It’s the Major League Baseball All Star break, and Houston Astros owner Jim Crane has a request for Palm Beach County residents: “I hope they start following the team.’’
Crane is refering to his Astros, who represent the biggest surprise so far of the 2015 baseball season.
By the time the Astros and Washington Nationals open their new shared spring training stadium in West Palm Beach in 2017, Crane is hoping local fans will embrace both teams.
When the Astros first started looking around the county for a new spring training home back in 2013, they were struggling at the bottom of the standings. The Nationals were contending.
Now, both teams are in first place in their respective divisions, and it’s already halfway through the season.
That should provide plenty of excitement for fans not just in Houston and Washington but in West Palm Beach, too, where the teams will share a $135 million stadium, Crane said.
“You’ve got two quality-run teams in first place,’’ Crane said last week during an appearance in West Palm Beach.
“Washington was expected to win the most games in baseball. We weren’t quite there yet but we are kind of over-performing right now. We hope to keep that going.’’
During presentations to the Palm Beach County Commission last year, the Astros displayed on a large screen a 2014 Sports Illustrated cover declaring the Astros the 2017 World Series champions.
Crane wonders if the Astros might be ahead of that prediction.
“We’ve had a pretty exciting year so far. We are in first place. The team has been playing well,’’ Crane said.
“We rebuilt the team about four years ago. The minor league system is playing well, so we are very deep. We think we will be in contention all year and hopefully we can get in the playoffs and maybe even play Washington. Who knows?’’
Meanwhile, tune in to the All Star game tonight. The starting pitcher for the American League will be Astros lefty Dallas Keuchel, who visited Clematis Street in February as part of the spring training baseball celebration hosted by Gov. Rick Scott.