SABR 44 wrapped up on Saturday with the most anticipated day of the conference for many attendees because two panels were held at Minute Maid Park, the home of the Houston Astros. The first was a fun storytelling panel, and the second was a bit more focused on the analytical side of the game.
The first panel was moderated by Astros broadcaster Bill Brown (the TV voice of the Astros for almost 30 years) and featured Larry Dierker, Alan Ashby, and Art Howe. Dierker spoke about one of the greatest thrills of his life, which was striking out legend Willie Mays when Dierker was only 18. They also shared their stories about how they got to the majors.
The second panel featured Astros GM Jeff Luhnow, and two of his assistants, Sig Mejdal and David Stearns. In this panel, they spoke about something that I wrote about in my Hank Steinbrenner post, which was the importance of both stats and scouting. The panelists also spoke about how they evaluate underrated players for the draft, something Luhnow did a lot in his time with the Cardinals and which really paid off in the likes of Trevor Rosenthal and Matt Adams.
The Minute Maid Park experience wrapped up on a high note and literally with a bang (actually many bangs) in an exciting game between the Astros and Blue Jays. Toronto jumped out to an early one-run lead, but Houston quickly responded. Jose Altuve scored from first on a failed pickoff attempt by Toronto pitcher R.A. Dickey. Also, Chris Carter, Jason Castro, and Jon Singleton hit home runs, with Singleton’s being an inside-the-park homer. He was originally called out at home on the play, but after Houston manager Bo Porter challenged, the call was overturned. And to top is off, we got to see reliever Mike Foltynewicz make his big league debut.
The three days I spent in Houston at SABR 44 were outstanding. Non-stop baseball with fans, players, media and other experts — what more could you want? Comcast SportsNet Houston anchor/reporter Leila Rahimi summed it up best when she talked about the take-home message she has for kids who love baseball:
SABR 45 is in Chicago next June, so consider planning to join me there. If you can make it, check out an event at your local chapter sometime soon.
Max Mannis is a special correspondent for sikids.com and a member of SABR. Catch his posts on advanced baseball statistics. To learn more about SABR and to join, visit www.sabr.org.