Spring Training, Hope, Reality And Hope

by KC Baker | Posted on Monday, February 16th, 2015
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Jose Altuve

On March 2, 2015, my Houston Astros break the seal on the new season with the Padres in one of the last few springs at Osceola County Stadium. In a much needed improvement on the paucity of amenities and red-light-riddled Kissimmee, the Astros will be moving into new digs in West Palm Springs, Florida in 2017. Crummy confines or not, ST at OCS is still a reeling joy. A trip there is not in the cards for my family this year but it is not due to a lack of desire. We have a boatload of good memories from basking in the Florida sun, beer and peanuts in hand, for a full day of baseball. Weird, isn’t it? Who would spend so much money to see practice games? That’s a stupid question only a non-baseball fan would ask.

As we all know, spring is the season of eternal hope for baseball fans and Houston’s shelves are stocked up with hope and until recently, little else given Bud Selig’s mafia-style forced move to the AL and diminished payroll. But the baseball gods are generous to those who defiantly rise against all the struggles so let’s start with the reasons to be hopeful that this year the beer will seem colder and the peanuts tastier.

We have a group of young, hungry players eager to make their mark. The AL era Astros are a blank slate; Bud Selig washed off the NL canvas, wiped his backside with it and threw it in the fire. We are quite literally starting from scratch. That means the door is now open for Jose Altuve and George Springer to become franchise faces with a clear and distinct break from the past. And they have talent; Altuve just burned past Craig Biggio’s hit record and Springer has been launching Bagwellian bombs into the rafters at the JuiceBox.

Mix in the additions to the line up. Colby Rasmus could arguably pull a Mike Scott in the outfield and finally perform at the level that was anticipated before he disappointed in St. Louis. Relief pitchers Luke Gregerson and Pat Neshek should be a big boost to the bullpen. The new Stros ownership is taking the right tact by building from within; even this embittered fan appreciates the effort and some light is piercing the darkness at the end of the tunnel. A post-season berth isn’t even close to a cinch but for the first time in a very long time, it’s no longer pure black helicopter fantasy. And as much as this writer hates to admit it, the new owner was right: the fans will return to see a winner. It’s the nature of the game. The owners and the league can bend over backwards to alienate the fans (and they have) and like a loyal but ignored mutt of a dog, we’ll scamper back home for the good times and roll over any time our master wants to scratch our pathetic bellies. It’s the sad but true reality; baseball grips us like a jealous, controlling cult leader.   Is that too harsh? Hell no.

The reality remains that the Astros are still a team in transition to a new league with a completely different style of play facing an entirely new roster of opponents with a depleted fan base. We face the challenge of getting past the biggest of the big market teams in the Red Sox and Yankees. It’s hard not to be skeptical when you realize that two teams that make more off cap sales than your team’s gross annual take stand in the path to the October classic.

But it’s still baseball, man and the K.C. Royals proved beyond a shadow of a doubt that it can be done. And it’s more exciting, truth be told, to see a natural born, cohesive winner compete as opposed to one that was cobbled together off the free market with Yankee millions. At least for me, that is; it’s hardly impressive watching a man who inherited $50 million show off his new mansion. But if I’m a guest in the exquisite home of a man born in abject poverty whose character and hard work earned his millions, then color me inspired. That’s why the inevitable rise of my Astros from the ashes will be all the more exciting.

And there you have it. My mighty Stros are an organization in transition and a team that is building talent, character and a culture of optimism and winning, all from within. Hope is a good thing, maybe the best of things, Andy said. It is a nice soothing salve on the burning reality of finances and politics of modern major league baseball. I quietly peruse the schedule and the roster of budding talent and watch the management make their moves. And I hope.

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KC Baker
About the Author

K.C. Baker is an old school Astros fan, spending many a hot summer day in the cool confines of the Dome. He just finished his 28th year as a practicing attorney and likes to spend all of his spare time in New Braunfels, Texas with his wife of 29 years and their three children. Follow him on Twitter @KenCBake

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