Toni Colmone is helping the Houston Astros shoot for the stars. The Spring Valley native and 2009 Hall High School graduate works for the Astros Shooting Star marketing team, whose duties vary depending on the time of the year. During the offseason, they attend community events and give away prizes and play games. They held an academy at a sporting goods store and shopped with kids and some Astros players for baseball gear.
“We get to work with the players during community events, so it’s really cool talking to the players and seeing how well they interact with all the kids,” Colmone said.
Now that the ballgames have started, they’ve taken their game to the ballpark. They are known as the Park Patrol at Minute Maid Park, where they are in charge of getting the crowd fired up. They will toss balls into the stands and handle all in-game promotions like the “Stub Hub seat upgrade,” and “stealing third base,” when a selected kid gets to take third base home with him equipped with an Astros ball player’s autograph.
The Astros kicked off the 2013 season not only with their own home opener Sunday, but had center stage all to themselves with the Rangers as the only game of the day, broadcast on ESPN’s Sunday Night Baseball.
“We had a street fest prior to the game so it was a really long day but it was an exciting game,” Colmone said.
The organization is trying to get their fans, who are typically more football driven, equally excited about the Astros baseball team. The Astros had their share of success in the previous decade, reaching the 2005 World Series against the White Sox, but have been reeling of late. They suffered a club-record 107 losses in 2012 and now sport the lowest payroll in baseball after a firesale in the past year, including sending St. Bede alum J.A. Happ to the Blue Jays.
But alas, a move to the American League this year may have been just what the baseball doctor ordered for the Astros. That move, after 50 years in the N.L., the first three years known as the Houston Colts, which coincided with new ownership, has helped bring back some excitement as Astro fans await the arrival of the many new teams who will be coming to town.
The switch also created a new Texas-sized divisional rivalry with the Rangers. Tuesday’s game brought an exciting near-perfect game by the Rangers’ Yu Darvish. He retired the first 26 batters he faced, but needed 27 for the perfecto.
“The fans chose to bring back Orbit and the old logo, so we are trying hard to reach the fans and get them excited about the move,” Colmone said of the old team mascot and H block letter on a star logo.
The only thing missing are the old unique rainbow uniforms, but Colmone said there are plenty of them worn around the stadium by the fans.
• Remembering Carl: I’d like to pass on my condolences to the family of Carl Ellberg, Jr. He was one of the most outgoing individuals I’ve ever met. You never knew when Carl was going to pull his camera out and snap your picture. Carl always told me he wanted to bring Ryne Sandberg into the Moose Lodge in Princeton to pull a fast one over everybody. His daughter, Patti, is a neighbor of the former Cub great in Arizona. His grandson, Erik ell berg, told me today that Carl once got to visit Ryno’s collection of baseball memorabilia. Carl later sent him a personally autographed wrench from “Carl Ellberg, the plumber.” On a return visit, Carl was surprised to see that Ryno put that wrench next to his Gold Gloves in his trophy case.
Carl met my mother, Redbird Ruth, in town here, and if there’s anyone who likes to talk as much as my mom, it was Carl. I think he even outlasted her, which is no small feat. He made her feel at home by taking her picture. He will be greatly missed.
Kevin Hieronymus is the BCR Sports Editor. Contact him at email@example.com