New Houston Astros manager Dusty Baker knows how to command a room. (Photo by F. Carter Smith)
Hakeem Olajuwon and Elvin Hayes brought Phi Slama Jama star power to ESPN's UH takeover. (Photo by F. Carter Smith)
Dusty Baker knows that the Houston Astros give him one last chance to win a championship. (Photo by F. Carter Smith)
No three men could stop Hakeem Olajuwon in the NBA Finals.
Dusty Baker and Jim Crane need each other in this weird new Houston Astros reality. (Photo by F. Carter Smith)
UH's sparkling Fertitta Center includes a Houston Wall of Honor. (Photo by F. Carter Smith)
Jim Crane interviewed a lot of candidates, but he quickly centered on Dusty Baker. (Photo by F. Carter Smith)
Tilman Fertitta cut the ribbon at the Fertitta Center in a feel-good UH moment. (Photo courtesy University of Houston.)
Dusty Baker was funny, reflective and honest in his Houston Astros intro. (Photo by F. Carter Smith)
The Fertitta Center includes a red wall dedicated to every Cougar ever drafted by the NBA. (Photo by Chris Baldwin.)
Dusty Baker is largely a West Coast guy. It’s where he grew up, where he still calls home, where he owns a winery, where his most significant moments as both a manager (San Francisco Giants) and a player (LA Dodgers) largely happened. But the Houston Astros’ new manager still knows about the University of Houston’s basketball tradition.
“I was trying to get to the gym to see (Hakeem) Olajuwon and Clyde the Glide,” Baker says of his first visit to UH’s campus. “Because you know I’m a basketball man.”
The University of Houston is serving as the alternate training site for the Astros during this re-ramping up for the regular season and its July 24th start. The UH baseball facilities are largely being used by the players who figure to find themselves on the Astros taxi squad, the group that can be called up as needed during this unprecedented 60-game coronavirus season.
Baker made his first visit to see those players Sunday morning, getting a closer look at Don Sanders Field and the new $6 million Houston Baseball Player Development Center.
The 20,645 square foot baseball wonderland just opened in January, putting UH on par with some of college baseball’s better setups.
“Oh man,” Baker says. “UH, it was going on. That’s a nice setup over there. It’s real nice.”
Dusty Baker made this observation on a Zoom call with reporters, only four of whom were on site at Minute Maid Park, a sign of these new coronavirus times. UH’s campus is not exactly bustling like normal right now either. But Houston’s university still impressed the 71-year-old baseball lifer plenty on his first visit.
“It’s a lot larger school and campus than I had imagined,” Baker says. Welcome to Houston.
For more on the Astros’ preparations for this most unique season, including whether Jose Altuve and Carlos Correa’s joy can survive social distancing, come back to PaperCity.