you read my post about the Astros on June 8th you’d know and understand my beef with their realignment into the AL, especially considering I:

1. Devised a better, more accurate and effective realignment strategy.

2. Now have to explain why my Astros tattoos are on the National League side of my body for the rest of my life.

So with that, I figure its best to just start with the home cap… which really doesn’t have a story behind it on account of the fact that it’s a new cap. One thing I can tell you is that I do like it; however, I feel that the designers could have done a better job with it. I realize that they wanted to go with a throwback style; it’s just that it’s way too similar to the 1965-1970/1980-1993 cap that I write about on February 27th. The differences in this cap are that the orange star features different tints and that the white “H” has a bit more luster to it. Other than that, it’s kind of boring. Sorry.

The two marks on my cap are jersey numbers that belong to guys who I could have met while I was in the MLB Fan Cave, but unfortunately was given the axe a few weeks before they dropped by.

#27- Jose Altuve was featured in a Fan Cave video along with Bud Norris and the other guy I have numbered on my cap in which they measured things based on Altuves. Altuve is 5’5’’ and so the idea was to literally measure things in the Fan Cave with a life-size cardboard cutout of Altuve. It was pretty clever, although I’ll admit I only got about 30 seconds into the video before I turned it off. Nothing against the three players involved, it’s just hard for me to watch something that I still have mixed feelings about after getting let go. Anyway…

Altuve hails from Maracay, Aragua, Venezuela and was singed as a free agent by the Astros in 2007. For five seasons Altuve shuffled around the minor leagues starting with the Venezuelan League Astros after signing and working his way through the Greensville Astros of the Rookie Appalachian League (2008-2009), Tri-City ValleyCats of the short season-A New York-Pennsylvania League (2009), the Class-A Lexington Legends of the South Atlantic League (2010), the advanced-A Lancaster Jethawks of the California League (2010-2011) and the AA Corpus Christi Hooks of the Texas League (2011) before making his Major League debut on July 20, 2011. Throughout Altuve’s minor league run he batted .327 with 479 hits, 208 RBI, 117 stolen bases and an OPS of .867. He was named the second baseman on Baseball America's 2011 Minor League All Star team and represented the Astros at the 2011 All-Star Futures Game.

Altuve made a quick positive impression with the Astros and their fans immediately. On July 27, 2011, Altuve tied Russ Johnson for the Astros record for most consecutive games with a hit to start a career with 7. On August 20, 2011, Altuve hit an inside-the-park home run, his first major league home-run. He became the first Astros player since Adam Everett in 2003 to hit an inside-the-park home run, the first Astros player to get his first major league home run on an inside-the-park home run since pitcher Butch Henry in 1992, and the first Astros player to lead off a game with an inside-the-park home run since Bill Doran in 1987. That season he finished batting .276 with 61 hits, 26 runs and seven stolen bases. This last season (2012) Altuve made the first, of many trips to the All-Star Game and finished the season batting .290 with seven home runs, 167 hits, 33 stolen bases and 34 doubles; pretty impressive for his first full year.

#64- Lucas Harrell was also featured in the “How Many Altuves” video, and yet another person I didn’t have the chance to meet. Harrell was drafted out of Ozark High School by the Chicago White Sox in the 4th round (119th overall) of the 2004 amateur draft. Harrell began his professional career for the Rookie League Bristol White Sox that same year, making 9 starts in 13 appearances; he had a 3–5 record with a 5.59 ERA. In 2005, Harrell advanced to the Single-A Kannapolis Intimidators. He went 7–11 with a 3.65 ERA. His 26 starts and 11 losses led the Intimidators, were tied for 3rd on the team in wins, and were third on the team in strikeouts (85). In 2006, Harrell split the season between the Single-A Winston-Salem Warthogs and the Double-A Birmingham Barons. Making a combined 20 starts, he went 7–4 with a 3.18 ERA. Harrell was also a Carolina League midseason All-Star. In 2007, Harrell missed the entire season following right shoulder surgery. On November 20, 2007, the White Sox purchased Harrell's contract, protecting him from the Rule 5 Draft. Harrell made his MLB debut on July 30, 2010, pitching six innings and allowing only one run in a 6–1 win over the Oakland Athletics and immediately returned to the Triple-A Charlotte Knights.

Harrell pitched in a total of 11 games for the White Sox before he was waived in July of 2011, only to be picked up by the Astros on July 8th. On April 2, 2012 Harrell was declared a starting pitcher in the Astro's Opening Day rotation. In his first start of the season, he was very sharp, as he threw seven scoreless innings and allowed just three hits while striking out four against the Colorado Rockies. Harrell also got his first major league hit, a bunt that hugged the third-base line and stayed fair. Harrell went on to record 11 wins and 11 losses on the season with a 3.76 ERA in 32 games started/pitched.

3 comments:

  1. Keep your head up my blogger friend. You're to talented to be idle. Doors will open for you. Stay positive.

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  2. Best photo with a baseball player ever......of all time.

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