Easter Saturday Fanfest at Minute Maid Park.

HAPPY EASTER, EVERYBODY!

Saturday, April 3, 2010.

It was a great day for baseball. Unfortunately, it wasn’t a day in which a lot of great baseball found its way to Minute Maid Park in Houston in behalf of the home team. In their spring training finale against the Toronto Blue Jays, the Houston Astros combined hittable pitching, goofy fielding, an early evaporation of critical hitting, all the lobsters that failed critical hitting inevitably produces, and a questionable waste of reliever Jeff Fulcino for 31 pitches over two-thirds of an inning at work to fall together as a dead pigeon does on any street in downtown Houston.

Splat! After four innings of play, it was Toronto by 11-0; at the end of the day, it was the Blue Jays by 13-6.

On the bright side? At least we got spring training done without putting anyone else on the disabled list. Other than that, we shall only h0pe that this team responds with greater life, moxie, and production than they’ve shown for the most part, so far.

You may put this question in my “what the heck does this guy know?”  file any time you please, but I really didn’t see the sense of wasting Jeff Fulcino for 31 pitches over two-thirds of an inning in the top of the seventh. It was obvious much earlier in the pitch count that he had no control Saturday and that further use of that wild wing was only going to make him even more questionable for the coming up Opener that counts on Monday night.

To me, this season is really about building for the future. Sure, we need the Big Three of Berkman, Oswalt, and Lee to come through for any real hope of success this season, but the bigger long run questions are about our lack of proven production at catcher and shortstop – and the need for a vision beyond this season as to where we go at second and third base. If Chris Johnson is able to maintain anything close to the pace he’s set this spring, Johnson’s the obvious man for the long-range run at third, but we will also need to soon start grooming someone as Matsui’s replacement at second base too.

Then there’s the matter of pitching. Oswalt cannot be the ace forever. And we don’t know for sure how firm Wandy’s progress is until we see a little more of same in 2010. Either way, neither Oswalt or Rodriguez is likely to be our ace card over the next five seasons. Let’s hope our scouts are out there sifting the seeds of our talent pool crop, “looking for the next Lincecum or the potential of lightning in a bottle.” I have a hunch that we are not far away from needing a new ace yesterday, plus two or three other better than average starters who not either too young or too long of tooth today.

Bob Dorrill, Jimmy Wynn, & Marsha Franty share some smiles for SABR!

If you noticed how quickly I slide from “they” to “we” when discussing the Astros, it’s because I don’t work for the Houston Chronicle or FOX or anyone else who might require me to put on the mask of objective reporting, Like many of you, I’m just an Astros fan who wants my team to win it all every game, series, and season they take the field. I can accept whatever they each do, as long as I feel they are each giving it the best of their abilities. I will never rally to the defense of any player or team, however,  that “mails it in” with no apparent enthusiasm for winning. Let’s hope we see some life on the field come Monday night.
Saturday’s beautiful weather day at the ballpark also featured Fanfest, the Astros annual fun day for fans who want to collect autographs, shop for memorabilia from independent vendors, and maybe, just maybe, hear some good reasons us SABR members who manned a table to explains the benefits of belonging to the Society for American Baseball Research to other Houstonians.
Under the fine leadership of our Larry Dierker Chapter director, Bob Dorrill, a number of us showed up Saturday to pass out membership information brochures, explain SABR, show people the lights-out baseball publications available for free with membership, and have some fun with several trivia contests we used to stoke interest. Trivia contest winners won the right to select a SABR book as their prize.
Interest in SABR led to a double-digit lst of names and e-mail addresses that we shall pursue with all vigor, Once people find out the benefits, SABR sells itself.
Annual dues are only $55 for people from age 31 to 65. If you are 30 or under, or over 65, membership fees drop to $45 a year. In Houston, that will buy you monthly meetings, ten months a year, with some of the brightest stars and most entertaining figures in Houston baseball history, plus the annual arrival of several out-of-the-blue-and-into-the-mailbox baseball publications from SABR. You will get to meet and hear from great baseball people like former Astro and ongoing icon Jimmy Wynn, plus rub elbows with former Houston Buff and fellow SABR member Larry Miggins. – You will be about as deep into the bosom of the Houston baseball family that you can reach without signing your own personal services contract with the Astros.

Former Buff Larry Miggins (L), Phil Holland, & Bob Stevens man the SABR table during this shift at Fanfest.

For more information about SABR and how you may join a local chapter near you practically anywhere in the United States , check out the national organization website.

http://www.sabr.org/

SABR: For more information on the Houston Larry Dierker SABR chapter, contact our chapter leader, Bob Dorrill, at 281-361-7874.

Our thanks go out to the Houston Astros for making Fanfest possible.

Happy Easter, Everybody! Starting Monday, we’ll see you at the ballpark for the games that count!

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