Night Game or Day Game?
Simpsons or 60 minutes?
I’d say 60 minutes.
Leno or Letterman?
Playstation or X Box?
Sand or Snow?
Daytona – sand
Cadillac or pickup truck?
Country or rock?
Golf or tennis?
History or current events?
West Coast or East Coast?
Jumbo Jack or Big Mac?
City or country?
Astros Manager Phil Garner said that sometimes when baseball players are at or near milestones it can really be hard to get over the top. What are your thoughts about that?
It’s true, you know, it’s a lot more tension, a lot more everything. But it’s also big for you as a person, as a player, as an accomplishment. Sometimes it can be a little bit overwhelming. You’re like, wow, I can’t believe it.
How do you get it all done with such a swirl around you?
It’s tough, because I just go home and sleep now. Normally I go work out and train and everything else and now I’m just exhausted all the time, just tired, always tired. I’ve never been like this before. I just sleep all the time, all day.
Is this what you thought it was all cracked up to, to get this far in your career, and with all the stuff that has gone on, is it as much fun?
Do you already look ahead to Hank Aaron, or can you not look that far?
I have to think of trying to get a hit. Once I get that one, then I’ll work on the next thing. I have to get one project out of the way first. (laughs).
How does this career chase compare to the single season chase?
It’s different. The single season situation can only happen once. This is like chasing two ghosts. It’s like crazy. I can imagine what Roger Maris went through and Babe Ruth just hovers over people a lot (laughs).
Have you had the chance to talk to Willie Mays much?
What does he say to you?
Quit screwing around. What the @#@# is wrong with you? That’s it pretty much.
How many guys on this planet can talk to you like that?
Not many at all, except my mom.
What about these intentional walks. Does it affect your focus any at all?
It’s harder when you get older. And then with my knees being sore, you know, as innings go on I get tired and tireder and my leg gets tired, and that’s just reality but that’s not excuse. You still have to go out there for your teammates and do your job so, regardless so…. It will funnel down to somebody else after I’m gone.
It must be incredibly frustrating though.
I’ve been going through it, for I don’t know, ten years? I am accustomed to it. It’s just that you know, I haven’t been patient in the opportunities that I have had. Swinging at a lot of pitches that I normally wouldn’t swing at. Taking more changes than I ever have in my whole entire career. Most of the time, I just wait. Wait it out. But right now I just haven’t had that patience to wait it out.
That is true. We are scoring those runs. Some teams are scoring more runs than we are in those opportunities (laughs).
Was it tough if you weren’t able to hit 714 at home?
Yeah, that was the most important thing for me. San Francisco is my hugest supporting cast and the fans, and I have been able to do it for them ever since I’ve been here and there’s nothing more gratifying. And if you want someone to catch a ball, you want it to be on your terms. The way I’m swinging, it looks like I can wait. (Laughs)
You’ve hit homeruns in this ballpark (Minute Maid). You like it in this park.
It’s a good ballpark. Our ballpark is a little tougher to hit home runs in. But, I’ve been to a lot of the easier ones too and haven’t done much either, so…Right now it’s just getting a hit. I’m going to work on that first. I might start bunting to move the third baseman back to his normal position.
Ball players come in all shapes and sizes, personalities and skill levels. Many also have hidden talents. Such is the case with Chicago Cubs pitcher Ryan Dempster. Not only is he an excellent pitcher, but it just so happens he does magic tricks and impersonations! Click on the link below to see my video interview with Ryan. He’ll have you in stitches!
Craig Counsell is an all around good guy. A two time World Series Champion, he’s the kind of guy kid’s look up to. Just ask my older brother Zach. When Zach was nine, he thought Craig was the best player in the world and wrote to him all the time. At that time, Craig was with the Florida Marlins. The Marlins had just won the 1997 World Series, and Craig was a hero in South Florida. My mom would take Zach to the Marlins games when they came to Houston. They met by chance at a game, and after that they became friends. One year, Zach was invited to the Marlins spring training camp in Viera, Florida, and hung out with Craig for the day. We got to go on the trip with Zach, and it was pretty exciting, but of course to Zach, it was the best day ever.
Craig was traded from the Marlins to the Dodgers and then to Diamondbacks, before landing in Milwaukee, his hometown, two years ago. Last season, he was traded back to the Diamondbacks and is very happy.
To this day, Zach and Craig still see each other every time he comes to town, and they stay in touch. Zach is 15 now and their friendship has continued. To me, that is what makes a champion. Not just winning the World Series or a big game, but knowing you have influenced a kid along the way, and been a good role model and friend.
MM: Is there a big difference between playing in Arizona and Milwaukee?
