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Phil Garner pregame interview

Phil Garner pregame interview

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What about Roger? What is the status for the rest of the series?

PHIL GARNER: I have no information on Roger right now. I haven't talked to him today and the medical staff. I just spoke to him and we don't have an update today. We're still in a day to day situation. I anticipate him being very sore today. By no stretch of the imagination am I counting him out now. We'll go day to day with it to see how it is.

In a short synopsis what makes this team such a good team at your park in Houston? What's the philosophy behind closing the roof?

GARNER: Well, we've had the roof closed since sometime in May, we've been playing with it closed. It's very comfortable when it's closed. As a matter of fact I'll be delighted when they close the roof here tonight, it will be much more comfortable for everybody (laughter). Oh, they don't have a roof here, I guess.

So we'll play in the rain and the muck, if it's all right, it's the same for everybody. It's the same for everybody when the roof is closed in our ballpark, too.

As far as the difference between home and on the road, I don't know. I don't have an explanation for it. It's certainly not the roof being open or closed, that's not it. We do seem to play better in our own ballpark, and we seem to be comfortable in our ballpark.

Back to Clemens for a second. As a former athlete, you still consider yourself an athlete, what is it like to have an injury, how aggravating is it? What is it about Clemens where other players you'd automatically say he's done, with him you simply can't say that?

GARNER: Because he has, the second part first, because he has bounced back from I thought injuries where he wasn't going to be able to pitch. And we can go back a short time when his hamstring was bothering him, he pitched and pitched quite well. He was back from a question a month or so before. So much so that the question was we had someone warming up in case he couldn't deliver. He came in and said he'd try to get us an inning, could barely get down the steps at the end of his first inning and ended up pitching 7 innings and you never count Rocket out.

I'm not trying to keep anything from you, you just don't count him out. The frustrating thing about the injury is it's hard to be at 100 percent with your hand, with your pitches up here, when something is bothering you with your legs. Clemens is a very powerful pitcher that uses the lower half of his body. When something is not right down there, that affects him a little bit.

Do you have a pitcher out of your staff, whether it be Rodriguez or Astacio, we have to hold you back, because you may have to pitch Game 5?

GARNER: Those are the options for Game 5. I am not looking at that right now, holding them out. If we need to use them tonight we'll use them.

We've noticed a lot of Houston fans here in the city. I just want to ask you, from the perspective of a manager and a player, what are the fans like? What are Houston baseball fans like from a character standpoint if you could describe them?

GARNER: I wouldn't say that we're necessarily blue collar, although we've had some mighty fine blue collar fans in our city, but we've also got a former president is a pretty good fan, too, and first lady that we enjoy seeing at the ballpark every night, too.

We certainly have a wide range of socioeconomic backgrounds that come to the ballpark. Our fans have become very enthusiastic over the past several years, something I noticed as a former player in 1976, it was very exciting, the city was coming along pretty good. And then when we were playing the Dodgers at one point on the West Coast some people would stop in traffic and they were out --it was gridlock and they were standing out cheering. We've had some pretty good fans for a long time.

I see much more intense noise levels at the ballpark these days. And it's just -- I think our fans are into it. I think they're hungry for getting to the World Series and they're hungry to have one come to Houston.

Does the rise in centerfield come into play much in your ballpark?

GARNER: Not very often. There's been a couple of plays that Willy has made on the hill, one or two plays that weren't made by other players, but it's not a factor. Willy has made a couple of nice plays, actually, going up the rise.

You didn't hit with the runners in scoring position well the last round and got away with it. You didn't do it again last night; is that a pattern that's hard to keep doing and keep winning?

GARNER: Yes, yes, yes. It just frustrates me to no end, you'll see me throw my hat. We did lose a couple of games, a game against Atlanta, a couple of games against St. Louis. We are capable of losing a couple of games. When we lose them generally we're in the game, our pitching keeps us in the game. As you saw last night, very close game, it's very frustrating when you don't just put the ball in play when you have a runner at third base and -- but that's what's happened to us. That's the reason we have 180 ballgames because we do have some games that we don't win like that. But the good news from our standpoint is we bounce back from that. Those have not been things that have been lingering with our club, since we've been winning, which is, we've managed to bounce back from those kind of losses.

How does the noise level at Minute Maid Park in the postseason compared to what you experienced as a player at the Astrodome, do you think it gives you an advantage?

