Since joining the Astros, Jeff Luhnow has become one of the more popular General Managers in baseball. Famed for his radical rebuild methods and his unorthodox front office hirings, Luhnow has become a mainstay on The MLB Network and MLB Radio. He constantly finds time in his busy schedule to be available to the media as well as smaller outlets like the Astros’ blog sites. I considered trying to get a hold of Jeff for a one-on-one, but decided that another Jeff Luhnow interview would be a bit tired. Instead, I have a real treat for you guys! One of Climbing Tal’s Hill’s most faithful readers just so happens to be the First Lady of Astros’ baseball operations. I managed to get a hold of Gina Luhnow to see if she would be interested in giving fans a behind-the-scenes look at what it’s like to be married to the mad scientist, and to my surprise, she was more than happy to oblige.
JB — It seems like I remember Jeff taking the Astros gig and then you guys getting married shortly thereafter. How hectic was that?
GL — Very hectic! Since Jeff was working at the Cardinals, I thought I’d be moving to St. Louis after our wedding in January, 2012. (I was born and raised in Los Angeles and living there at the time). Jeff called me in early December, 2011 to tell me that he got the job with the Astros and “Um… you’re not moving to St. Louis, Gina- we’re moving to Houston!” I had never been to Houston in my entire life so it was a lot to digest while final wedding preparations were happening. Still, I was so thrilled for Jeff that I just focused on wedding details while he threw himself into the new job. (He lived in a hotel downtown for that first month and a half.) Thankfully, I didn’t get bumped from his busy calendar and he flew to LA in time for a fabulous, happy wedding weekend! After a quick honeymoon, we immediately left for Spring Training in Florida and flew back to Houston with the team for Opening Day. It was a wild few months, that’s for sure.
JB — Did you know what you were agreeing to when you married a MLB GM?
GL — I certainly knew what the job entailed so I wasn’t shocked. Also, I was fortunate to grow up with wonderful parents who truly define the word “partners”. My dad was a successful business man who worked just as hard as Jeff- but he still says to this day that he couldn’t have done it without the help and support of my Mom. (They’ll have their 50th wedding anniversary in September!) So the harder Jeff works, the more inclined I am to do everything possible to keep his personal life happy and calm. The schedule he keeps is tough, though. During the season he’s at every home game and his day doesn’t end until at least 11pm. Luckily, we live close to the stadium and I go to many of the games. Sometimes I sit up with him in the box which is a treat. I decided to start calling those evenings with him “date nights”- never mind that Sig [Mejdal] and [David] Stearns and several others are there, too! Any time I can get with him is excellent.
JB — Before you met Jeff, were you a big fan of baseball and if so, who was your team?
GL — As I mentioned, I’m from Los Angeles so the Dodgers were my team. I’ve always loved baseball but college basketball was really big in my family. My parents went to UCLA so I attended far more Bruin games at Pauley Pavilion than Dodger games.
JB — What did your family think about Jeff becoming the GM of the Astros? Have they switched their allegiance from Dodger blue?
GL — My whole family is THRILLED for Jeff. He is the right guy for this job and it’s really rewarding to see him thrive at what he does best. That said, my Dad does shake his head every now and then and say, “I can’t believe that my son and my son-in-law are in the two most insecure industries in which one could possibly work.” My brother is a film producer- so you can imagine that my parents have some sleepless nights. And I can tell you that the Astros have serious fans in LA now, thanks to my family and friends.
JB — About how many games were you able to attend last season? Any road trips? When you didn’t go to games, were you one of the lucky few that were able to see them on TV?
GL — I have absolutely no idea how many games I attended- A LOT! I stopped counting. Jeff’s kids (who live in St. Louis with their mom during the school year) spend each summer with us here in Houston and we were allowed to accompany the team on two road trips. That was really fun and a great way for Jeff to be with his kids during the busy season. If I wasn’t at a game, I was definitely watching them all on TV.
JB — Do you plan on spending any time in Florida for Spring Training?
GL — I will spend about 3 weeks in Florida during 2 different trips.
JB — My wife is always annoyed at me because I spend so much time on my phone (including right now). I assume that GMs always have their phones handy. Does a call or text during dinner or vacation bother you? How often does he use his job as an excuse to be on his phone when he’s actually just playing Words With Friends?
GL — The phone is not “handy”- it’s physically attached to his body. He is ALWAYS working. I think he did a major trade on the second day of our honeymoon, just as an example. There is no down-time, there is no day off for him. He receives hundreds of emails and texts per day. Just like many people out there who have demanding, stressful jobs, he does what he needs to do, no matter when it is- during dinner, an event, etc. That said, Jeff is a great husband and an amazing, loving father. He’s calm and focused and able to juggle better than Bozo. He’s so good at it that it’s… well, annoying. All that AND he’s a beast at Words With Friends.
JB — You and Jeff decide to battle it out in some chess (or whatever game you guys enjoy). Who wins?
GL — Jeff is extremely competitive. He would think he won the game… until I explained that, in fact, I had whooped his ass.
JB — I have just one more question for you and I know that you have the answer! When will George Springer get called up?
GL — Who IS this Springer guy that everyone keeps talking about???
Mrs. Luhnow, thank you so much for your time. It was a real pleasure chatting with you!