CC: Not too different. It’s still major league baseball, and you meet different guys and make new friends, and other than that, it’s about the same.
MM: What was it like going back and playing in Milwaukee, the town you grew up in?
CC: Well it was pretty cool for any kid who grew up wanting to play major league baseball. To be able to play in the town that you grew up was a great opportunity.
MM: Did you have a favorite place to play between Arizona and Florida?
CC: With both the Diamondbacks and the Marlins, we won the World Series, so both those were a lot of fun. It’s tough to top that.
MM: Do you feel there is a great responsibility being a role model?
CC: I think it is a responsibility, but if you are a good person and you try to live your life as a good person, then everybody’s a role model. That’s how I think of it.
MM: What would you have done for a job if you weren’t a baseball player?
CC: That’s a good question. I’m not sure. I haven’t had to find out yet. I went to college and have a degree in accounting, so maybe something like that.
MM: What do you consider as your greatest strength as a player?
CC: Probably defense. I can play a bunch of positions so probably just kind of being versatile for the manager to be able to go to a couple different positions.
MM: Have things changed for you now that you’re a dad?
CC: It’s changed quite a bit. It’s a great thrill and it’s wonderful, and it changes your perspective in what things you consider important. I love it every day being a father.
MM: Who would you consider to be your biggest fan?
CC: (laughs) That’s a loaded question. I can’t say one person, but I have a lot of great fans, and their support is great and I’m glad they enjoy watching me.
MM: If you were stuck on an island, which of these things would you want with you. A good book, a good movie or a good CD?
CC: I’d probably have a good book. It would last longer.
MM: What book?
CC: I’d take a long one.
MM: What is one thing in your locker that would shock people to know?
CC: I don’t have anything crazy in there. Just the normal stuff.
MM: What is the last good book that you read?
CC: The Da Vinci Code.
MM: Best movie?
CC: Lost in Translation. I like Bill Murray. He’s funny.
MM: Who influenced you most in life and why.
CC: My parents, for sure. They’re the ultimate role models, so my parents were the biggest influence.
“Wild” about the Astros
Another regular season is over, but the Houston Astros are far from packing up their equipment. With a dramatic finish on Sunday before 42,288 screaming fans, the Stros won their second Wild Card title in a row.
This one was a nail bitter. The Cubs weren’t going down without a fight, and the Astros were not about to give up. The last thing they wanted to do was board a plane to Philly for a playoff. Nope. They wanted to win this one at home. They needed to win this one at home.
“I’m happy for the fans,” said Roger Clemens. “We get to go to the dance one more time.”
“It’s not about making the playoffs,” added catcher Brad Ausmus. “It’s about making it to the World Series.”
While all eyes were carefully checking out the scoreboard for the Phillies/Nationals game, the Astros had to keep their head in their game. The fans were very aware of what was happening, and frantically cheered their team on with every play.
Roy Oswalt pitched an outstanding game, earning his 20th win of the season. "To get 20 is great, but to get to the playoffs is more," said Oswalt. "We’ve come a long way, especially the way the team pulled together and started playing."
“I want to win a World Series Championship. That’s why I’m here- to help this team win,” said pitcher Andy Pettitte.
For one Astro, making the playoffs meant something special. Jeff Bagwell, who missed most of the season after having shoulder surgery, was thrilled at the opportunity to make one more run for a ring.
“It’s’ great,” he said. “It’s what we’ve been trying to do all season long,. It’s our final way to get back in to the playoffs, and our guys did it. That’s what we play for, the opportunity.”
Jeff is also grateful to the fans who stuck by the team and came to watch them play.
“ You guys (the fans) have been great all year. The last 15 years of my career have been great, and the city keeps getting better and better and I appreciate it.”
Lance Berkman reminded us that “There’s still work to be done.” He’s right.
The team now has to concentrate on the upcoming week where they will face the Braves in Atlanta on Wednesday with a 4 pm ET start, and again in Atlanta on Thursday, 8 pm ET. Friday will be an off day, with the Astros hosting the Braves at Minute Maid Park Saturday and Sunday, times to be announced. If a fifth game is needed, it will be played in Atlanta Monday.
Play off games are always exciting, and this one was no exception. It’s a thrill to get in the mix of the game, following every pitch, every swing, every play with total concentration and excitement. The Astros delivered, and now it’s on to the dance and a possible World Series Championship.
I wasn’t even born when Jimmy Wynn played baseball, but I sure knew about him.
Originally signed by his hometown Cincinnati Reds in 1962, he made his big league debut in 1963 in Houston. He was named MVP in 1965, and earned an All-Star nod with Houston in 1967. Among his many Astros accomplishments, Wynn batted .255 with 223 home runs and 710 RBI.
