Yesterday, January 24th, marked the end of the 2015 Houston Astros Caravan. The series of stops across Texas culminated with Astros FanFest held at Minute Maid Park. Astros-centric bloggers were invited for a session with AJ Hinch, Reid Ryan, and Jeff Luhnow for a roundtable-type discussion forum.
Last year I was fortunate to have been a guest for a similar event at FanFest. I remembered being very impressed with the opportunity to listen to Reid, Jeff, and then-Astros manager Bo Porter as well as being able to ask them a few questions. In my opinion, Reid is the best speaker of the bunch, so, this year I wanted to focus on his accomplishments and tasks on the business side of the rebuild.
"“A stupid question is the one that you don’t answer and it’s the question that I ask you on the test.” John Shields, UTSA Professor"
It is no secret that the Astros have made a lot of changes in the last few seasons. Faces of the franchise have been traded (Lance Berkman, Roy Oswalt, Hunter Pence) as well as up-and-coming players (Michael Bourn, Mark Melancon, Jed Lowrie, Bud Norris), but have you paid attention to the changes at Minute Maid Park?
My biggest take-away from Reid’s speaking at FanFest, this year, was that he has a very similar task to Jeff Luhnow. His may not be as discussed, the most important thing is the team on the field, but Reid has had a very important role in the rebuild of the Houston Astros. Luhnow’s ideas of building a team from the ground-up applies heavily to Ryan’s role with the organization. The minor league facilities are being renovated while some affiliates change for logistical reasons.
Fresno is convenient for the minor league players, especially for a AAA franchise. If the MLB team is injured and needs a spot-starter or a player to take a few at-bats, chances are, the Astros are playing on the West Coast. Or perhaps there was a move that requires a spot-starter and the organization doesn’t want to fly a guy from the Texas League to Fresno. Lancaster, the advanced-A ball league, is nearby.
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The same logistical logic is being applied to Spring Training. Kissimmee has been the home of the Astros for a long time while other teams have moved out of the area. Securing a deal with the Nationals and being in the Palm Beach area is a critical goal for Ryan and the Astros in general.
More importantly is the work that Ryan is approaching in regards to Minute Maid Park. Does Tal’s Hill remain in center? There is a lot of real estate out there and an architectural company has all but a blank slate in the redesigning of that area. Could there be waterfalls? Or will an Astros Hall-of-Fame be out there?
But wait, there’s more to the stadium “rebuild.” 2015 will feature the opening of a St. Arnold’s Bar perched out in the View Decks as well as a revamped club level. This area will also be known as the bloggers’ press box.
When asked a question about his biggest accomplishment as the Astros President, Reid stressed that the fans are #1 and the players are #2. Without these components, there wouldn’t be a team on the field. In this day and age, the fans, collectively, have a huge role in the success of the team. Houston will never match the TV contracts that the Los Angeles or New York franchises receive. That puts the team at a significant economic disadvantage.
This year the Astros will celebrate the 50th Anniversary of the Astros. While the 50th anniversary of the franchise was celebrated 3 seasons ago, the organization wants to really honor the team name. Franchise players will visit with the grand finale being Biggio’s HoF tribute. Emphasize the celebration of the name Astros. After all, this is an organization that was regularly in the hunt for October in the late-90’s and early 2000’s. History will repeat itself. Let’s begin with revisiting the past, get to know our present, and get excited about the future.
I hope that the fans show up to a few games this season. Bring your families. Who knows, maybe you will run into Reid buying ice cream behind home plate.