Catching Up and Looking Forward

I feel like I start most of my posts with something along the lines of, “It’s been too long since my last post.” Well…that’s how this one is going to start as well. As you might figure, the closer we get to the beginning of the season, the progressively busier I get.

There’s been a lot going on around these parts of late. Take, for instance, the last week of January. It started off with the Astros Caravan stopping in Oklahoma City for a jam-packed day.

The Astros really beefed up their caravan efforts this year, increasing the amount of cities they visited from eight in 2012 to 31 in 2013. We were really fortunate to have such a great group come to OKC: Current Astros Dallas Keuchel and Max Stassi, MLB legend Roger Clemens, and Astros Owner/Chairman Jim Crane.

There were a couple of events at the ballpark for season tickets holders and sponsors, but the schedule also included a visit to the pediatrics unit at INTEGRIS Baptist Medical Center, a stop at the National Softball Hall of Fame and Museum, and an autograph signing at Academy Sports + Outdoors. I’ve shared some pictures below, but you can check out more here.

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Visiting the pediatrics unit at INTEGRIS Baptist Medical Center

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RedHawks President/General Manager Michael Byrnes addresses a group of team sponsors at Chickasaw Bricktown Ballpark

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Chatting with the great Roger Clemens

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One very happy fan at INTEGRIS Baptist Medical Center

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Autograph signing at Academy Sports + Outdoors in NW OKC

I wrote something similar after last year’s caravan, but it bears repeating: I was unbelievably impressed with how enthusiastic and involved those representing the Astros were. You could tell they truly wanted to be there and enjoyed being a part of it.

The very next night was the annual Warren Spahn Award Gala. It’s a wonderful event put on by Bricktown Rotary and something the RedHawks enjoy being a part of it. The award is presented to the top lefthanded pitcher in baseball, and this year’s winner was–no surprise–Clayton Kershaw.

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Clayton Kershaw accepts the 2013 Warren Spahn Award

The reigning NL Cy Young Award winner was pretty concise with his acceptance speech, but his wife spent a lot of time talking about their charity, Kershaw’s Challenge. It’s a very admirable cause, and Bricktown Rotary presented a donation at the end of the night.

Also, big shoutout to event emcee—and Washington Nationals broadcaster—Bob Carpenter. He led a rousing rendition of “Take Me Out to the Ballgame” and emphatically boasted, “Root, root, for the REDHAWKS!” We definitely got a kick out of it.

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Members of the RedHawks front office do their best to act like actual adults

Getting Ready

It’s now less than two months from the first game at Chickasaw Bricktown Ballpark (April 11 versus those darned Zephyrs of New Orleans). As an organization we want to constantly improve the ballpark in ways both big and small. There’s a couple of projects going on at the moment, including putting in new brick facades around the elevators.

Elevator Bricks

No such thing as too many bricks at Chickasaw Bricktown Ballpark

Another renovation is converting the seating down the left field line from bleachers to chairbacks. These will provide more comfort, better views, and actually increase capacity by a bit.

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The case of the missing bleachers…

Although we pride ourselves on unsurpassed customer service, we are always striving to improve that as well. The RedHawks Job Fair is coming up at the end of this month, and we’ll be looking for great people to fill roles ranging from guest relations to food and beverage. You can find all the details here.

We’ll also be holding our annual National Anthem tryouts March 8 at Penn Square Mall. All of the advance registration slots filled up within a matter of days, but you can still tryout on a standby basis. If you want to see if you have what it takes to sing at a RedHawks game, click here.

Spring Hopes Eternal

Spring training for the Astros begins this weekend in Kissimmee, Fla. Mlb.com’s Brian McTaggart has you covered with the main storylines to watch.

The Astros have 25 non-roster invitees to big league camp, which is much higher than average. It’s not surprising, though, given the fluid state of the roster. Most of these guys have either already spent a good amount of time with the RedHawks or will do so in 2014.

However, I’m not quite ready to play the prediction game yet. In fact, I’ve made it known before I’m loath to do it publicly anyway. Too many things can happen between now and April 1. I will say, though, I fully expect the RedHawks to have another really good team due to high amount of talent currently in the Astros farm system.

The one player I am willing to make an exception for is George Springer. I have received many questions regarding if he will begin the season in OKC. As of now, my gut says yes, although I don’t think it will be for long. Not only will it give him a chance to get further adjusted to playing every day in right field, but this article by Evan Drellich also explains why it would make sense in terms of Springer’s eventual Major League service time.

By the way, if you care a modicum about the Astros, you need to make sure you are following Brian (@brianmctaggart) and Evan (@evandrellich) on Twitter, although I bet most of you reading this already are.

Words on Wallace

Throughout spring training the Astros, like every other team, will make a few roster moves. After signing veteran pitcher Jerome Williams last week, the Astros designated Brett Wallace for assignment. He recently cleared waivers and will be outrighted to the RedHawks for now, but he will have a chance to compete to rejoin the Astros during spring training.

I was less than pleased to see what the social media-sphere had to say about Wallace after he was DFA’d.  The long and short of it among Astros fans was “good riddance.”

When you have a job like I do, your rooting interests shift from teams to individuals. You build relationships and want to see certain people succeed regardless of what organization they are with. I understand these relationships are able to be founded since I am fortunate to have access only a small percentage of people are allowed to have. Even though a lot of my job requires me to be objective, there are situations where personal bias is going to enter.

I’m going on my seventh year of working in baseball, and I can say Brett Wallace is in the upper tier of hardest-working people I’ve encountered. He’s been asked to do so many different things regarding his approach, and every time he’s gone right to work without complaint.

I had two separate conversations with folks with Astros ties shortly after the news broke. Both happened to use the same exact term to describe him: consummate professional. It’s completely accurate and appropriate.

When people say less than flattering things about someone they never met, I’d like to think they wouldn’t say those things if they knew the full story. But at the same time something like this does strike a bit of a personal chord.

Award Tour

(If anything, I bring this up just as an excuse to make an A Tribe Called Quest reference.)

Recently I received some nice news that the team, and our broadcast partner 1340 AM “The Game”, was selected as the 2013 winner of “Best Play-By-Play” by the Oklahoma Association of Broadcasters. In a state filled with great broadcasters and broadcasting outfits, it’s nice to earn this recognition. It wouldn’t have been possible without the effort of several people.

The award is a good little addition to the mantelpiece, but the work is far from complete. I tell people broadcasting a baseball season is akin to taking a test 144 times per year, and I will not be satisfied unless I get an A every single time. It’s nothing like performing surgery or making real change in the world, but it’s something that requires a lot of hard work on a daily basis.

As always, thanks for reading. And remember, the battle is a lot easier when you are fighting for #teampie.

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