Greetings from Kissimmee, FL and 80 degree weather! It feels good to get away from the cool temperatures of Troy and enter the more baseball type weather. I arrived in Orlando Thursday night around 8:30pm, picked up the rental car and headed to the Holiday Inn in Kissimmee. The place is mobbed with all types of people, some on vacation and some on Spring Break…all enjoying the summer weather and most likely Disney World, a 5-minute drive from where I’m staying. The hotel is also the same place where the Astros house the entire minor league staff…so I run into a bunch of guys in the lobby and what not.
Wanting to do something before turning in for the night, I headed over to Disney’s ESPN Wide World of Sports complex. The complex is huge! It’s 220 acres that hosts more than 60 sports and thousands of events for all types of athletes. When I got there the cleaning crew was just finishing up at Champion Stadium, where the Atlanta Braves had hosted the Washington National that night. So I casually walked in and snapped a few photos:
On Friday morning I made the 15 minute drive to the Astros Minor League Spring Training complex at Osceola Heritage Park. I was greeted by Astros Player Development Coordinator Allen Rowin and Director of Florida Operations Jay Edmiston. Allen spends almost two months in Florida before heading back to Houston, while Jay mans the complex year round. I will be interviewing both of them and will post those in a later blog.
One of the first things I did upon arriving was introduce myself to our new 2011 manager Stubby Clapp and hitting coach Mark Bailey. It was at this time when I found out that everyone calls Bailey “Beatle.” So our 2011 field staff is “Stubby, Beatle and Ruby.”
“Stubby” and “Beatle” are very excited about coming to Troy for the 2011 season and they were not short on questions about the stadium and the area. This will be the first managerial stint for Stubby and although he said he cannot guarantee another championship, he’s ready for the challenge.
An idea being thrown around the front office since we heard Stubby was Canadian was whether or not we should play Canada’s National Anthem before the “Star Spangled Banner.” After running the idea by Stubby and finding out that his family will be in attendance at the ValleyCats home opener on June 17, we’re leaning towards doing it on opening day only.
We also talked about planning a date for a Spring Reception similar to the one held for Jim Pankovits when he first joined the ‘Cats as manager in 2009. I’d expect it to happen at some point in May.
(L-R) 2011 ‘Cats hitting coach Mark Bailey, manager Stubby Clapp and pitching coach Gary Ruby:
Outside on the backfields there were two games going on versus the Washington Nationals minor leaguers. Here are a few tidbits from the day:
-Bryce Harper, Nats number one pick in the 2010 MLB draft had a pretty uneventful day, striking out and grounding out the two times that I saw him bat.
-Carlos Quevedo had a very good outing, facing 13 batters in 3.1 innings and giving up only 2 hits while walking none.
-Craig Biggio is in town for the weekend and spent some time instructing Mike Kvasnicka at third base. He also worked with a handful of others.
-Telvin Nash hit a long home run to left field. Not quite as long as the one he hit with the big league club at a game against Atlanta at Disney’s Champion Stadium.
-Houston Astros owner Drayton McLane and President of Baseball Operations Tal Smith were among the many spectators watching the games.
To give all of you a clearer understanding on how Spring Training works, I will take you through a very brief outline of the day-in-the-life of an Astros minor leaguer.
7:00 AM: Players are picked up at the hotel by shuttle vans and brought to the complex.
7:30-8:30 AM: The players attend informative meetings led by the Astros front office staff and coordinators.
9:00-11:30 AM: Stretching, hitting & fielding drills, cage work, batting practice and more.
11:30-12:30 PM: Lunch
1:00 PM : Exhibition games
4:30 PM: Shuttle vans back to the hotel
Once they are back at the hotel they pretty much stay put. Since most do not have cars, many will venture out to eat at one of the handful of restaurants and fast food establishments around the hotel.
The highlight of the day was reuniting with almost all of the members of last years championship team. It was great to see them again after they took off less than 24-hours after spending a grueling 3 months playing almost every day, enduring some serious lows and coming back from a 9.5 game deficit to sweep Brooklyn for the New York-Penn League championship.
rrow I’ll be spending some time on the Major League side of the complex, as the Astros host the St. Louis Cardinals.
Now I’ll leave you with a handful of pictures from the day…
Craig Biggio & Mike Kvasnicka:
Marcus Nidifers family…sporting the ValleyCats gear!
(L-R) Jay Edmiston, Drayton McLane, Fred Nelson, Tal Smith
Mark Bailey, Tyler Burnett
Biggio taking it in:
Nidiffer & Nash…both teammates in Greeneville: