Imagine deciding at 10 years old that your passion was to show US military personnel how much you cared, and then founding an organization around it.
Jordan Hayley, 14, founded USO Kids at age 10, and is now president of Kids4RTroops, a local kids association under the Proud American Kids non-profit organization.
“I used to go to all of these events with my mom and I saw how hard adults worked to help our troops and realized kids could do the same thing and help our troops too,” Hayley said.
Hayley’s mom Barbara, an active volunteer for military groups, said Hayley was always dedicated to helping out at events, so she wasn’t surprised when she decided to start her own kids organization.
“Well first I was so proud of the way she would sacrifice what she wanted to do in order to go with me and attend these events,” Barbara Hayley said. “The hours were long and hard and usually in the heat. She never complained. Then slowly we brought other kids with us and Jordan said, ‘Mom, why cant us kids do what you all do?’”
Since then, Hayley and the 250 members of Kids4RTroops have organized the first ever USO telethon, attended welcome home ceremonies for the troops and participated in the 5K Hempstead Walk for the Fallen.
In 2009, she escorted wounded warriors with Presidents George H.W. and George W. Bush on the sidelines of the Houston Texans Military Appreciation Game Day, and led a team to walk in the first ever 9/11 run at Ellington Field in 2011. In addition, Hayley has raised thousands of dollars for local soldiers and their families.
Hayley said the events are impacting more than just the families they help, but also the kids who volunteer.
“They are so proud and they will take those experiences with them always,” she said. “We not only work hard but we have had the time of our lives.”
As for other kids getting involved in volunteering, Hayley said it’s all about finding what inspires you, and choosing to help others.
“Really look inside and see what inspires them and what is important enough to sacrifice their Saturdays and other activities to do for others,” she said. “There is something out there for everyone if they just look.”
Hayley was awarded the Hometown Hero award from the Astros last week for her volunteer efforts. She also threw a first pitch to pitcher Lucas Harrell.
Twin sisters, Loraine and Viola, just celebrated their 90th birthday and to help wish them a Happy Birthday, the Astros honored them with a pre-game ceremony.
The small town Texas natives and longtime Astros fans, who turned 90 on July 19, said they were excited to be a part of this Astros game.
“We had been to games before,” Loraine Glenewinkel said. “Nothing like this though.”
Glenewinkel and her sister, Viola Meier Merz, were treated to a batting practice viewing and were recognized before the game. During batting practice the ladies got to meet several players and received autographs from manager Brad Mills, and infielders Scott Moore and Marwin Gonzalez.
In honor of their special day at Minute Maid Park, 50 relatives attended the game against the Cincinnati Reds.
“We have our children, grandchildren, and even great-grandchildren with us tonight,” Glenewinkel said.
Jose Altuve and Joe Pettini will not be the only Astro and Minute Maid Park All-Stars in Kansas City this week. ARAMARK vendor, Minner Ford, will also be representing Houston.
ARAMARK, a food and beverage service company that partners with the Kansas City Royals and ten other MLB teams, has selected a master vendor from each of its ballparks to serve fans during the All-Star Game.
At Minute Maid, Ford was chosen by Mat Drain, Resident District Manager and Jason Huff, Division Manager of Concessions.
“Minner was chosen because he possess a passion for unparalleled customer service and a knack for serving a high volume of fans on a nightly basis,” Drain said.
Ford, a 22-year Aramark veteran, said he loves getting to interact with fans during the game.
“I’ve been serving a lot of the same people for a long time,” he said.
A two-time All-Star, Ford said he is also excited for the chance to go to a new place.
“I have never been to Kansas City,” Ford said. “I know they have the Negro Leagues Baseball Museum, and I hear they also have some good barbecue.”
Ford was also chosen in 2010 to attend the All-Star Game in Anaheim, and said he thinks experience is what sets him apart from other vendors.
“I’m more like an elder spokesman,” Ford said. “A lot of the guys just started working for Aramark, I started in 1990.”
Ford will fly out of Houston on Sunday and be treated to a dinner and a trip to Fanfest. He will work both the Home Run Derby and the All-Star Game.
“Houston should be proud of Minner Ford’s achievement,” Drain said. “His trip to Kansas City as an All-Star is well-deserved.”
This summer, Wesley Wright will host a group of young adults and their mentors from CROSSROADS: Community Partnership for Youth, Inc. to give kids a chance to experience a Major League baseball game.
“I think it is huge to give guys and girls an amazing opportunity to come out and experience an amazing baseball game, which is something I did not get a chance to do until I was actually reaching the big leagues,” Wright said.
CROSSROADS is a Houston-based organization with the mission of preventing or reducing youth involvement with the juvenile justice system by fostering positive mentoring relationships between youth and volunteers.
“Our kids are ages 10-17 and we are always looking for positive role models for our kids,” Jan Sadler Gibbs, a volunteer recruiter for Crossroads, said.
The attendees receive a ticket to the game, $15 toward ballpark purchases, and they meet Wright while watching batting practice from the field.
“Our kids have never been out to anything like this– a sporting event,” Sadler-Gibbs said. “Some haven’t even been out of their community so this type of activity means the world to them.”
For Wright, it’s about giving kids the “opportunity to get away and get a change of scenery and enjoy it and have fun for a night.”
Follow Wesley Wright on Twitter: @realweswright
Brittany’s Ballpark Bistro is a series that will highlight all things food and beverage at Minute Maid Park.
Hot Dogs , nachos, and– salads?
Yep, Minute Maid Park offers fans a variety of concession selections, including a salad bar. A healthy option for fans, Green Fork provides guests with the ability to choose from specialty salads or build their own.
Premade options range from an Astros Signature Caesar Salad with Romaine lettuce, Caesar dressing, croutons and Parmesan cheese to a Skinny Salad that includes spinach, grape tomatoes, red onions, carrots, mushrooms, sun flower seeds, roasted vegetables and fat free vinaigrette.
Don’t like any of those options? That’s fine. The Green Fork staff will make you a fresh tossed salad with your choice of greens, vegetables, toppings, and dressing. There is also an option to add a protein for an additional cost.
“It’s a straightforward concept where fans can create their own salad and with over 50 toppings. You can eat there every day and not have the same thing,” Jason Huff, a division concession manager, said.
Ballpark Deal: Sundays in July and August get an ice cream cone for $1.
Yesterday the interns attended a roundtable discussion with the Baseball Operations Department entitled Baseball 101.
This wasn’t a “there are nine players on the field and here’s what they do” kind of seminar. Allen Rowin, player development coordinator, talked about the side of baseball most fans never see–trades, options, waivers, and the minor leagues.
The roundtables are pre-planned meetings, usually held once a month, designed to help the interns learn about the sports world, working in a business environment, and baseball, of course.
I couldn’t help but keep chuckling (in my head of course) because some of Rowin’s analogies reminded me of the scene in Moneyball when Brad Pitt is juggling the phones trying to acquire a certain player. If you haven’t seen it, you should. You might have to rewind it a few times to catch it all.
Baseball is a science. The Baseball Ops department analyzes countless variables when it comes to each player and roster move. Optioning players down and recalling them isn’t just who can fill the spot, it comes down to things like the number of guys already on the 25-man roster, injury lists, and how many options ( a player only gets three over their entire career) that guy has left.
“So much work takes place in order to field a ‘simple’ 25-man baseball team,” sponsorship intern Drew Maulsby said. “Now I can more clearly understand more of what goes on leading up to the draft and the trade deadline.”
Trades are tricky. Drafts are worse. With both the Rule 4 and Rule 5 drafts, there are a lot of chances for teams to trade and negotiate spending their money in the best ways. It is not just looking for the best players, it’s looking for the best players for their value and building the team on that. The same basic principle applies to trades.
And then, there are the Minor Leagues.
Categorized as Player Development, the 175-200 players the team keeps in the system play for the Astros’ eight affiliate teams across the country and in the Dominican Republic. Recently drafted players, and those who attended extended Spring Training players are usually sent to Greeneville, the Gulf Coast League, and Tri-City. From there they have the opportunity to move up through the ranks of low and high A, Double-A and Triple-A with the goal of ultimately ending up in the Majors.
During their time with lower level teams, Baseball Ops must keep every roster full with the right players for each position in the most beneficial teams for the players’ growth. Add in the same conditions as keeping the 40-man roster staffed multiplied by eight teams, and it makes for one big challenge.
The Astros also run a Latin American Academy that provides a full service learning environment for Latin American players.
