Terri Schlather (from Tales from the Juice Box) and I picked Saturday night as the night to get our feet wet. After picking up credentials, we made our way to the press box and walked in like we belonged there and promptly plopped our posteriors down in two of the unreserved seats in the back of the box. That was fine with me. I wanted to draw as little attention as possible so that I may be given the opportunity to come back later in the season. Because, frankly, with my focus on prospects and the minor leagues, it will make more sense for me to take advantage of press access later in the season when the likes of Jon Singleton and Jarred Cosart get to Houston. At least that's the plan.
Shortly after we arrived, a friendly face with a mop of familiar red curls greeted us. It's always good to see Alyson Footer, but even more so when she offers both moral support and directions to the bathroom.
I will say that the view from the press box is pretty sweet, but you can't see El Grande without being a contortionist (at least not from the back row).
On Saturday, I mostly observed. It was interesting to see what the writers around me were doing and what was up on their computers. Some kept score cards, some had Gameday going on their computers, and almost everyone seemed to be looking at their twitter feed at one point or another. One guy was engrossed in the Syracuse/Michigan game. And one guy was playing a game on Pogo before he checked his facebook page (and left early).
There is something surreal about seeing Jeff Luhnow and Steve Sparks walk past before the game, having Art Howe cross back and forth behind you during the game, literally almost running into Alan Ashby on your way to the ladies room, and then chatting with Bill Brown at the elevator after the game.
And I wasn't aware that all of the action is announced within the box ... single, 4-6-3 double play, final pitching line for so-and-so, etc., all the information coming overhead from the disembodied voice of the Official Scorer, I presume. Terri appeared to be the only one around me who kept score without audio assistance.
Shortly before the game ended, someone came by and dropped a small commemorative baseball at each workstation. I couldn't help but think to myself, "Oooh, party favors!" Although most of the hardened veterans were likely underwhelmed by the gesture, it will serve as a nice remembrance of the experience for me.
After the game, we followed the herd down to the Press Room for the post-game interview, taking care not to get (too) lost in the dark, forbidding catacombs in the belly of the beast.
Only a handful attended the post-game presser. Brian Smith of the Chronicle asked a question about Bud Norris' final inning and the thought process behind leaving him in. Another couple of questions, including one about the vastly reduced number of Astros strikeouts in the game to which Porter responded, "I couldn't tell you how many it was yesterday or how many it was today. What I do know is that we lost the game." All else aside, the man is a good quote. Another question about Bud's pitch count and it was over. Three minutes and seven seconds later, the media was off to the clubhouse.
We asked no questions and didn't presume to enter the clubhouse with the others. We know that we're under the watchful eye of the Astros powers-that-be, most likely under double secret probation or the like. We will bide our time and toe the line in getting this small bit of access in hopes that we can earn their trust. Baby steps.
But something occurred to me during our press box adventure. Bloggers have just as much business being in that press box as anyone in the traditional media does. Although we opted not to ask any, Terri had a question at the ready that was as good or better than any of the others that were asked Saturday night. We don't follow this Astros team because it is a job. We follow them because it is a passion. We will never replace the traditional media, but we are already supplementing their coverage. The world is changing as more and more people look for non-traditional sources for their information. It is a good thing for the Astros front office to recognize that fact. The relationship may be a tenuous one, but as we were reminded on Saturday, IT'S A WHOLE NEW BALLGAME!
Many thanks to Kelly George, Gene Dias and Steve Grande for your help and generosity. Let's do it again sometime!