Sometimes it’s tough being an Astros fan in Arkansas. Even though our local team, the Arkansas Travelers, has been the AA affiliate of the Angels for 11 years now, the entire state is still deep Cardinals country. I’ve been in this state for 12 years now myself, and I’ve met exactly two other Astros fans here. I’ve learned to love the Travs in their own way, and Minor League Baseball in general, but my heart will always remain in Houston. The one perk I get here is that the Travs play in the Texas League alongside Houston’s AA affiliate, the Corpus Christi Hooks. The Hooks typically come to town twice a year, so I always try to make it out for at least one of their games to see the Astros of the future.
We were out of town the first time that Corpus came here this year, so this past Friday was our chosen date. It turned out to be a lucky choice for me, as Thursday’s game was rained out, so our Friday night tickets became good for a Friday afternoon doubleheader. Our seats were in the front row right behind the Travs’ dugout, and I brought our camera along to document the action.
The Travelers' outfield of Chris Pettit, Mike Trout & Angel Castillo (l to r) waits for the national anthem before Game 1 of the doubleheader.
Hooks shortstop Jonathan Villar (acquired last year in the Oswalt deal) leads off the game.
New Hooks first baseman Kody Hinze takes a throw between innings, with Villar in the background.
Hooks starter Brett Oberholtzer, acquired from Atlanta in the Michael Bourn trade, prepares to pitch in the bottom of the first.
The Angels' top prospect, Mike Trout, takes the field after the first.
Kody Hinze at the plate in the second inning. He singled here and later scored the Hooks' first run.
Hooks center fielder T.J. Steele returns to the dugout after popping up.
Hooks catcher Brian Esposito prepares to hit in the second.
Oberholtzer winds up for a pitch in the bottom of the second. After two hitless innings, he gave up two runs on two hits in the third, then was pulled after a scoreless fourth, ending up with a tough loss.
This is Lance. He works for the Travs' front office now, but he's a fellow Houston native and the second of those two Astros fans I mentioned above.
Crime Dog McGruff was on hand to throw out the ceremonial first pitch for the second game. Fred "Crime Dog" McGriff was nowhere to be found.
Injured Hooks infielder Jimmy Van Ostrand (#25) is seen here on the field between games. #4 is Hooks outfielder Jon Gaston.
This is Shelly, the Arkansas Travelers' mascot. He ran down a kid in left field shortly after this photo was taken.
Adam Bailey makes his Hooks debut in the first inning of the second game, after being called up from Lancaster. He struck out here, but finished the night 2-for-3 with two doubles.
And immediately following Bailey's debut, Jose Carlos Thompson likewise makes his Hooks debut.
Hooks shortstop Brandon Wikoff drives the ball to right field in the second inning of Game 2.
Hooks left fielder Brandon Barnes looks up after taking a ball in the second.
Mike Trout takes a swing in Game 2. He would walk, but wouldn't score.
Trout on first after walking. Hinze & Trout - two future MLB All-Stars?
Hinze at the plate again, in the third inning of Game 2. He flew out here, but finished 1-for-3.
Before leaving, I had to stop by the gift shop to pick up the 2011 Texas League Top Prospects baseball card set. It included these three familiar faces (though now all former Hooks).
Unfortunately for the Hooks, they lost both games this night – Game 1 4-2 in a pre-determined seven innings, and Game 2 6-2 after a sudden thunderstorm ended the game at five. Growing up with the Astrodome, this was my first live experience with a rain delay or a rainout, but it was a fun day at the ballpark regardless. Dickey-Stephens Park (named in part for Hall of Fame catcher and Arkansas native Bill Dickey) sits on the north bank of the Arkansas River, and it’s a great place to see a ballgame.