I got lucky again when I found out that the Astros broadcaster Robert Ford (who calls a great game by the way) runs a Thursday night radio show from a bar a few miles down the road from my house. That week was the last show featuring players before they reported for Spring Training, and L.J. Hoes and Chris Carter were the guests.
Chris is huge, and young. It’s struck me this year that at 30 now I’m older than most of the ballplayers in the league. Meeting the big slugger and realizing that he’s still younger than me was kind of astonishing. At one moment I was just thrilled to meet him, while at the same time I wanted to take him around town and show him rad spots to eat and all sorts of things. These guys are humans too, ya know?
Chris was kind enough to sign three cards for me while he took a break from being interviewed.
L.J. was awesome too, and really soft-spoken. It took me as a little bit of a surprise, I suppose, because they may seem a little reserved in the clubhouse interviews or whatnot. But I suppose they are a bit out of their element in public, with scores of fans around. These two cards came out really nice.
The next day in the afternoon they sent a trio of pitchers to a Whataburger, including Dallas Keuchel. He’s much more beardly than as pictured on this rookie card. I was a bit worried that I wouldn’t be able to snag him, as they had him working the drive through when I showed up.
New Astro and human autograph machine Pat Neshek was on hand, and while I didn’t have a card of him handy, the Astros had some postcards. I got in line for Neshek and got his signature. He’s got an Astros card in Heritage, so I know I can get a card for my collection this season when I write to him.
While he was signing for me, I asked about his autograph collection, and whether he had a favorite. He balked a bit and said he wasn’t sure he could pick a favorite, so I just asked what’s the coolest one you’ve gotten lately, to which he replied that he’d picked up a Jimi Hendrix autograph of which he was pretty fond.
I got in line for the third pitcher and succeeded there as well, but more on that in a second.
Dallas finally emerged from behind the counter and the handlers were trying to valiantly shepherd the players off to their next destination, but I managed to sneak between the door and Keuchel. He was kind enough to sign one card for me, the last one of the appearance.
So who was that last pitcher at Whataburger? (By the way, all you non-Texans are missing out on Whataburger.)
It was none other than Astros legend J.R. Richard!
I wish I could have gotten around to more of the appearances, and especially to FanFest (no thanks to business school for that one), but I’m pretty happy with all these additions!