Wednesday, March 1, 2017

Play Ball!

Turning on my local Root Sports Network today, Feb. 28, 2017, and watching my Houston Astros play the Washington Nationals, I realize how much I love Major League Baseball, even in Spring Training in the games that don't count.  Unlike any other sport, especially in their All Star games, MLB is the only sport where the game is played the same [i.e., the players will play just as hard on offense or defense whether it is a spring training game, regular season game, All Star game, or the playoffs].  The only difference in the spring training games and the All Star game is how the managers will manage the game [with substitutions and relief pitchers].  But outside of that the players on the field are just playing the game like they always do. 

Oh, by the way, the commissioner [Selig] you see on that major league baseball pic now will have the new commissioner of baseball's name, Rob Manfred. 

Major League Baseball, since I was a little kid growing up in St. Louis until today in Houston, has been such a major part of my life. Along with my brothers' Bradley and Sandy and my sister Susan, we have experienced so many great memories with Mom and especially Dad either going to the games together or watching the games together or just talking about them at family get-togethers.  We went to many games in St. Louis Busch Stadium to watch the Cardinals during the years of the Cardinals greats Stan Musial, Bob Gibson, Julian Javier, Mike Shannon, Bill White, Tim McCarver, et. al.  

Our family has done the same in Houston at the Houston Astrodome [the Astros home until they moved into Minute Maid Park a few years ago].  One of the greatest moments was a Sunday in June [I looked up was June 18, 1967], when me and my brothers and Dad went to the Astrodome to see Don Wilson throw a no-hitter against the Atlanta Braves.  I still remember it like yesterday seeing Don Wilson striking out Hank Aaron [on a swinging strike] for the final out of the no-hitter.  And what was amazing about that game, it was father's day!  Wow, what a present for my Dad, and what an experience my brothers, sister and me will cherish forever.

Also, another great experience was in the last year of the Astrodome they had this special promotion of senior ball boys, who actually got to wear an Astros uniform and go on the field, standing in foul territory near the bullpen area [and collect the balls that were hit foul]. My brother Bradley wrote a beautiful letter to the Astros why my Dad, "Pop", should be picked...and he was chosen twice!  Wow, what a great experience for my Dad, who was so happy, and what a moving moment for our family, [Bradley, Susan, Sandy, me and Mom, "Reenie"] who got to be in the first row and talk to him during the game.  It was so great to see my Dad play catch with the Astros outfielders before the game, and they actually talked to him a lot. 

Michael, Bradley and famous, Houston Astros ball boy, Pop!

Man what other game can you have a life moving experience like that.  My Dad and Mom have since passed, but we know they are still watching the games with us from heaven. 

Watching this Spring Training game now on TV, the Astros broadcasting team just put on the screen this amazing set of stats of players with the most hits in the game since 2013.  It just happens to have my favorite player, the Astros second baseman Jose Altuve, as the one who has the most hits in Major League Baseball since then:

Look at those great names and the numbers to realize how awesome a hitter Jose Altuve is. From the number two hitter, Robinson Cano [as far as total hits since 2013], who has 751 hits to the number 5 hitter, Mike Trout who has 708 hits, there is only a difference of 43 hits. Now look at Jose Altuve at #1.  He has 818 hits in those 4 years-an average of more than 200 hits a year.  That's Hall of Fame stuff.  But what is more amazing is, while there is only a difference of 43 hits between #2-5, there is a 67 number of hits difference between #1 [Altuve] and #2 Robinson Canoe.  The top 5 are great, great baseball players and hitters, but as far as the total number of hits go, Jose Altuve stands alone. 

All this to say, this is really getting me ready for the opening day of Major League Baseball, one of the grandest days in the year!  For Houston, their opening day at home is April 3, 2017 against the Seattle Mariners at Minute Maid Park.

I don't know about the rest of you but as for me, and my brothers, and our Pop in heaven, it is, "Play ball!"

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