I haven’t been as warm towards Jeff Luhnow as most. In reality, he’s made one significant trade – but that’s it.
He’s only been employed with the Astros for a few months and his Wikipedia entry consists of three lines and is less than fifty words. Yet he’s quickly ascended to “rock star status” among fans and bloggers who believe he’ll usher in an Astros renaissance.
After spending part of the game with him on Saturday– I think they’re right.
I scheduled a trip to Denver to see the Memorial Day doubleheader, and I told Jeff Luhnow I’d be there. I just wanted to meet him, exchange pleasantries and possibly get my picture taken with him. Instead, he invited me up to the GM’s box at Coors Field.
I was pretty stoked!
As I tried to get into the elevator, I ran into an usher, he looked at my ticket and said “sorry, you can’t go to the club level.”
I snorted. “I’m Andy. I write for the Houston Sports Counterplot – maybe you’ve heard of me? I have an important meeting with Jeff Luhnow.”
“Who?” Oh, yeah, the Wikipedia page - right. “I’m sorry, sir, but you’re going to need a ticket or you’ll need to be on the guest list.”
I sent Luhnow a message and told him that I was being hassled, and I was unable to go up to the club level. I stood on the concourse and watched Brian Bogusevic hit a homerun. Within moments he sent a message back telling me to wait and he’d come get me.
Did I mention that I was with my extremely hot girlfriend? That’s kind of important.
Anyway, Luhnow came down to the concourse, we got onto the elevator, I stuck my tongue out at the Luhnow-blocker and we went up to his box.
At first, I was a little taken aback by how simple it was. He had his laptop and grainy television that was appeared to be slightly less than .13 Altuves. There weren’t any scientists in lab coats, and there weren’t any hi-tech analytical apparatuses that I pictured in my head. – it was just him, the TV and his laptop.
We talked a little about baseball, and he seemed really interested in my girlfriend’s recent PhD. He asked her about her field of study and what she plans on doing career-wise. To me, he asked very thoughtful questions about what I thought at certain points of the game. He asked more questions than I did – he was very genuine.
Chris Snyder hit a long fly ball, he stood up, “that has a chance” he said. It cleared the fence for a homerun. “Yes!” Luhnow clapped.
I was a little caught off guard by his cheering and clapping. Maybe I figured him to be a little more reserved and not show any type of emotion. Luhnow was excitable. He’s on the edge of his seat. He’s obviously a fan of our team. When something good happens, he’s going to stand up and cheer – just like me! I like that.
He looked over at me, “So, what do you write about?”
I immediately thought of the meat dress. I backed away. “I mostly write about whatever comes to mind. I stay away from recaps and I try not to come off as a scout.”
“You said something about Tal’s Hill last week, do you know something I don’t know?” I asked.
“No!” He laughed. “What do you think about it?”
“I don’t mind it. I saw Richie Sexson hit the flagpole once. He was with the Brewers.”
“What do you think about the train?”
“Eh, I wish the Astros would have stayed with the space theme. …you know, (I quickly changed the subject) I think Mills does a good job. He gets a lot of junk from fans, but he’s doing a great job with a team that everyone expected to lose 100 games. Tonight, fans were angry because Bogusevic was batting third… how’d that work out?”
He laughed. “I saw that. But getting jink from fans is a part of the job.” He was right.
I asked him about the draft, and he gave us a reasonably detailed response as Jordan Lyles loaded the bases.
He was on the edge of his seat again.
“If we can get out of this inning, that’d be great. The run expectancy is high when the bases are loaded with no outs.” Wil Nieves grounds out to the pitcher. Alex White swings and misses. At this point, I’m hoping Dexter Fowler flies out and the Astros can maintain the lead. Instead Lyles walks in a run, the bases are still loaded, and then Marco Scutaro hits a double and clears the bases.
“Argh!” Luhnow exclaimed at the crack of the bat.
As Carlos Gonzalez grounded out to second to end the inning, I said “We should go. Mind if I get a quick picture?”
“Sure!” He took out his iPhone, stood a few feet away and took a picture of my girlfriend and me. Click! It crossed my mind that he must have thought I wanted him to take a picture of me and my girlfriend.”Let me get one with you now,” I said. My girlfriend took out her phone, I stood next to Luhnow, put my arm around him and smiled from ear to ear. He did, too! Click! Click!
“Here! Have some candy!” He handed us a bowl of candy. I picked out some plain M&Ms and my girlfriend took some Cracker Jacks.
As we left, I shook his hand and told him how much I enjoyed visiting with him. We walked out of the door, down the elevator and back to our seats. As I sat there, I thought about how my whole outlook on him has changed. He was genuine and thoughtful. He was effortlessly smart and, even with just a laptop and grainy television, seemed beyond prepared. He was worldly as we talked about non-baseball related topics. He was particularly candid with many things I omitted from my story.
A few innings later, I realized that I have reached a new level of confidence in our Astros. As the Astros forced extra innings in a game they would eventually lose, I felt at ease because I know our team is in good hands. As Colorado’s Dexter Fowler strolled into the batter’s box, seconds before Fowler would hit the game winning triple, I glanced up at Luhnow’s box. I squinted but could barely make him out sitting on the edge of his seat. I was content. I knew everything would eventually work out for our Astros.