GARNER: It's louder and I think it's a plus. Our fans are very enthusiastic and it creates an energy in the ballpark that I think is to our advantage.

A bit about the character of the park. With the slope of the hill in centerfield, for those of us who haven't been there yet, it's not your typical symmetrical baseball field, and it brings some character to the game. Can you talk about the character of the ballpark?

GARNER: It's interesting, from the ballparks that were built in the '70s, the very symmetrical, all nondescript, multipurpose stadiums have gone by the wayside, which has been a good thing for baseball. I talked to literally hundreds of people who travel all around the country now and a lot of times it will be sons and dads, and it will be old dads, like 90 year old dads and 50 year old or 60 year old sons. And they go to a lot of different ballparks to see the unique characters of the different stadiums, some of the new stadiums. Ours is unique because of the configuration of the outfield more than anything and the Crawford boxes, which are somewhat shallow, which if you can hit the ball in the air to left field it gives you a little bit of an advantage, but it's a disadvantage if you hit the ball on the ground through the left side because it's hard to score a run, because it is a little bit shorter.

Tal's Hill in centerfield, those have a slope, the flag pole is on the inside of the field, which is something a little unusual in today's game. And of course it is a little more standard, I guess you'd say, from right center around to the right field pole. So you have to play it just a little bit differently. It's a little bit unique.

Another ballpark question, can you talk a little bit about the role your wife played with that? Was it just the financing part of it or was it also in the design and how was that for you when she was going through that process?

GARNER: No, we didn't finance the ballpark (laughter), my wife didn't. We did as taxpayers. Actually not, it's through a tax on -- you good people that are going to come in, you're going to help us with that when you pay your hotel rooms and your car taxes. My wife was on what's called the Sports Authority Board, which was the public entity that was developed to handle the money raised through the bond issues to distribute among the sports venues. And Minute Maid was the first one. Enron Field, Minute Maid Park was the first one, Reliant was the second one and Toyota Center. My wife was on that Sports Authority Board. And so their responsibility, all the people on the board, was to build it, build it on time and they actually built it under budget and they did build it on time. And.

I wouldn't have believed it had I not witnessed it on a daily basis, how much work is involved. My hat's off to anybody, no matter what city, when you, pro bono one of these deals. A lot of people had full time deals, I don't know how they did it for a couple of deals.

My wife's name is Carol. She would get a book this thick well all these details that they had to peruse through and understand and know. Her particular area was community relations and also some of the design particulars inside the ballpark, color schemes, signage, and some other interior details that she was involved in. We had people on the board that were expert financial people who handled the bond issues, expert accountants who made sure everything was accounted for, other local citizens that made sure that things were done fairly among the different backgrounds in the city.

So it was a job well done, and they worked very hard at it, all of them did.

Phil, a lot of people will say that Boston is a baseball town, Philadelphia is primarily an Eagles town with respect to their teams there. For Houston, for those of us who haven't been there, is it an Astros town, a Rockets's town. How does it break down?

GARNER: Well, I think that Houston has been pretty good football town. And unfortunately we lost our football team once and now the Texans are back. Houston is still a good football town. The Rockets winning a couple of world championships, has to become a good basketball town. But it's never been just specific to one sport. And I think our base for baseball has gotten much, much bigger and, as I said earlier, much more intense. So I think we can say that we're a pretty good baseball city right now.

Boston has a long tradition, a long history. Chicago has a long tradition, a long history with both teams here. Something at a hundred years, you can't condense it down to 44, but we're well on our way. We've got great fans and getting our first World Series for the first time is going to go a long way. It's something that becomes generational, you know, there's going to be a lot of parents that are going to take their 10 and 12 year olds and six year old kids to the ballpark and it's going to continue from here on. I think we're well on our way to establishing a long history, too.

We'll talk to Chris about this in a little while. What does it mean for a young guy like Burke to get a chance, getting going, get a start in the World Series?

GARNER: That was Burke? It's exciting, obviously, for him. And he's one of the guys that is always chirping and he's got a lot of energy. I'm sure he's -- I don't know, after Tennessee lost yesterday he's probably a little flat today. He's a big Volunteer. My major concern is his mental state right now. But getting this World Series start is probably going to go a long way in getting him over the Tennessee loss yesterday. He played very well in the playoffs and played very well down the stretch. Another big setting for him, as it is for a lot of our young kids. I'm sure he's raring and ready to go and will do a good job for us tonight.

Courtesy of FastScripts by ASAP Sports. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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