Astros 101 - Q&A with Mike Acosta
One of the things I’d like to do with this blog in the future is to interview Astros employees (or persons affiliated with the team in some way) to get a peek in to what they do and get their opinions on various baseball and Astros-related subjects.
Today, for my very first interview, Astros employee Mike Acosta is up to bat!
Above: Mike Acosta’s awesome twitter profile picture. His twitter handle is @astrostalk.
Q: Mike, for those out there who don’t know you, what is your official job title with the Astros and can you give us a brief description of what you do?
A: My official title is Authentication Manager. I am the team historian and work with MLB to make sure we properly gather authentic items from games. We sell a large amount of them as souvenirs, send some to the Astros In Action Foundation, preserve some for the team archives and also collect items for individual players milestones and/or the Baseball Hall of Fame. Sometimes I will fill-in as the PA announcer at the game.
Q: How long have you been with the Astros for?
A: This is my 14th season.
Mike was also involved with the research for the reproduction Houston Colt .45s uniforms that the team will wear on limited occasions this season. Since it’s been nearly a half century since the Colts were last relevant, I thought it appropriate to focus on the uniforms and to also clear up a long-standing rumor involving a certain Colt player.
Above: A picture of the new, old Colt .45s uniforms the team had produced for this season—the 50th anniversary of pro-baseball in Houston.
Q: Last week, the Astros re-introduced the Colt .45s uniforms for the first time in nearly 50 years. First off, who came up with this idea and, from start to finish, how long did this process take?
A: It was a collaborative effort overall but I was the point person for the 50th Anniversary uniforms and the one who made the suggestion to our group. I actually began to look into it back in 2010 as part of some early preparation. We began the uniform design process before the end of the 2011 season. We’re wearing five different retro uniforms at home this year so we have to start early. We also have one retro uniform for a road game in June.
Q: What sorts of planning and research was involved in trying to recreate the Colt .45s uniforms from scratch?
A: I already had a lot of work done on how the Colt .45s uniforms were designed from previous projects, so I was very specific on how I wanted these recreations to look.
Q: Were there any challenges/obstacles that you and your team were faced with along the way (other than the gun controversy with the commissioner’s office)?
A: None. Our contacts at Majestic Athletic are always extremely accommodating in our design process. They make it happen for us.
Q: Did you receive any feedback/opinions from Astros ownership during this process or were they, more or less, hands off?
A: Our ownership always has approval over plans, but they do leave it to us to handle the details. My job was to produce historically correct uniforms.
Above: “Judge” Roy Hofheinz with a model of the Astrodome. Mike Acosta’s twitter feed is treasure trove of amazing and rare photos from Colt .45s/Astros history.
Q: Is there anything new or interesting you discovered while doing research for the Colt .45 uniforms and/or their history?
A: Well, I’m reminded that if you do not know your stuff, mistakes will continue to be made. For example, there are numerous “knock-off” Colt .45s jerseys for sale out there and they use black and orange. Our team colors were navy and orange. The lettering on the front is also usually consisting of a felt material. The original jerseys were chain-stitched, which is very nice looking embroidery.
Q: Last week, the team also had a special pre-game ceremony honoring some of the original Colt .45s players. Did you get to meet any of them? If so, who was your personal favorite and why?
A: Yes I did meet all of them. One of the great things about my job is being able to meet former players and interact with them. They are the living history of the team. I’ve known Bob Aspromonte for some time and he’s always been great to me. He got the first hit and scored the first run in franchise history, so there’s an additional element to him. He’s one of my favorites of all-time for the Colt .45s/Astros.
Q: It seems like—at least on the twittersphere—the Colt uniforms were met with universal praise. Fortunately, the team will wear these jerseys a couple more times this month as part of the “Flashback Friday” campaign before they’re retired again. Are there any plans to wear these uniforms again on special occasions in following years?
A: Well, if there ever was a perfect time to wear them the 50th Anniversary is certainly it. We’ve done many Turn-Back-The-Clock uniforms, but this time we went back to the very beginning in 1962. I’m sure we will do more of these type of throwback games in the future because they are popular with the fans, but it remains to be seen with the what, when and where. It usually depends on a particular celebration or milestone. Personally I love seeing the older uniforms on the field every now and then.
Q: Finally, on a somewhat unrelated note, I remember my Dad telling me a story many years ago that former Colt .45s pitcher Jim Umbricht was buried underneath what used to be home plate for the old Colt stadium (which is now located in the Astrodome parking lot) and that a marker was left behind to commemorate this. Have you ever heard this story before and can you confirm/deny it?
Above: Jim Umbricht. Is he really buried in the parking lot of the Astrodome?
A: I have heard other people tell this story. Jim Umbricht, who was loved and respected by all his teammates, was not actually buried under home plate at Colt Stadium. His ashes, however, were scattered over Colt Stadium a few days after his funeral in April, 1964. Colt Stadium was his final resting place. I know the family did not want any advance publicity and the team respected that. I do not know of any particular marker ever produced for either Colt Stadium or the Astrodome.
Q: Thanks for your time, Mike! Is there anything that you’d like to add?
A: The Astros 50th Anniversary is producing a lot of great projects that we’ve been working on for some time. This year we’ll continue to sell game-used items through the Astros/MLB Authentication Program at Minute Maid Park. All of our game baseballs, bases, lineup cards, game jerseys and caps feature the 50th Anniversary logo. In addition we’ll have all of our game-worn Flashback Friday uniforms available for sale after we wear them on the field. We’ve introduced our Astros Walk of Fame and later this year will reveal the results of the All-Time 25-man roster, which I helped formulate a ballot for. There are many other promotions and projects forthcoming this year. I’m really excited to see them come to fruition.
The Houston Astros 50th Anniversary website can be found here: http://houston.astros.mlb.com/hou/astros50/index.jsp. It’s an absolute must see/read for every Astros fan!
All photos courtesy of Mike Acosta and/or the Houston Astros.