A dozen SABR members and guests were treated like baseball royalty last weekend at Whataburger Field, the gorgeous home of the Houston Astros AA affiliate Corpus Christi Hooks.
During the “Owner’s Experience,” the Hooks gave us a tour behind the scenes, including visits with the front office, the ticket office, operations, the clubhouse, radio booth, press box and scoreboard control room.
Perhaps the only thing that members of the Rogers Hornsby and Larry Dierker chapters did not see was a win by the hometown nine, but the tour and treatment was first class. The Hooks dropped the Saturday night game to the Frisco Rough Riders, 5-3.
Organized by Jan Larson and suggested by Craig Lukshin, who did the Owner’s Experience last year with his dad, 10 members and guests of the Hornsby Chapter were joined by Bob and Peggy Dorrill of the Dierker Chapter.
We all agreed that the cost ($75 per person) was well worth it. In addition to the behind-the-scenes tour and pre-game dinner, we had opportunities to visit with Michael Wood, the Hooks general manager. He shared a story about how the Hooks, which have been playing in Corpus since 2005, honored the surviving members of the Corpus Christi Giants, the Texas League Champs in 1958.
We also met the voice of the Hooks, Matt Hicks, who shared stories about his broadcast career, including a time when an attentive SABR member wrote him a long letter correcting something Hicks said during a radio broadcast. He said he’s always aware that his audience may include everyone from a newcomer listening to baseball for the first time to the most die-hard SABR member.
Partway through the game, we left our first- and second-row seats next to the visitors’ dugout to meet Brad Starr, the Hooks clubhouse manager. A 12-year veteran, including a year with the Astros a few years ago, he was helping an assistant fill water balloons to be used by the team mascots during on-field entertainment between innings. That’s just one of a long list of duties for this clubhouse “mom.” He washes uniforms, scrubs out grass and dirt stains, prepares pre- and post-game meals, and stocks a dining room with snacks and beverages for all other times of the day.
One visit that may be of particular interest to our members occurred in the press box. David Krebs, who is also the mayor of nearby Portland, was the official scorer for the Saturday night game. Krebs is one of a few official scorers for the Hooks games. We briefly chatted with him and the beat reporters, discussing plays from earlier in the game.
We also got to meet a tight-knit group that controls the large scoreboard, sound effects, speed gun readings and video entertainment. During live game play, we watched them work closely to announce the next batter, update the scoreboard with videos and photos, add sound effects for foul balls and play videos between batters.
Most of the group stuck around for the Sunday afternoon game, in which the Hooks lost to the Rough Riders, 9-2.
Much thanks to Bryan Mayhood, Hooks director of season ticket services, who led our tour and made sure we had a great experience. In fact, everyone we met – ushers, attendants and employees at the ballpark – made us feel welcomed and comfortable. We had such a good time that we left Corpus Christi with two thoughts in mind: Let’s do this again, and let’s see which other ballclubs do this.
Below are photos from the visit.