Expectations Are High As The Astros Prepare For A New Season

Pitchers and catchers report this week for Spring Training and the first exhibition game is less than three weeks away.

By Gail DelaughterFebruary 15, 2016 9:53 am,

This story originally appeared on Houston Public Media.

HOUSTON – There’s not a lot of down time these days for the major leaguers. Only four months after the Astros appearance in the American League Division Series, a crew at Minute Maid Park loaded an 18-wheeler as part of the team’s annual trek to Spring Training in Kissimmee, Florida.

Along with balls, bats, and other equipment, there were ice chests, laundry carts, and props for the team mascot. There were even some bikes for the players’ kids. Some of the players’ personal items were in there too, things like golf clubs.

Over on the other side of Minute Maid Park, fan Aaron Calder was ready to get his tickets. He says he’s anxious to see if the Astros can build on last year’s success.

“It’s always fun to watch them put it together,” says Calder. “And they had a bunch of close games, like we just started stringing all these lucky games together. It was a fun little result.”

The result was a regular season record of 86-76, and the Astros’ first trip to the playoffs since 2005, something that wasn’t expected in what was supposed to be another rebuilding year.

It all ended when they were knocked out of the postseason by the Kansas City Royals, who went on to win the World Series. It’s something Astros General Manager Jeff Luhnow calls “unfinished business.”

“Hopefully we get off to a good start like we did last year. But we also know the other four teams in our division are going to be coming after us this year in a way that they weren’t last year,” says Luhnow. “It’s going to be a little different in that regard.”

And Manager A.J. Hinch says the difference this year is that his young team has had a taste of winning and they want to do it again. But they’ll have to work hard to get there. Hinch admits there are things they need to correct but they have a strong core.

“They all bring something a little bit different to the mixture we have behind the scenes,” explains Hinch. “They all bring something a little bit different on the field. We’ve been able to gel it together to where they feed off one another.”

The first spring training game is March 3 against Philadelphia. The Astros’ first regular season game is April 4th against the Yankees in New York. Their first home game is April 11, a rematch against Kansas City.