Capping the Caravan

Greetings on this (finally) rainy morning in Oklahoma City.

Last Friday the 2013 Astros CAREavan made a stop in OKC. The attendees were pitcher Jordan Lyles, outfielder Justin Maxwell, pitcher Bud Norris, Hall of Fame broadcaster Milo Hamilton, and Astros legend Larry Dierker.

photo 5

RedHawks President & General Manager Michael Byrnes makes some opening remarks at the CAREavan luncheon

The day started at Chickasaw Bricktown Ballpark with a VIP luncheon for sponsors, season ticket holders, and suite holders.  The program was primarily led by Milo, who’s been doing these things longer than most people have been alive.  He would do Q&A’s with each player and share some great anecdotes along the way. (Shout out to PSC for the awesome food!)

After that it was off to Will Rogers Elementary School in Edmond, a visit that was helped made possible by Mercy and the Cooper’s Healthy Hawks program. The theme was education and healthy habits. Among other things, we got to learn that Justin Maxwell turned down a chance to go to Harvard in order to play baseball at the University of Maryland.  After the kids asked some questions, the players gave them some baseball tips.

The CAREavan panel on stage at Will Rogers Elementary

The CAREavan panel on stage at Will Rogers Elementary

Unfortunately, I was not around much for this part of the stop.  Instead, I was trying to find a way we could set up a Skype interview for Bud Norris to appear on the MLB Network show “Intentional Talk.” There were some technology issues at Will Rogers preventing it from happening there.  However, Will Rogers is located across from Oklahoma Christian Academy, which was kind enough to open its doors and accommodate us.  We got everything squared away with about five minutes to spare.

Bud Norris chats with Chris Rose and Kevin Millar on "Intentional Talk"

Bud Norris chats with Chris Rose and Kevin Millar on “Intentional Talk”

As soon as the interview was over, we had to book it to the next stop.  My sources informed me it was at this point I made an unintentional appearance on “Intentional Talk.” As soon as Bud got out of the chair, I sat down to disconnect and shut everything down so we could get moving.  Apparently the camera was still live at this point, and when my ugly mug came onto the screen, it made for some TV hijinks. After a lot of hard work, I have obtained the video of the interview and the interesting ending:

Next up was the YMCA. Although the point of this visit was to conduct a baseball clinic, the players were eager to show off their basketball skills as well. The kids tried to convince Justin Maxwell to dunk, but he didn’t want to run the risk of injury.  (He also told them he couldn’t because he was wearing jeans.  He finally relented right before we left and threw one down.)

Justin Maxwell fadeaway

Justin Maxwell fadeaway

There were three stations set up, focusing on hitting, throwing, and running the bases.

Jordan Lyles shows kids how to bunt. Something he won't really have to do anymore with the Astros move to the AL.

Jordan Lyles shows kids how to bunt, something he won’t really have to do anymore with the Astros moving to the AL

Bud Norris thankfully dials it back a bit while playing catch

Bud Norris thankfully dials it back a bit while playing catch

It was during this clinic I really gained an appreciation for the enthusiasm and zeal the players showed throughout the day.  These guys were going through the same packed schedule less than 24 hours prior in Corpus Christi before arriving in OKC late at night.  Here they were, though, still going strong at 5 p.m. It’s no wonder they’re able to plug through a 162-game season. And to top it off, you could tell they truly wanted to be there.  Big thanks to the Astros for setting us up with such a great group.

After the kids got some autographs, it was time to head to Academy Sports + Oudoors.  We battled some brutal Friday rush hour traffic to get there, but we eventually made it, where a lot of eager fans were awaiting our arrival.

Members of the CAREavan do a meet and greet at Academy Sports + Outdoors

Members of the CAREavan do a meet and greet at Academy Sports + Outdoors

I was told by one of the staff members at Academy that a couple weeks before they had hosted a similar autograph session with a couple of players from the Rangers.  The turnout for the Astros was much, much larger.  Boom.

The day had finally come to an end. The Astros contingent headed to the airport and traveled back to Houston, where they would cap off a hectic week with Astros Fan Fest the next day.

This day would have not been possible were it not for several people.  First, a big thanks to the Astros community relations and media relations departments for their assistance and making Oklahoma City a regular stop on the CAREavan.  Even though OKC is their Triple-A home, by no means are they obligated to come here.

Again a huge thanks to the staffs at Will Rogers Elementary and Oklahoma Christian Academy for jumping through some hoops to help us get the aforementioned interview up and running.  In the media realm of minor league baseball, every day is an adventure and you end up having to do a lot of things on the fly, but they usually can’t happen without the help of others.

And finally, many, many thanks goes to our own Chelsi Fitzgerald who coordinated the whole shebang from start to finish.  Although this event required a lot of work on my part, it was nothing compared to what Chelsi did.  Great job, Chelsi. Now quit slacking and get me that website graphic I need!

On Deck

As a little teaser, the next post will discuss minding your manners as well as some reflection on how much can change in a year.

Thanks for reading.


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