September 2008

They need to move on. Now.

capt.495d10655e9040b3abd9f7728ee9d7d0.astros_cubs_baseball_widh109.jpgFirst of all, please don’t think I didn’t want to write while the Astros were on a roll. Time was short, duties were plenty. The Astros were breaking through, or arrasando, like the jingle from the Spanish radio network says. Ty Wigginton was smashing the ball, Lance Berkman followed suit. Wandy Rodriguez was pitching beautifully.

Things are rather different today. When things were looking great, and the Wild Card was so close you could almost taste it, everything started to complicate.

I should put things into its proper context. What comes next should be inferred and read as my personal opinion, and nothing else. And I think those living in Houston, or with relatives and friends living there, will know what I’m talking about.

Hurricane Ike was something that really got all of us in our toes. We all had to be cautious, take emergency measures. This weekend was a very trying moment for all of us. Many people could not get in touch with each other. Friends, family, you name it. Try contacting anyone living in Houston if you are abroad. Initially was a nightmare. Many of our usual readers cannot get in touch with us because they have no power and they will have to wait for days until they get it back.

And I won’t even talk about those living or with relatives in the Galveston area.

Many Astros players had no idea of the whereabouts of many loved ones before flying to Milwaukee. Could their minds be set for playing baseball? Hardly. We know they are professional players, but they’re no robots either. And you and I have seen all throughout this season is that they have a lot of heart for dealing with obstacles.

But this was something definitely bigger than anything else they have ever faced. I don’t know how they could have taken their minds off Ike and into baseball. Your correspondent had a very hard time trying to do just that. Tired, burned out and with a lot of things in their minds, Astros players went to Miller Park. Many did not know what had happened to those close to them. And they had to play ball.

What did they find? Carlos Zambrano pitching at the top of his game, no-hit the ‘Stros, something quite noteworthy and remarkable nonetheless. After that, they found a Ted Lilly who also tied them up at ease. Off to Miami. Roy Oswalt, who had been Mr. Consistency itself, wasn’t consistent at all.

Getting the Wild Card spot is not impossible after this, but it is a lot harder than it was on Saturday. I can’t blame the players, I really can’t. I don’t want to point fingers at anyone. I don’t know if this was the best alternative in dealing with the logistical nightmare that represents rescheduling a MLB game. I don’t know if they could have waited 24 more hours.

All I know that today the Astros have to avoid demoralizing themselves, by all means possible. They have a lot of heart to overcome this. Time, well, that’s another story.

After Ike

As we all know by now, Hurricane Ike left a terrible mark on the Houston Area. Despite the fact damages are less than originally expected, they’re important enough so they’re changing everyone’s plans substantially. Most areas are without electric power, authorities are advising residents to boil water. Debris and broken glasses are everywhere to be found in the Downtown area, that’s why authorities advise people not to go to that area until further notice.

Minute Maid Park was especially built for resisting severe weather. I’m pleased to say that it performed beautifully under those conditions. Astros Business President Pam Gardner told media that the ballpark had only minor damages but none to the building’s core and structure.

This is pleasant to know not just because of the fact baseball can be played there as soon as conditions on the surrounding areas allow it, but because many Astros employees spent the night in the ballpark looking to stay safe under Hurricane Ike. Some others were with their families at their residences. To all of them my word of appreciation and my thoughts and prayers are with them at all times.

Despite the fact Minute Maid Park is almost on top-notch condition, this is not the only requirement for baseball to be reassumed. That’s why Major League Baseball and the Astros were looking for alternatives so they can play the crucial series against the Chicago Cubs. Because holding a sporting event in Downtown Houston is almost a ludicrous thought at the moment, and the threat to fans’ safety, two games will be played at Milwaukee’s Miller Park. Those games will be held Sunday and Monday. The final game would be played only if it has playoff implications.

Fans with tickets to those games are advised to keep them until the Astros inform of ways how those tickets can be reimbursed.

Personally, and despite the fact the Astros are in the midst of a wild and exciting Wild Card race, my mind has been a bit away from baseball, concerned with the fate of all my friends and coworkers in Houston. I hope we can meet again at Minute Maid Park very, very soon.

A blog worth reading

celestino.jpgI’m so sorry because I have been AWOL when it comes to this blog. Several obligations, my already-finished stint at the Pelota Caribe radio show, the list goes on and on…

So I will try to put things straight now. However, it’s so nice to see you have so many options for reading interesting baseball stuff here, both in English and Spanish, even Portuguese. Tudo de bom!

One of them is the blog by my MLB.com fellow scribe Jesse Sanchez. He writes articles on both languages about Latino ballplayers, whether they’re Dominican, Venezuelan, Puertorrican, Mexican, you name it.

He’s always writing in a very friendly yet knowledgeable way, approachable to readers. His stories are not to be missed if you happen to be browsing our websites. His blog is also a window into the thoughts, minds and humanity of those beings who are blessed in making a living by playing baseball.

So you should read it, if you haven’t done it yet. For example, this post on my fellow Venezuelan Jose Lopez from the Seattle Mariners (we both were born on the same city) is one not to be missed.