Houston Astros: A Peek Inside STH’s Town Hall With A.J. Hinch

Oct 14, 2015; Kansas City, MO, USA; Houston Astros manager A.J. Hinch (14) watches batting practice before game five of the ALDS against the Kansas City Royals at Kauffman Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Denny Medley-USA TODAY Sports
Oct 14, 2015; Kansas City, MO, USA; Houston Astros manager A.J. Hinch (14) watches batting practice before game five of the ALDS against the Kansas City Royals at Kauffman Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Denny Medley-USA TODAY Sports /

Houston Astros’ Manager A.J. Hinch Talks to Season Ticket Holders

The Houston Astros do many exciting events for the specifically for Astros season ticket holders every year. It’s a way to give the season ticket holders extra perks for going the extra mile to commit the time and resources needed to purchase the seats. Last night was a special night as the Astros hosted the annual Town Hall with A.J. Hinch last night where media was not invited. Luckily, I’m not media yet, and I am a season ticket holder. I was able to bring a couple of my writers and a familiar face from another blog.

My co-host from @talkingstros was able to come as well, so there were several moments that Hinch said something that made us look at each other because we had just talked about that during the last show Tuesday night. This was my first Town Hall with the Astros, and it was a great experience even though I did not get the Astros license plate frame. We will be writing several posts at CTH from some of what Hinch talked about, but I wanted to offer the highlights below.

Bill Brown asked Hinch to rise and give a round of applause to the season ticket holders as appreciation for helping them win 53 home games in 2015. He did and said, “I would like you guys to travel with us on the road because we struggled in road games. ” A question was asked about what the turning points of the season were? His response was, “2015 was my 19th year in major league baseball in some compacity, it was by far my most favorite season.”

Reflections on 2015 Season

“We kicked 2015 off after an offseason of traveling around to get to know the wacky players that you have come to love. The real turning point was in spring training where we created a mindset that our best was good enough,” Hinch said. “I’m not sure when we began to believe, but I know where it started was in spring.” Hinch went on to recap the early season highs, especially sweeping the San Diego Padres because they were his team before the Astros.

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He talked about July, how they got off to a rough start and then the All-Star break happened. Hinch said that baseball people were giving them pats on the head saying that they have had a good year so far. Hinch mentioned that he didn’t appreciate that because he believed in his team while others might have thought the Astros were done. “We used that as bulletin board material to help us get back into the season,” He mentioned that the Astros had five straight winning months until September happened.

Turning point was the home series vs. Dodgers

Hinch brought up the series that he felt that turned around the Astros season, was the weekend series versus the Los Angeles Dodgers. “The big bad Dodgers were coming to town, on Friday, we knew we would be facing Zack Greinke and Clayton Kershaw on Saturday and Sunday. Friday night, this trade acquisition guy Mike Fiers, decides to throw a no-hitter, that was a cool night. We win on a home run on Saturday; I think it was Jose Altuve‘s homer that was under review because a fan might have interfered. We go into Sunday’s game already winning the series, and then Jason Castro takes Kenly Jenson deep. People started taking us seriously after that series.”

Hinch went on to say that the Astros made the trades to bolster their team for the playoffs with Scott Kazmir, Carlos Gomez, and Fiers, but he jokingly referred to the Gomez-Hinch trade as the Fiers trade. To show the relationship that Hinch has with his players, he said that he called that trade the Fiers trade to take a jab at Gomez, but of their relationship, Gomez knew that Hinch was not serious.


Hinch was asked about first base; he mentioned that he knew it would come up, but didn’t think it would be second. Hinch believes that the production at first base last year was not that far off from being good and that the Astros would not have made it to the playoffs if it weren’t for Chris Carter carrying the team in September. Speaking of Carter and Jonathan Villar, Hinch said that, “they were good as Astros, but stink now that they are will the Brewers.”

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Cody at CTH is working on a post looking deeper into first base based on what Hinch said about first base, but I wanted to mention that he said there are many options for first base, including A.J. Reed. But the best quote from this part was when he said, “It’s time for Jon Singleton to step up.” He went on to say that there are no longer any freebies here on a developing team; they will be looking for who performs the best, someone has to win that job.

