Opening Day: Birthplace of Eternal Hope

Mustachioed famous Astros fan Valentin Jalomo and good friend and SABR colleague Sam Quintero smile for the camera at the Astros Fan Street Festival on the afternoon prior to the Opening Day game between Houston and Kansas City,

Mustachioed famous Astros fan Valentin Jalomo and my good friend and SABR colleague Sam Quintero smile for the camera at the Astros Fan Street Festival on the afternoon prior to the 2016 Opening Day game between Houston and Kansas City.

Opening Day and Eternal Hope are only cliche’ in the sense that waking up daily on the top side of the grass and having a “good day”absolutely are bound together. Among baseball fans, who wants to give up either of these joined conditions?

Opening Day also can be maddening. Opening Day 2016 in Houston was only maddening to the extent that arriving five hours earlier than first pitch was way too too long a stand for these old legs to wobble around upon at stroll pace in the dripping steam of what felt like our hottest day of the always short-lived Houston spring. It was that harbinger day we have every year that Houston’s summer blast furnace door is rattling and will soon kick open full blast. On Monday, “The Eagle” was wilting by the time we finally got to Collin McHugh’s first pitch of a good outing on the mound.

Valentin Jalomo’s Non-Business Card

At the Astros street festival, we finally met Valentin Jalomo, that handle bar mustache guy who’s been standing in the open space arch behind the Crawford Boxes since his days as a Carlos Lee fan. Carlos Lee  is now gone, of course, but Valentin Jalomo is still with us as a friendly, gentle, but avid Astros fan. We enjoyed our casual moments with him.

Valentino Jalomo offers people a most congenial handshake and personal card that really comes across as his short plan for a long peaceful life – at least. as far as those things we have some power to control from becoming the giant killer stresses in our lives. They are a powerful combination for pursuing our most important non-material passions with peace of mind.

Valentin 041116How sweet is that? It is possible that a guy who stands in an archway watching baseball all season is one of the richest people in the world.

There a few Bagwells and a bunch of Altuves running around the Astros Opening Day Street Festival.

There were a few Bagwells and a bunch of Altuves running around the Astros Opening Day Street Festival.

The Street Festival

The occasion had music that probably appealed to the tastes of “millennials,” but not to ours. That’s OK. We get it. There aren’t a lot of people in my age range still walking around above the ground – and even fewer of us who would venture out to an all afternoon street festival prior to a night game version of Opening Day.

Whoop-tee-do. We got some free three ounce bags of pop corn, sunflowers seeds, and countless discount coupons for more groceries on that level of nutrition value, plus the opportunity to buy raffle tickets or purchase items to our hearts galore from the Astros souvenir shop – or various kinds of food and drink at several vendors on the street. Then we got in line for the 4:00 PM admission into the air conditioned comfort of the closed roof temple that is our Minute Maid Park.

The Astros fan attendant staff was friendly, helpful, and effective. Back in the Chisholm Trail cattle drive days, they could have gotten us all to Dodge City in record time.

Escape from the swelter was a welcome relief.

Escape from the swelter was a welcome relief.

The Pre-Game Stadium Hours

Once inside, everyone had a literal chance to chill out, eat at leisure, keep on buying, or find their seats and watch some of the pre-game work on the day. By the time we were driven inside, Kansas City had the field for their batting practice.

Nearing Game Time, Old Glory made her always glorious appearance. Good thing. There would never have been a first Opening Day without her.

Nearing Game Time, Old Glory made her always glorious appearance. Good thing. There never would have been a first Opening Day without her.

 

Then came the introduction of players and enough residual smoke to remind us of the old cigarette clouds at the Astrodome.

Then came the introduction of players and enough residual smoke to remind us of the cigarette clouds at the Astrodome.

 

Roger Clemens (top) and Jeff Bagwell threw out dual first pitches to Dallas Keuchal and Carols Correa, respectively.

Roger Clemens (top) and Jeff Bagwell threw out dual first pitches to Dallas Keuchal and Carols Correa, respectively.

 

The Game

Great way to start the new season. Collin McHugh kept the Royals scoreless for the win; Carlos Correa banged out three hits; and Rasmus hit the Colby-Jack HR that spelled victory for the Astros over the Kansas City Royals, 8-2. Seems like last year, but amped.

Great way to start the new season. Collin McHugh kept the Royals scoreless for the win; Carlos Correa banged out three hits; and Rasmus hit the Colby-Jack HR that spelled victory for the Astros over the Kansas City Royals, 8-2. Seems like last year, but amped by expectations that reach winning out in 2016.

 

Channel 11 Weather Guy Mario Gomez and his lady friend sat directly in front of us. He was as nice in person as he seems to be on TV. I really wish now that I had asked them both to turn around for this field shot.

Channel 11 Weather Guy Mario Gomez and his lady friend sat directly in front of us. He was as nice in person as he seems to be on TV. I really wish now that I had asked them both to turn around for this field shot, but I was in my non-obtrusive mode.

This club looks good early, even through the 3-2 loss that transpired in Game Two. We may have fielded the best hitting club in franchise history. Our only apparent week spots this early continue to be Jason Castro at catcher – with some concern for Carlos Gomez in center and Luis Valbuena at 3rd base at the plate. Correa and Altuve are golden; Rasmus looks ready for a monster year; Tyler White at 1st base is hitting like an early Rookie of the Year Candidate; things look hopeful for George Springer achieving a high level of production; and Preston Tucker is starting well in limited action. The jury is out on Evan Gattis. It took him several weeks to get started last year and he started Game Two of 2016 going 0 for 4 and not looking all that sharp.

Carlos Correa cannot do it all for the Astros, but he can do far more than his own share. The presence of this guy on a club makes everyone around him look even better.

Carlos Correa cannot do it all for the Astros, but he can do far more than his own share. The presence of this young star on the Astros club makes everyone around him look even better.

Pitching is the concern. We liked what  Keuchel is still the man among starters  – and McHugh’s appearance in the opener bodes well for his return to 2015 form, as does Fiers’ recovery after the first inning 3-run bomb he gave up in tonight’s 3-2 loss to KC. – Our starters all need to stop digging those first inning holes. As we saw in Game Two, sometimes those holes hold up as all our opponents needed. The recovery of Lance McCullers is vital too, as are several other parts of this year’s dream that 2016 finally will be the time that the Astros both reach and win the World Series.

It’s too soon to know about the pen, but we liked what we saw in Chris Devenski over one 3 inning stint with 4 strikeouts.

It’s too early to judge this team, of course, and the season is long, but it’s never too early in April for GMs to be thinking, even on limited play information, about what needs they may have to fill or tweak by late May or early June. Part of the navigational assignment of every management team is keeping an eye on where the team is actually going relative to where the compass settings were on Opening Day.

As fans, we will settle for the simple expression of hope of Opening Day, which in places like Brooklyn, New York and Houston, Texas, was and is: “Maybe this year is the next year we’ve been waiting for!”

Play ball, everybody! ~ And let the baseball good times roll!

__________________

eagle-0rangeBill McCurdy

Publisher, Editor, Writer

The Pecan Park Eagle

Houston, Texas

https://bill37mccurdy.com/

 

 

 

 

 

 

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