Porter gets head start on new Astros gig
First-year manager arrives in Kissimmee, Fla., arranges things for young team
HOUSTON -- It's been more than four months since Bo Porter was hired by the Astros to be their next manager. He was still third-base coach of the Washington Nationals at the time, and he was hoping for a long playoff run before focusing on Houston.
The Nats were eliminated in the National League Division Series by the Reds, freeing up Porter –- a longtime Houston resident -- to roll up his sleeves and get his hands dirty with the Astros. It was an offseason spent assembling a new field staff, attending meets-and-greets with fans and players, getting up to speed on the organization and performing numerous interviews.
Porter watched players come and go as the 40-man roster turned over by 50 percent from the end of the 2012 season, and he constantly preached the team's chartered course of developing through the Draft and the farm system. The only thing Porter didn't get to do was see how his young team looked on the field.
Porter's wait is nearly over. He hit Osceola County Stadium on Thursday, spending the morning getting things in order in his office and the clubhouse. Some players are already in Kissimmee, Fla., ahead of Monday's reporting date for pitchers and catchers, and Porter was eager to get down there as well.
"Once you get here and you smell the grass, you start to get that itch and you're ready for the start like right now," Porter said. "Obviously, with Spring Training right around the corner, we can taste it, we can feel it and I am extremely anxious to get started. I know a lot of the players I've talked to, they're anxious to get started.
"It's been a great offseason from a standpoint of the many changes that have taken place throughout the organization, and I believe we're all on one accord and realizing that these changes needed to take place because it's going to send us in the direction the organization is moving toward, which is to be a championship contender year in and year out."
When the team hits the back fields next week, it will mark the start of a new era. The Astros are now an American League club after 51 years in the National League, and their sharp new uniforms are already hung neatly in lockers awaiting players following the arrival of the equipment truck Thursday.
Several players have already shown their faces at the facility, too, including veteran Carlos Pena, who was working out on the back fields Thursday morning. First-year hitting coach John Mallee is also on site working with players.
"There's not that many players here," Porter said. "We've had some guys trickle in to get a workout done, but I've tried to get my office together and get a lot of things around the clubhouse situated so that when the guys get here on Monday, we have all the logistical things together and we're ready to hit the ground running."
The atmosphere in the clubhouse, which will contain 60 players when the full squad reports in 10 days, is important to Porter, who wants to keep the energy positive and keep the intensity at a high level. He used some of his time Thursday putting up signs to that effect.
"[The players] will see different signage around the clubhouse that speaks to the changes that have taken place and feeding their mind about the things we believe need to be fed into their mind that will help them understand the dynamic of the changes," Porter said.
Porter expects to meet with the rest of the coaching staff informally on Sunday night before the first official staff meeting Monday. Players will be checking in to shake hands, drop off their belongings and take physicals before hitting the field together Tuesday.
Porter plans to leave Kissimmee on Friday for a dinner with legendary NFL coach Bill Parcells, who befriended Porter when the coach would stop by Cardinals camp near his home in Jupiter, Fla., to visit former St. Louis manager Tony La Russa (the Marlins and Cardinals share the same facility). The two will play golf on Saturday, before Porter returns for the start of spring camp.
The wait is nearly over.