Hinch mentioned that he doesn’t have enough playing time for fan favorites Preston Tucker and Jake Marisnick. When you go to spring training with only one open position and a mini one for the backup catcher, it is a good thing. He also proclaimed that Jose Altuve and Carlos Correa will both get the nods at second base and shortstop respectively, I know, breaking news.

A.J. Reed

Hinch got to spend some time with Reed during the AFL in Arizona, to get a feel for his mentality as a person and a player. “Getting your first crack at the MLB level is one thing, but to get that first crack on a playoff contender is different, so he has to be up and running quickly. We may not have the luxury of giving him 100 or so at bats to get his feet wet.” Hinch then went to say that if he is to have Marwin Gonzalez sitting on the bench next to him, the guy who is playing instead of him should be good to keep Gonzalez on the bench. “Reed is a big boy, and he can hit, but the one thing he has not done is play in Triple-A or seen any MLB pitching.”

Hinch said the Astros culture has changed to one that accepts the younger player, as they had one of the younger offensive teams in 2015 and finished near the top in many offensive categories as a team. “We will embrace a guy like Reed when he comes up, he’s not going to hit fourth or fifth, I’ll probably stash him down in the order until he earns lower.” He then went on to say that he took a similar approach with Correa, but he earned the third spot after three games with the Astros. “I made him earn it now!”

Draft Night/Correa’s Debut

Hinch then started discussing Carlos Correa’s debut with the Astros, which so happened to fall on the night of the 2015 MLB draft, which the Astros were following. When the Astros drafted Alex Bregman, “Springer told Correa, hey Correa, welcome to the big leagues, we just found your replacement.” We all know that Springer was kidding because Correa is one of the top shortstops and top-20 type of player in baseball. However, fan favorite Tucker also had a moment when his brother Kyle Tucker was drafted.

When Kyle was drafted, a talking head on the draft show said that Kyle’s swing reminded then of Ted Williams. Hinch said that Preston threw his hands up in the air and exclaimed, “Ted Williams, they said my swing reminded them of Jack Cust!” Hinch even added some humor last night as he said that on the plane to Chicago, he announced to the team that Correa would be joining them the next day, everyone was happy but Villar.

Hinch also talked about presenting the ROY Award to Correa, and Hinch gave a nice touching speech about how mature Correa was as a person and a player. When it was Correa’s turn to speak, he said that he was disappointed that Carlos Beltran couldn’t make it to the ceremony to present him the award, he had to settle for Hinch instead. But the best moment was when Correa was diving in the snow, he kept on text Hinch saying “look what I’m doing,” and sent the video. Hinch immediately replied stop doing that.

Spring Training Ice Breaker

He talked about the first day of training last year, he called out Max Stassi and asked him to describe the hunting activities he did that offseason. Hinch had the bullpen catcher Javier Bracamonte sit next to him in front of the whole team while Stassi talked about his hunts. Hinch asked Stassi what the biggest snake he has ever seen, he said 20-25 pounds, he then turns to Brac (Bracamonte) and ask if he is scared of snakes because Altuve had let it slip.

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Brac confirmed the fear of snakes; Hinch then asked if he has ever seen a 50-pound python, he said no. Hinch then told Brac to turn around, and when he did, he saw an enormous snake behind his head, which Hinch had rented for the day. “So, Bracamonte, the poor guy, jumps up and jumps over Altuve, I’m going to leave that joke alone since we are in Altuve’s house right now. He runs out of the door past Chad Qualls and Scott Feldman. After that, the players had taken a picture with the snake and put them in Bracamonte’s locker. We later found him in the minor league clubhouse; he had locked himself in the bathroom.”

Why, what was the purpose of this exercise? Hinch said that he wanted to create a culture where it was okay to be yourself, even if you are afraid of snakes. It taught the players that they can’t be afraid of failure, this activity was the beginning of what is known as Club Astros with players trying to find ways to celebrate success.

Next: Houston Astros: Talking Stros with Fresno POY Jordan Jankowski

There was more said, but I think the snake story is a good place to stop so that I will continue this either tomorrow or Saturday. There were more possible spoilers about the upcoming 2016 season, but I feel like this would be better on a separate post. We are working to try to get Hinch on Talking Stros soon?