How I spent my Spring Training vacation

added 3/29/2016 by Darrell Pittman

The following has been reposted from the Pecan Park Eagle with the kind permission of its publisher and my good friend, Dr. Bill McCurdy.

Osceola County Stadium, Kissimmee, Florida
Osceola County Stadium, Kissimmee, Florida.
Detroit's John Mayberry, Jr., son of former Astro John Mayberry, is at bat.

My wife Susan and I decided that, with this being the last season of Astros spring training at Osceola County Stadium in Kissimmee, Florida, we would make our first trip there since 2003.

On our previous trips to Kissimmee, we had always gone by ourselves, but this time we were joined by our good friends Troy and Bridgett Brown, a couple with whom we square dance, and Susan’s former co-worker and friend Diane Miley. They are huge Astros fans, too.

We decided to go to the games of March 13, 15, and 16, as Bridgett is a teacher and that was her week off for Spring Break. So while I booked the game tickets online, Susan got on the web and located a beautiful four-bedroom house for us to rent, which worked out to be for about the same daily rate as one room at a good hotel. Even better, the house had a pool and a game room, and was about a half-mile from the ballpark.

On our outbound trip on Friday the 11th, it turned out that we were driving through Louisiana and Mississippi in between two bands of heavy rains. These were the same rains that later flooded Orange and the lower East Texas area, the aftermath of which we would deal with on our return trip. We stopped in Mobile for the night, and continued on Saturday, arriving in Kissimmee about 7 PM.

Before the trip, Susan used her embroidery machine to craft tote bags for the ladies bearing their names and retro Astros logos, which were perfect for carrying sunscreen, cameras, and the swag they (and I) bought at the Astros team store.

The first game we went to was Sunday the 13th against Atlanta. The Astros nipped the Braves, 7-6. Jose Altuve connected for a monster three-run homer in the fourth off Rob Wooten. He, Jason Castro, and Marwin Gonzalez also doubled. The starter, Doug Fister, was touched for three runs (all earned) and one homer over 3 IP. Neal Cotts got the win. It was good to see Bo Porter, now coaching for Atlanta, fist-bumping youngsters in the stands.

The Astros played in Viera against the Nationals Monday, which ended in a 1-1 draw. We opted to hang out by the pool and grill some burgers, so it was an off day for us.

On Tuesday those same Nationals repaid the visit in Kissimmee, rallying for three ninth-inning runs in a 6-4 victory over the Good Guys. Collin McHugh got the start for Houston, going 3.2 and giving up three runs. Marwin Gonzalez hit a solo shot off Gio Gonzalez in the fourth. Jake Buchanan came on the in the ninth with a 4-3 lead but blew the save opportunity (sound familiar?).

At Tuesday’s game we were joined by my good friend Bob Sharp, with whom I used to work. He drove in from South Carolina to meet us and stayed over that night.

The Astros played host to the Tigers Wednesday. I figured it would be a perfect storm for the ladies with former Astros heartthrob and current Detroit manager Brad Ausmus appearing in the same locale as the Astros’ backup outfielder and current cutie Jake Marisnick. Though several in the stands were seen to swoon, a crisis was luckily averted as the two were never close enough to be seen together. Oh yeah, the Astros lost 7-3. We were discussing how disappointing a spring Jon Singleton was having when he up and hit a ninth-inning homer.

Bridgett’s birthday was Wednesday the 16th. We were able to arrange to have the stadium show a birthday greeting on their video board between innings, and Susan surprised her with a blingy Astros cap.

We closed up the rent house and left Kissimmee Thursday morning, early enough that we could make Houston without having to stop overnight. The only problem on the return trip was that I-10 at the Texas-Louisiana border was closed due to the flooding I mentioned previously. Rather than take the official detour through Shreveport, we headed south from Lake Charles to Cameron and re-entered Texas at Port Arthur.

Before we left home, we had programmed the DVR to record the games which we were to attend. When we got back, it was pretty cool to see Troy in some of the crowd shots.

Bob is planning to move back to Florida in a few months, so we told him he had to get a house near the Astros’ new crib at West Palm Beach so we could go stay at his place next year. He’s supposed to send us photos of prospective houses for our approval before he buys.

Osceola County Stadium is a nice little ballpark with great views, a cozy feel, and friendly staff. It’s a bit sad that the Astros are leaving after 32 years, but I’m also looking forward to seeing the new place.

All in all, it was a wonderful vacation doing what we love: watching Astros baseball with very dear friends. They say it’s not habit-forming as long as you keep doing it.

Note: Game-action photos by Troy Brown. Captions by Bill McCurdy.

<a class=player href=/players/Altuve_Jose.html target=_top>Jose Altuve</a> homers
Jose Altuve homers

<a class=player href=/players/Correa_Carlos.html target=_top>Carlos Correa</a>
Carlos Correa

<a class=player href=/players/Springer_George.html target=_top>George Springer</a>
George Springer

<a class=player href=/players/Rasmus_Colby.html target=_top>Colby Rasmus</a>
Colby Rasmus

<a class=player href=/players/Marisnick_Jake.html target=_top>Jake Marisnick</a>
Jake Marisnick

<a class=player href=/players/Valbuena_Luis.html target=_top>Luis Valbuena</a>
Luis Valbuena

<a class=player href=/players/White_Tyler.html target=_top>Tyler White</a>
Tyler White

<a class=player href=/players/Duffy_Matt.html target=_top>Matt Duffy</a>
Matt Duffy

<a class=player href=/players/Tucker_Preston.html target=_top>Preston Tucker</a>
Preston Tucker

<a class=player href=/players/Gomez_Carlos.html target=_top>Carlos Gomez</a>
Carlos Gomez

<a class=player href=/players/Bregman_Alex.html target=_top>Alex Bregman</a>
Alex Bregman

Eury Perez
Eury Perez

<a class=player href=/players/McHugh_Collin.html target=_top>Collin McHugh</a>
Collin McHugh

<a class=player href=/players/Fister_Doug.html target=_top>Doug Fister</a>
Doug Fister

Bo Porter
Bo Porter

<a class=player href=/players/Biggio_Craig.html target=_top>Craig Biggio</a> and <a class=player href=/players/Ausmus_Brad.html target=_top>Brad Ausmus</a>
Craig Biggio (left) and Brad Ausmus

<a class=player href=/players/Ausmus_Brad.html target=_top>Brad Ausmus</a>
Brad Ausmus

Astros' dugout
Astros' dugout

Autograph Alley
Autograph Alley

Orbit gives Braves fans a hard time
Orbit gives Braves fans a hard time

Darrell and Susan
Darrell and Susan (with photobomb goodness)

Bridgett, Diane, and Susan
Bridgett, Diane, and Susan

Susan's custom tote bag
Susan made tote bags for the ladies

A misspelled birthday surprise
A misspelled birthday surprise, the first recorded error in Astros history.

Bridgett reacts to the birthday surprise
Bridgett was happily surprised, even if they did misspell her first name. One consolation? An riginal Houston Colt .45 player named Pidge Browne is one of the few who ever misspelled that popular last name. At least, the 2016 Astros got that part right this time.

Troy on TV
Troy managed to get himself on TV. See the white arrow pointing him out in the upper right hand corner?

Darrell (far side) and Troy
Darrell (far side) and Troy

Bridgett and Troy Brown
Bridgett and Troy

Darrell and Bob
Darrell and Bob

Detour on return trip
Detour on return trip