This morning, not far from Minute Maid Park in the theater district - at Jones Hall in fact, baseball and music collided as the Houston Symphony Family Series presented "Perfect Pitch: The Music of Baseball." We sometimes forget how integral music is to America's favorite pastime. Not today in the city of Houston. This performance was nothing short of a celebration of the history of the Astros and a delightful grand slam of a performance.
In a room full of bright eyed children escorted by mothers and fathers donning Astros jerseys and caps, my daughter and I sat poised to see what a symphony could do with our favorite game. Robert Franz, the always entertaining conductor, came in as the "relief conductor" after a jokester of a maestro started us out with "The Star-Spangled Banner." As the song concluded, my daughter leaned over and whispered "Don't you dare," knowing full well that I couldn't hear that song and not yell "Play ball!" at the end. I wasn't the only one.
As Franz explained the four teams of a symphony to the young crowd, each of team donned a colored hat: red for the strings, blue for the brass, green for the woodwinds and orange for percussion. Even the Maestro himself wore a baseball uniform, complete with high socks and a cap.
It didn't escape my notice that the loudest cheers in this crowd were for the orange team- definitely tie in to the local 9 who will always be thought of as an orange team in Houston. Are you listing Mr. Postolos? The Astros need a little orange in their lives.
The music wasn't always a direct link to baseball. There was the "Theme from Batman" (because of the bat), "Across the Stars" from Attack of the Clones (because that Astrodome was like something from outer space), and "Orange Blossom Special" (a tribute to the train motif of the newest Houston ballpark). The most obvious tie-ins to my beloved game were "The National Game" complete with an 11 year old swinging at imaginary pitches, and "Casey at the Bat," which was the finale of the performance.
The highlight was definitely "Casey at the Bat," narrated by Milo Hamilton, the voice of the Astros for years now. I'm not Milo's biggest fan, but you could not help but smile as he told the tale of that infamous game in Mudville. His narration was just like a play-by-play of a game and sucked you in despite knowing how it would end. The smiles turned into laughter as Milo added his own twist because "Holy Toledo! The Mighty Casey struck out" was certainly not the original line.
The ending piece made you feel like it was time to stand..."Deep in the Heart of Texas," the seventh inning stretch classic in Houston.
I'm not sure if the Houston Symphony planned this tribute to the music of baseball knowing the historical significance of this year for the Astros or not, but it could not have come at a better time. In a year where the city is rallying around a new management team and players whose names and faces they aren't all that familiar with yet, this morning of music and baseball was just what Houston fans needed.
After all, I've always felt baseball was a family affair...and apparently so does the Houston Symphony. With small children surrounding you, and great music rattling your ears and only a few blocks from the ballpark our Astros call home, how can you not be a little romantic about baseball.