Young Astros share All-Star bond
Lidge, Oswalt, Ensberg glad to experience event together
DETROIT -- For those wondering if the new wave of Houston Astros had indeed arrived, just take one look at the representation at the All-Star Game in Detroit.
Roy Oswalt. Brad Lidge. Morgan Ensberg. All first-timers, with only Roger Clemens standing as the one who's been here before.
Clemens was a no-show at the media session on Monday, and word is that the Rocket won't be here until Tuesday. But there was anything but a lack of storylines stemming from Houston, where three first-timers were given the opportunity of a lifetime -- to represent their club at one of baseball's jewel events.
Being here together makes this experience even more special for the three young Astros stars, who were scouted, signed and developed by the Astros and made their ascent through the player development system together.
"It certainly makes me feel more comfortable, being with Roy and Brad," Ensberg said. "Rocket is awesome, but Roy and Brad are guys I came up with and feel really comfortable around. I feel very comfortable here knowing I have a couple buddies on the team."
Lidge was the first of the three to find out he was an All-Star. The closer was voted in by the managers and players, and was announced as an All-Star on July 4 while the club was in Cincinnati.
Oswalt made the team a few days later when he was voted in by the fans through the MLB.com Ameriquest 2005 Final Vote. Ensberg was the last to be added, as a replacement for Scott Rolen on Sunday.
It doesn't matter how they got here. The fact is, they're here, and they're together. And they're very, very excited.
"It is a little crazy," Lidge said. "Morgan, myself and Roy played together quite a bit in the Minor Leagues. We all know each other really well. We're all good friends. It's so crazy that we're here together for the first time.
"We've had a lot of All-Stars from the Astros, but we've been able to take a lot of advice from them -- to not miss anything, to soak up everything. Roy could have been an All-Star a few times by now. I'm just glad he's here now. We're such good friends, that this is a great experience to go through together."
Oswalt knew early on that Lidge and Ensberg were stars in the making. He detected a spark in those two back in the days of riding buses and playing in front of modest, Minor League crowds.
"You could see talent as you come through the Minor Leagues, and you can feel who's going to make it to the big leagues and who's not going to make it to the big leagues," Oswalt said. "Some guys sometimes break out and you don't really see it, but you could see the talent with those two guys, that they were going to be up here.
"With Brad's stuff -- he had two pitches that no one could really hit. I knew he was going to make it. It was just a health issue early in his career. Once he got healthy and got his mechanics back, he's been great."
All three have been great. And this week, they are being rewarded. For the first time, they will share a clubhouse with the biggest stars in the league, players who are normally on the other side of the field during the regular season.
Oswalt had just met John Smoltz on Monday when he spoke glowingly of the Braves right-hander.
"I watched him growing up," said Oswalt, a resident of Weir, Miss. "The only games we got on TV where I'm from were the Braves. Playing on the same team with him is special."
Lidge didn't pinpoint a specific player he was looking forward to meeting, but he did hint he'll be seeking several autographs.
"I'll definitely be getting my share, and of course I have about 100 family and friends that have already thrown in requests for stuff," he said. "I'm going to do what I can.
"The names in the room and the people I've been able to shake hands with, it's exciting. Every time you face a lineup, you talk about those guys more than anybody. It's really cool to have them all on the same team and be teammates with them for a day."
Alyson Footer is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.