I’m a native Houstonian. I grew up watching Astros games in the Astrodome. There was something about driving across town, seeing the Dome from Loop 610 and watching it get closer as we entered the massive parking lot. There were a few times we’d arrive the “back way” and drive up through the Medical Center on Fannin, entering through the Holly Hall gate, which meant we’d walk through the centerfield doors and under the larger-than-life Astrodome scoreboard. Coming down Murworth Drive meant we were entering behind home plate. As a kid the anticipation excited me. We’d walk up to the gate and felt that rush of air conditioning as soon as the glass door was pulled open. I remember hearing the whisk of air through the air system above. My dad took me to numerous games and we sat everywhere. We had seats in the orange Mezzanine level most of the time. It was like entering a whole new world every time the doors to the Astrodome opened. It was a true Houston experience.
In 1999, the final baseball season in the Astrodome, it was a dream come true for me working as an intern in the Astros Broadcast Department. I remember my first day walking into the radio booth and seeing Milo Hamilton’s books, lineup cards and game notes he would be using for the broadcast. I also made a personal observance that he was sitting in the same spot Gene Elston sat in from 1965-1986 when he was the “Voice of the Astros”. Milo was a great influence on me. He showed me his system for keeping track of the game and being able to give stats and recaps without overpowering the listener with numbers. He became a good friend who was very willing to share what worked for him. In addition I was able to meet Bill Brown, the television voice of the Astros. As with Milo, his knowledge of baseball was an inspiration and was always willing to help this young intern. As the 1999 season progressed I was able to meet visiting broadcasters such as Harry Kalas, Jack Buck and Vin Scully. I was keeping stats in the Astros radio booth as well as updates of out of town scores from around the league. This is where I wanted to be for the rest of my life. I wanted to be a radio voice for the Astros.
October 3, 1999 was one of the most personally historic days of my career. The final regular season game at the Astrodome was taking place and I wanted to take in as much of the day as possible. I was going to take lots of photos and decided to arrive at the Dome earlier than usual. I arrived around 9am and got my things settled in the radio booth. I decided to have a quick breakfast before things began to pick up around the stadium. As I walked to the media dining room along the press level concourse I noticed it didn’t appear anyone else had arrived to the press box yet. I walked into the dining room where a fresh breakfast buffet was spread out and grabbed a plate of scrambled eggs, bacon and hash browns. The room had just opened and there were a few dining employees around. I sat down at one of the many empty tables and caught ESPN on a nearby monitor. A few minutes after sitting down I noticed in my periphery another person walk in. It was Vin Scully. He strode in wearing a light blue sports coat with white shirt and tie. The Los Angeles Dodgers were in town for this final weekend series against the Astros. I had met Mr. Scully earlier in the season on a previous series against the Dodgers. He walked into the room, grabbed a plate of breakfast and walked over to the table where I was sitting and asked, “Well good morning. Do you mind if I sit with you?” I was amazed. Here, a legend of broadcasting, in the Astrodome on the morning of the final regular season game in its history, wanted to sit with me (an intern). The next twenty minutes were some of the greatest I have ever known. There we sat, Vin Scully and me, talking about old baseball stories and his memories of coming to the Astrodome for the first time in the 1960s when it was brand new. He spoke of Judge Roy Hofheinz (creator of the Astrodome), the first time he saw Astroturf on the field and even a few early notes about his work with Red Barber. There were plenty of other empty tables, but he chose to sit at mine.
What I took most from this experience was the human element of Vin Scully. It transcended baseball. He was very forthcoming and friendly. There was no sense of pretense. We seemed to speak the same language with baseball. It set a standard for me at an early part of my career and I’ve never forgotten it as I continue my career with the Astros today. Shortly after the ’99 season I began broadcasting high school and college baseball and football. I was also fortunate enough to become a backup public address announcer for Astros games. It continues to build today.
I keep a picture in my office at Minute Maid Park today taken by my dad of the Astros radio booth on the final game ever played at the Astrodome. It shows our announcers (Milo, Alan Ashby and Bill Brown) on the front row and radio producer Mike Cannon and myself on the second row as we all got ready for another broadcast. It may have been the final year in the Astrodome, but it was the first of my career with the Astros. We all have our eyes set on goals in life. The good standards that are set for us also help us continue them for others. This photo reminds me everyday.