He was traded to the Dodgers in 1973 and played two seasons there, and earned two more trips to the All-Star Game.
Retiring his No. 24, it makes him the eighth player in Astros franchise history to have his number retired.
He told me a lot has changed in the game since his day’s of playing. "There are stronger and bigger players", said Wynn, "and a lot more money." (laughs)
This time last year, I was preparing for the biggest journalism event I ever had! The 2004 All-Star Game in Houston. If you have ever thought about going to an All-Star game but didn’t, push yoursellf and do it! You will have so much fun!
Fan fest is filled with booths and exhibits, and lots of fun games and entertainment. There are also a lot of baseball clinics put on by the professionals, and they really do teach you a lot, and take questions from the audience. Anything you want to buy baseball you will find at Fan Fest. The exhibits are really awesome.
Cities that host an All-Star game go all out. They make sure they have plenty for you to do and that you have a good time. Street vendors, musicians, bands, you name it, it’s there. Just walking down the street was a good time.
Even though I wasn’t old enough, a lot of the clubs and restaurants have night time parties where the celebrities and athletes come out. Fans lined the streets to get a glimpse of their favorite star.
The Celebrity Softball game brings fans up close with their favorite players from days past along with various celebrities who play against one another.
You can get a great look at up and coming players at the Futures games.
Then of course, is the famous home run derby. How exciting is that? These guys are real sluggers and their talents really shine here.
The All-Star game itself is awesome. Here are the best of the best, the fan favorites playing on one field. It was really cool to see guys who normally don’t come through your town.
Even if you can’t get a ticket to the game, still go! The events surrounding the game are worth the trip, and you won’t be disappointed.
It was the best time ever and would do it again no matter how far it was to drive.
The ballots are out, so be sure and vote for your favorites!
In case you missed some of my coverage from last year, here are some links to check it out.
Ever wonder what Luis Gonzalez does when he goes home from a long day at the ballpark? Well, stay tuned to mlb.com kids,http://mlb.mlb.com/NASApp/mlb/mlb/kids/index.jsp where you will see by video the answer to that question and lots of others very soon! Luis is a really nice guy, and I had a lot of fun interviewing him. I don’t want to tell you too much because it will spoil the video! One thing I can tell you is that I asked him to tell me who on his team would play the roles of the characters on Gilligans Island. His answers are hysterical!
When Astros first baseman Jeff Bagwell was placed on the DL, one rookie never dreamed he would be filling such big shoes.
“The night I got the call up, I just sat there for two or three minutes to soak it in and was trying to make sure it wasn’t a dream and that it was really happening,” he said. “It’s definitely the best feeling I’ve ever had in my entire life.”
Bagwell, 36, was placed on the 15-day Disabled List with a right shoulder sprain, retroactive to May 4.
Self was having a pretty good season for Round Rock, hitting .391 with two home runs and 15 RBI’s in 28 games. He was originally selected by
in the 15th round of the June 2000 draft. Self was a 2004 Texas League All-Star, and considered one of the better young hitters in the Astros organization.
For Self, he is enjoying his time in the majors, and hopes to stay a while.
“I wouldn’t say I’m taking Jeff’s place by any means,” said Self. “Right now his shoulder is bothering him and they need an extra guy to come in and stay for however long, and I’m here to do whatever I can to help the team win.”
The Astros are currently in last place in the Central Division with a record of 13-23.
Clemens, 42, has been pitching lights out for the Astros, with a 2-1 record with a 1.10 ERA and needs run support from his teammates.
Self agrees. He feels his greatest strength is just being able to put the bat on the ball, to make solid contact and try and hit singles and doubles and drive in runners.
“Everybody is working together to try and win,” he said.
Recently, I had the opportunity to interview Ryan Dempster of the Chicago Cubs on video. Not only was he a lot of fun, he agreed to do some really cool magic tricks, some awesome card tricks and a really funny impression of Chris Farley from Tommy Boy.
The interview should be posted soon on the mlb.com kids web site. It’s a must see!
I know Ryan had some struggles the last couple of years having to have Tommy John surgery and I am glad he is back and doing well.
If you ever get out to the ballpark and have the chance to see him, let him know you saw his interview at http://mlb.mlb.com/NASApp/mlb/mlb/kids/index.jsp soon!
Here’s a secret. When you watch the video, there is a part where he asks me if the card he is holding is mine. I said yes even though it wasn’t, because I thought he had messed up and didn’t want to embarass him. He looked at me puzzled, and said, "are you sure?" Then he pulled out the correct card, and asked me if that was the card, and I told him yes. I was so glad he really hadn’t messed up, and a little embarassed I almost messed up the trick! Anyway, have fun watching it. He was a great sport!