We are at the time when hopes for the future are on most people’s minds. (Now that the Mayan calendar thing is over!) A new year brings optimism. A fresh start.
Of course, in sports January 1st is not exactly the dividing point. NBA teams have been playing since October and all the turn of the year means is that the schedule heads into the home stretch. The NFL goes into post season play. Baseball waits for spring training. And the NHL….uh, what ever happened to the NHL anyway? Nice to have the AHL in Houston. The Aeros may not be the top level of the sport, but they are playing games and often drawing five figure fan counts, too. Hockey, on its level, is alive in Houston.
But I digress a bit. There will be a lot of “new” in the new year. Perhaps the Houston Astros are the best sports example. There will be so many new faces both on and off the field and new television (and maybe radio- 740 to 790 has been rumored) broadcast partners it will take fans time to catch up. Even the Houston Chronicle has a new beat reporter to go with a new television analyst and two different radio voices. Some will not be unknown, but in different roles than before. Bill Brown who quietly figures to ultimately be the longest tenured voice in the history of Houston major league baseball will be he constant on the ComcastSportsNet Houston presentations. Now if Comcast can just negotiate with the other carriers in Houston and around the state to actually carry the games things will be all right in the world (of Astros baseball.)
The thing about baseball is that even if not much is expected from a team in a rebuilding and growth stage as the Astros, true fans will follow on a daily basis anyway. They are excited just to see the game return and to see the players being touted as potential stars on the field.
Every sport has a cadre of fans who go the extra mile. Fans actually attend Houston Texan pre season practices and catch the Rockets in any open workouts. Yet, baseball fans are different. They get closer to the players when they spend time in spring training. Because there is usually a nucleus of players who are with the club for a number of years there is more attachment. Plus the game is played virtually everyday and in recent years all the games have been available either live or on television to augment the daily radio broadcasts.
Baseball is the sport where the fan in San Antonio or Baton Rouge makes plans to come to Houston during the summer to catch a weekend series. Despite predictions of another losing season ahead for the young Astros those same people and families have already circled some dates for Minute Maid Park this season. Baseball does that to you once you let it enter your heart.
The vast majority of baseball fans don’t care about salaries, sabremetrics or marketing plans. They care about THEIR TEAM. They care about the players wearing the uniform.
But the beauty of the game they love is they can care as much about the game’s history, who has he best on base plus slugging (OPS) or whether the manager bunts too much–or not. They can watch casually using some of their time at the ball park or listening on the radio while one a drive to talk with friends if they wish. Baseball is truly America’s Past-time. It fits.
So, no predictions today about who will wind up in the Astros starting lineup or how many games the team will win or where they will finish in their new American League West home. Today is to look ahead… a new year is coming and a new baseball season will soon follow.