“The complex is essentially a college campus for these players –– they live in dorms and take ESL classes while they’re in season,” Francesca Ossi, media relations intern, said. “Once they get to the minors in the U.S.., they still have another seven levels of minor leagues to go through. You have to admire how far these players have to go to get to the Majors.”
See what I mean about the Moneyball reference? Again, if you’ve watched it, you’ve seen how confusing baseball can be. The Baseball Operations staff handles that kind of juggling every day and deserve a lot of credit for balancing it all.
Monday afternoon I met Kim Goodwin, and she quickly became a hero of mine. This year’s Honorary Bat Girl of the MLB, Goodwin is a breast cancer survivor, and an amazing person.
Diagnosed in 2009, Goodwin, a dance teacher, continued to teach her classes during her treatment at MD Anderson, even through chemo therapy and radiation.
Goodwin’s father was diagnosed with stage four esophageal cancer a few years ago as well, so when she was diagnosed she said her first thought was, “There’s a reason.”
After beating the disease, she decided to return to MD Anderson as a volunteer who engages with patients as they begin their treatment.
“I meet them on their very first day,” Goodwin said. “I talk to them about the process and how I continued to work and live during my time here.”
Goodwin and her family have been huge Astros fans her entire life, she even has an Astros Breast Cancer Awareness hat she wore to every single day of radiation and chemo she did.
As for winning the “Honorary Bat Girl” contest? Goodwin said she didn’t realize it was a contest at first.
“I follow a lot of Astros media,” she said. “I stumbled upon the entry form and it just said ‘Tell your story’ so I wrote it all up and submitted it. It wasn’t until later I realized that people were going to vote on it to win.”
Here is Goodwin and Co. down on the field for batting practice. She also threw out a first pitch.
Also on Monday I sat in on the Buses for Baseball, sponsored by the Player’s Trust. The event designates a bus to bring under privileged children to a game as personal guests of the players.
On Monday, Minute Maid welcomed 50 students from Treasure Forest Elementary. The students enjoyed a special meet and greet with several Astros, seats behind the bull pen, and $10 loaded on their ticket to spend in the ball park.
Follow me on twitter at: @brittany_lamas
This summer I will be spending a lot of time with the Community Affairs Department of the Astros bringing you coverage of the events outside the game. So far, during the Lone Star Series I have gone to two annual community events.
Friday afternoon I had the privilege of meeting and spending time before the Lone Star Series with some of our veterans through (quite possibly the best named group possible) the Jedi Warriors Program. Once a month this season, Jed Lowrie and his wife Milessa sponsor approximately 20 members of the Wounded Warriors Project and Lone Star Veterans Association. The participants receive tickets to the game, a pass to batting practice and $15 to spend in the park. They also get to meet Lowrie and get autographs and photos.
“Jed wanted to do something to give back to the veterans,” Community Affairs Director Shawn Bertani said. “He is also the one who came up with the name.”
The event started in April and will continue throughout the season one Friday a month.
Astros super fans Brian and Jennifer Wilson, who have already signed up their unborn son Cameron up for a Buddies MVP membership, said it was an experience of a lifetime.
“We come to a lot of games when either of our jobs has tickets,” Brian Wilson, a medic in the Army between ’06-’07, said. “But you can’t beat being on the field like this.”
Here are a few photos from the event.
On Saturday I sat in at the player meet-and-greet with Sunshine Kids, a non-profit organization that supports children and families dealing with cancer.
Once a month a group of kids and their families are invited to Minute Maid and get to meet and get autographs from players. The Astros and Sunshine Kids have been partnering together for 10 years, and it is a big way the team gives back to the community. Between batting practice and the game, 12 active players stopped by, and Craig Biggio even made an appearance.
Here are some of the cutest pictures I’ve ever taken:
I am officially on my fourth day as a member of the Houston Astros.
After the nerve racking process of waiting for my initial callback, doing a phone interview, and getting hired I am beyond excited to be blogging and tweeting all things Astros this summer.
I got to know Rachel Frey a bit at UT and have read over her Temporary Perspective blog from last summer, and I think I’m ready to do this whole blog thing on my own.
Follow me on Twitter @brittany_lamas for real time game updates and other interesting Astros’ news.
Root. Root. Root.