New Houston manager Bo Porter inherits a team that has been the worst in baseball the past two seasons.
But he remembers the excitement in the city just a few years ago when Houston went to its only World Series, and is determined to get the Astros back into contention as soon as possible. Turning around a team that lost 100 games in each of the last two seasons won't be easy, but he's confident it can be done.
Porter is the former third base coach for the Nationals, who went from losing 93 games in 2010 to a major league-best 98 wins this regular season.
"When you come into a situation and you feel like you can make an impact and you can improve a situation, that's challenging," he said. "But when you see the pieces that you are going to have around to do that, it makes you feel like ... it's going to be great."
Porter was hired last month, but joined the team this week after finishing up Washington's season.
"Bo's very impressive," owner Jim Crane said. "We went through a very tedious process of interviewing a lot of candidates and Bo impressed all of us. I think he'll do a great job of energizing our young team and young players."
The Astros fielded one of the youngest teams in baseball this season after shedding all of their high-priced veterans over the last few years to restock a depleted farm system. They believe their minor league system now has the prospects in place to help build this team from within.
Houston is moving from the National League to the American League West for the 2013 season.
Porter likes the plan Crane and general manager Jeff Luhnow have for their rebuilding effort.
"From day one our vision was completely in line with each other," Porter said. "Developing a young team and sustaining that excellence for a long time is something I look forward to."
Houston interviewed many candidates to take over the job left vacant when Brad Mills was fired this summer. But Luhnow said Porter set himself apart from the beginning of the process.
"He's exactly the right guy to lead this team into the future," Luhnow said.
Porter played football and baseball at Iowa before playing parts of three major league seasons with Texas, the Chicago Cubs and Oakland. He said he plans to reach out to each player on Houston's 40-man roster over the next few weeks and hopes to get the players who are in Houston together soon to begin to develop a relationship with his new team.
"When you talk about changing the culture, the first thing you want to do is change the way they think," Porter said. "You want to change the information that's being put in their minds. There's a lot of things were going to do from an organizational standpoint to address those issues. But I think the players will be completely open to that because they want to be successful."
Though the Astros lost a franchise-worst 107 games last season, Porter was encouraged by the development of some of Houston's young players. He believes many of them have the potential to be good players for a long time to come, and he wants to work to have them play up to their potential.
"I'm all in. This is not a stepping stone," he said. "This is where I want to be and I want to see this organization go to the height which we all believe it can."
Porter said he has been assured that he will be given time to turn this team around. Although management is OK with any reversal being a process, Porter wants to see Houston return to contention sooner rather than later.
"I think they have probably use the word patient a little more than me," he said. "This is a production driven business and you want to see the team get better and you want to see players get better. I think year after year you want to say we're making progress every year. As long as you're taking steps in a positive direction I think that can be seen as success."
The 40-year-old Porter has previously worked as Arizona's bench coach and third base coach for the Marlins. This is Porter's first job as a major league manager, but he has managed in the minor leagues.
He has long made his home in Houston and is already reaping the benefits of finally working in the city where his family lives. His 4-year-old son Bryce let him know just how excited he was about the change earlier this week when he was driving him to school.
"He said: 'Daddy, I'm so glad you're home and we don't have to go to the baseball house anymore,'" Porter said. "That sent chills down my spine ... It's something where you take a step back and realize just how special it is."
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