There hasn’t been a lot of good news around the Astros this off-season. Going from one of the most respected franchises in baseball to one trying to move on from a cheating scandal has made things a tad unpleasant, which is why any good news is really good news these days.
Enter Wednesday’s dedication of the new Bob Watson Education Building at the Astros Youth Academy in Near Northwest Houston. The former Astros legend and general manager was honored by team owner Jim Crane and a host of former players including Jose Cruz, Larry Dierker, and Enos Cabell.
“When I learned about Bob Watson, I thought, ‘We need to build more Bob Watsons in this world,’” said Twyla Carter, executive director of the Astros Foundation. “That is what this academy is about.”
Opened in 2012, the AYA has played host to more than 10,000 young ballplayers, including 160 who have landed college scholarships and six who were drafted by teams in Major League Baseball. It provides free lessons and baseball education for underserved youth in Houston. In addition to the new building, the academy will host an annual tournament in Watson’s honor beginning this weekend.
“[Bob] wanted nothing more than to help you,” former Yankees manager and friend Joe Torre said of Watson. “There is so much more to him than baseball.”
One after another, former teammates, family, and friends recounted Watson’s many accomplishments inside and outside baseball. Daryl Wade, the academy’s director, held back tears as he described how Watson had helped him and his family when Hurricane Harvey destroyed their home. Watson, a board member of the Baseball Assistance Team, which provides help to members of MLB, told Wade to call BAT even though he wasn’t a former ballplayer. “He said, ‘you tell them I told you to call,’” Wade said. “As a father with two kids in college, I had to find a way to get them in school the next week with clothes because we lost everything. BAT came through like I could never tell you.”
Watson, 73, remains one of the greatest Astros of all time. He spent 14 seasons with the team on the field and returned as general manager in 1993, becoming the second African American general manager in MLB history. In 1996, after he switched to the New York Yankees, he became the first African American GM to win a World Series title.
In an off-season of difficult press conferences, this was an unabashedly happy one for the Astros, full of people who wanted to talk about all the good baseball can do. It couldn’t have come too soon.