2008 Florida Spring Training Tour, Day 1 (Houston Astros)

BY: T.C.

On Friday, February 22nd, I woke up early (too early) and headed over to the Astros camp.  I was really excited and wasn’t sure what to expect, as I haven’t been to a spring training camp since about 20 years ago when I was a kid.  I got there at about 8 am and began to look around for activity.  Not much seemed to be going on, so I went and talked to one of the workers that was manning the guard shack by the Astros’ team parking lot.  He told me that gates open at 9:30 am for practice.  Having a bit of time, I went and ate breakfast and returned to the park at about 9:15.  Only a few of us were there and they ended up opening the gates a little before 9:30.  As I entered the complex, I was impressed with how open and accessible the practice fields were.  You can literally walk with the players as they go from field to field.  Many of them took time to sign during practice as they changed stations.  Throughout the day, I was able to rack up the following autographs:

  • Woody Williams, 3 cards
  • Jose Valverde, 1 card
  • J.R. Towles, 3 cards    
  • Stephen Randolph, 2 cards
  • Humberto Quintero, 2 cards    
  • David Newhan, 3 cards
  • Kaz Matsui, 2 cards, 1 RMLB
  • Mark Loretta, 2 cards, 1 RMLB
  • Carlos Lee, 1 card, 1 ROMLB
  • J.R. House, 3 cards, 1 ROMLB
  • Darin Erstad, 1 card, 1 ROMLB          
  • Victor Diaz, 2 cards
  • Geoff Blum, 1 card, 1 RMLB
  • Reggie  Abercrombie, 3 cards
  • Michael Bourn, 1 RMLB
  • Chuck James, 1 RMLB
  • Brad James, 1 RMLB
  • Miguel  Tejada, 2 ROMLB (side panel)
  • Cecil Cooper, 1 5×7 card, 1 ROMLB
  • Ty Wigginton, 1 RMLB
  • Brad Ausmus, 1 RMLB
  • Hunter  Pence, 1 ROMLB (personalized)

The best places to get autographs during the practice were the areas between the fields.  At the particular practice I attended, there were only about 50 people there.  I don’t think any more than 10 people were around any player that I was attempting to seek an autograph from.  In fact, several times I got players one-on-one as the were going from field to field.  Toward the end of practice, there was a small roped off area heading toward the clubhouse where many players stopped to sign as they finished up.  After practice, several of the Astros stopped their cars and signed for the 10 or so of us that were out there waiting. A map of the key autograph areas is below: 

Astros ST map

Overall, this camp is awesome for autographs.  All of the staff was extremely friendly, the players were accessible and were very accommodating for autograph requests.  The only “issue” I ran into was with Brad Ausmus.  He was signing autographs at the end of practice in the “roped off” area for a number of folks.  I positioned myself at the end of the line to catch him as he finished up.  When he got to me, I gave him a ball and he began signing.  I asked him very nicely if he minded writing his gold gloves on the ball.  He proceeded to look up at me like I just ran over his dog and said “No, that’s ok, you can write them on it yourself.”  Wow.  A simple “no” or “I don’t do inscriptions” would have sufficed, but I guess that’s what I get for asking!

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