HOUSTON -- Last week's Astros CAREavan, in which manager Bo Porter and a handful of players made stops around the city and the state to spread excitement in advance of Spring Training, also served as a weeklong get-to-know-you event for the first-year Houston skipper.
Porter got his first chance last week to spend time and to finally talk face-to-face with several of the team's key players, including shortstop Jed Lowrie, second baseman Jose Altuve, catcher Jason Castro, first baseman Brett Wallace, outfielder Justin Maxwell and pitcher Lucas Harrell.
Porter was hired to replace Brad Mills in September, but he did not take his seat in the managerial chair until October, when the Astros players had already scattered for the winter. The players who got to spend time with Porter last week said he made a good first impression.
"I've gotten a chance to talk to him a little bit, and being here this week for the [CAREavan], I've had a chance to talk to him, too," Wallace said. "I think he's awesome. He seems like he's definitely got your back, and he's definitely passionate. I think any time you play for someone who's really into the game and invested and you know will be there every day with the same energy, the same passion, you want to fight for him. I think that's what we need. We need to go out there with that attitude of, 'We're never going to give in,' and see what happens."
As beneficial as it was for Porter to meet the players, he said their conversations were limited. The players and Porter will have plenty of time to get to know each other better when pitchers and catchers report to Kissimmee, Fla., in a little more than two weeks. They will be around one another every day for seven months.
"Once you get to this stage of the offseason, guys are itching to get to Spring Training," Porter said. "A lot of the conversations were built around the expectations of the spring, but, at the same time, we're just ready to start."
Porter, 40, will be the youngest manager in baseball, and he's been put in charge of the youngest team. For most of last season, the Astros had the youngest roster in the National League, and they had the youngest roster in baseball over the final six weeks of the season.
Many of the fresh faces, including Altuve and starting pitcher Jordan Lyles, will be key contributors in 2013 as the Astros make the switch to the American League West. Relying on youth is not without growing pains, and Maxwell believes Porter is the right man to handle a young club.
"Bo's going to be an integral part of our team," Maxwell said. "Obviously, he's the manager, but just his personality -- he's going to expect a lot of us as a team. Really, we're not going to make any excuses. To have him be so structured -- being the youngest team in the big leagues again -- just to have a person very structured, very organized and demands a lot from his players is going to be very good for our ballclub."
The buzzword associated with Porter has been energy, and the players picked up on that in their limited time with him last week.
"He's been great," Castro said. "We were on the CAREavan stop together, and he made a great impression on me. A lot of energy and really excited to be here. That makes us excited to have as much energy as he has."
"He's a great guy," he said. "He knows the game really well. He obviously has a lot of knowledge. He'll be great for us, with his youth and his excitement in the game; some of the guys will see that with him, and it will probably rub off on us."