On a very cold (by Houston standards), Monday, January 15, 2024, thirty-two Larry Dierker Chapter members met via Zoom for the first chapter meeting of 2024. The meeting was held via Zoom only meeting due to the threat of icy roads in the Houston area.
The meeting opened with Joe Thompson welcoming everyone including two of our newest chapter members, Tyler Suarez and Jacob Lapp. Joe Thompson and Herb Whalley attended the Bill Gilbert winter meeting hosted by the Rogers Hornsby Chapter in early January. Each of them talked a bit about the all-day event. They noted that back in December, our chapter did a mock Hall of Fame vote and only Billy Wagner received 75% of the vote. At the Bill Gilbert winter meeting, only Adrian Beltre received over 75% of the vote. On January 23, the 2024 Hall of Fame results will be announced on MLB Network at 5 pm central time. Those elected to the Hall of Fame will be inducted during Hall of Fame Weekend on Sunday, July 21, at 1:30 p.m. in Cooperstown.
Astros FanFest is January 20, and the chapter will have a booth near section 113. Seventeen chapter members volunteered to work at the chapter booth from 930 am – 4 pm. Bob Dorrill announced that volunteers need to enter via the employee entrance. Chapter members will be handing out baseball cards to kids and will be encouraging people to join the chapter. There will also be books for sale at our booth written by chapter members. There will also be a Larry Dierker signed ball drawing which will take place at our SABR booth during the afternoon close to the end of the day.
SABR Day is February 3 but our chapter will hold our annual event on February 10 at Jax Grill across the street from Spaghetti Western from 11 am – 2 pm. The guest speaker will be Astros MLB writer Brian McTaggart. Besides his talk, there will be a book exchange and memorabilia show and tell.
The guest speaker of the evening was Houston Astros Vice President of Business Strategy and Analytics Jay Verrill. He was born in Maine and attended college in Boston and later received his MBA. He worked a few jobs and decided he wanted to work in sports. Astros were changing ownership and changing business strategy. Jay joined the Astros in July 2012. His notable projects as a member of the Astros include the financial modeling of the Minute Maid Park $18M center field renovation project, needs-analysis fan segmentation, and ticket yield maximization strategy. Jay talked about 2015 which started to show the rebuilding efforts paying off. Owner Jim Crane wants the club to be competitive and will make sure the team remains so. Jay talked about how his team’s strategy is to make the Astros the best in MLB at ticket sales and team shop sales. Jay spoke about how his job is to look at how fans experience the games. His team focuses on trying to always improve the ballpark experience. For example, he mentioned how The ULTRA club patio was developed specifically to attract younger crowds. Jay and his team are also in charge of looking at into the latest technology available. He gave the group a specific example of how the Astros app uses AI with “Ask Orbot.” Orbot will answer questions right away without waiting for a call or an email.
Carlis Wright Robinson was the next speaker. She is the author of The Wright Side of History: The Life and Career of Johnny Wright. Robinson’s book highlights her father’s baseball career and reads more like a narrative than an actual baseball history. Some experts and former players like Buck Leonard claimed Wright could play in the Major Leagues like Jackie Robinson, but he did not handle all the other pressures as well as Robinson did. Born in New Orleans on Nov. 28, 1916, to Hazel and Richard Wright, John started playing professionally out of high school with the New Orleans Zulus, a novelty team. Carlis mentioned that at 19, he joined the Negro Leagues, pitching for the Newark Eagles, Atlanta Black Crackers, and Toledo/Indianapolis Crawfords. In 1941, at age 24, Wright joined the powerhouse Homestead Grays and quickly became a mainstay of the rotation. He joined the Navy during WWII and played baseball while in the service. He spent time playing in the minor league with the Dodgers and his career lasted until 1954. Johnny Wright was inducted into the New Orleans Sports Hall of Fame in 2022. Carlis mentioned that the book is available through Amazon.
The next chapter meeting, besides our February 10 SABR Day event at Jax Grill, will be held at the Spaghetti Western on Monday, February 19. The speaker will be Phil Boudreaux who will talk about Sports TV deals and media rights. Gloria Rubac will also give a book review.
I hope to see some of you at Astros FanFest tomorrow!
— Joe Thompson