Kaz’s Korner

Joe Kazmar – For The Record

The celebrations by Denver Broncos’ fans are just concluding from the 24-10 upset victory that took place last weekend at Super Bowl 50 in Santa Clara, CA. as the 2016 Major League Baseball season begins in its infancy.

In fact our own surprising Houston Astros are scheduled to have their pitchers, catchers and major league staff report to their spring training site a Kissimmee, Fla. tomorrow (Thurs.) and begin workouts on Friday.

The position players and minor league position staff aren’t due in until next Monday with the first full-squad workout slated for Tuesday.

The Astros will enter this season with a much more positive approach than in previous years, especially with such stars as 2015 Cy Young Award winner Dallas Keuchel, 2014 American League batting champion Jose Altuve, George Springer and rookie sensation Carlos Correa in the fold for at least the next three years and hopefully longer.

In fact, according to Sunday’s edition of The Houston Chronicle, Correa and Lance McCullers, Jr. are six years from free agency as they begin their first full year of major league baseball.

General Manager Jeff Luhnow is reportedly so excited about the Astros’ present roster he said Saturday at Minute Maid Park he wouldn’t trade his franchise’s place with any other’s. But if the truth be known, all one can say about the Houston Astros is they have untapped potential which is what we’ve been hearing for the past decade.

Is the huge rebuilding project that took place so successfully last season completed?

Obviously not, because the front office has already made a few deals—not of the blockbuster variety—but subtle moves that should strengthen a team that already is fairly strong.

“The Astros’ off-season was a maintenance of last year, with an upgrade in the bullpen and perhaps a subtraction in the rotation.” The Chronicle article stated.

Luhnow obtained fire-balling reliever Ken Giles from the Philadelphia Phillies with the idea the 25-year-old will eventually take over the closer duties and potential veteran starting pitcher Doug Fister who has a shot a becoming the fourth or No. 5 starter in the 2016 rotation.

“Adding a major league starter with a proven track record is what championship- caliber teams do,” Luhnow said of Fister. “And that’s what we did.

“We addressed what we felt were some needed areas as a contending team,” Luhnow continued. “And when I talk about contending, I really do mean contending for a championship, not just contending for a wild card.

“The days of us talking about who’s in our system and who’s coming and what the future looks like, those days are behind us,” Luhnow pointed out. “We’re focused on the present. Last year was great. This year we want to be even better. And we brought back the heart of the team.”

Manager A. J. Hinch remembered the anxiety going into Game No. 162 last year in Arizona, when the Astros clinched a playoff spot and he also remembered the taste of the Champagne.

But the first-year manager warned, “Just because the calendar changes, doesn’t mean things get better. We’ve got to work for it. You’re not going to get a sense of arrogance.”

` KWICKIES…Back in January 2014, Texas Longhorns head football coach Charlie Strong assembled his first team of assistants. And now 25 months later, that team of nine has been reduced to a mere two assistants remaining from the original crew. Defensive coordinator Vance Bedford and linebackers coach Brian Jean-Mary are the lone survivors today after Strong announced last week he had declined to renew the contract of defensive backs coach Chris Vaughn.

Wonder if there’s a “real story” behind the sudden resignation of Silsbee head football coach Bobby McGallion? There’s been a McGallion coaching the Tigers’ program for a long time as he followed his dad “Stud” McGallion in the same job.

After sinking tricky putts Sunday on No. 16 and No. 17 to remain in contention, Phil Mickelson lipped out a much easier five-footer that would have created a tie and playoff with  AT&T Pebble Beach National Pro-Am winner Vaughn Taylor, who had not finished first in a tournament for more than 10 years.

The Houston Texans rank 12th under the projected 2016 salary cap of $153 million with a nearly $29 million cushion to sign stars to multi-year contracts and perhaps lure some free agents into the fold.

Congrats are in order for four members of the state champion West Orange-Stark Mustangs who were named to the Texas Sports Writers Association Class 4A All-State Team. Senior defensive linebacker Steven Tims and junior defensive lineman Mandel Turner-King were first-team selections while junior quarterback Jack Dallas and senior wide receiver Thomas Wallace garnered Honorable Mention accolades.

JUST BETWEEN US…I have only one grandson, Logan Smith of Lufkin, who graduated last May from Hudson High School near the top of his class. His ambition has always been to attend a military college to further his education. I can’t tell you how proud I am when we received word last Wednesday that Logan had gotten a phone call from Tyler Congressman Louie Gohmert in Washington, D.C. informing him of his appointment to West Point. He is due to report there in mid-June. Logan is attending Greystone Prep School near Kerrville this year which is affiliated with Schreiner University and offers the only academy prep program in the nation with a fully-accredited four-year university that parallels the first-year course work at the U.S. Military Academy, Naval Academy, Air Force Academy and the Merchant Marine Academy.