Things are starting to take shape for the Express.
With a new affiliation with the Astros, Round Rock found out a few members of its coaching staff and welcomed some players from their parent club last week.
“It’s neat to see how many great players have come through here, how many kids have been inspired by the game of baseball and how many memories have been made here,” Express Founder and Astros President of Business Operations Reid Ryan said. “Sports is the great uniter. We’re going to have good players here and there are more memories to be made.”
Astros pitcher and 2017 World Series Champion Chris Devenski, minor-league player Josh James and 2015 first-round draft pick Kyle Tucker joined Ryan at the fan even at Dell Dimond last Tuesday.
Mickey Storey will manage at Triple-A Round Rock, while Drew French will serve as pitching coach and Ben Rosenthal will be the team's hitting coach.
Storey has just one year of managerial experience, leading the Class-A Quad Cities River Bandits to their best record since 2015 last season. The former pitcher spent nine years as a professional, including one year with Houston in 2012.
French is in her fourth year with the Astros organization, while Rosenthal is beginning his third with Houston.
Ryan said there will be some new modifications to Dell Diamond that Astros General Manager Jeff Luhnow and the front office in Houston pioneered.
He said this offseason felt “hollow” after losing to the eventual World Series Champion Boston Red Sox in the ALCS, and said the club is using its strong affiliates to strengthen the big-league squad.
“Fans want to see big moves, but looking at our club on paper, we think we can be a playoff team,” Ryan said. “We have a lot of good internal guys that are going to battle during spring training. We have a track record growing from within.”
Last season, Houston’s Triple-A team in Fresno won the division and made the PCL playoffs. They won a conference title in 2018 and won a league and Triple-A championship in 2015, the first year they were affiliated with the Astros.
The Express went to the playoffs two times in the playoffs twice in the eight years they were affiliated with the Texas Rangers, most recently losing the league finals in 2015. Round Rock hasn’t had a winning record in three seasons.
Ryan expects that all to change.
“We know these guys are going to be taken care of when they come here,” he said. “It’s great for the Astros brand and the Express brand. We have some real talent in the system, and people are going to see some really good baseball players.”