"We're glad to have Bill back with the television team, and we're extremely excited to introduce Robert to the city of Houston and its baseball fans. Throughout the hiring process, our fans relayed to us what they wanted, which included recognizable, former players that know the game, a description that fits Alan, Geoff and Steve."
Beginning in 2013, Astros games will be televised on CSN Houston, the club's new Regional Sports Network. CSN will carry all Astros regular season games available for local telecast as well as 10 Spring Training games. All three members of the broadcast team will also contribute to other CSN programming related to the Astros.
The new radio team is scheduled to broadcast 33 Spring Training games and all 162 regular season games on SportsTalk 790, the new radio home of Astros baseball. Their first broadcast will be the Astros first Spring Training game on Feb. 23 vs. the Philadelphia Phillies.
THE ASTROS TELEVISION BROADCASTERS
The 2013 season will be Bill Brown's 27th season as the Astros primary play-by-play voice on TV. Alan Ashby, who resides in Houston, will serve as color analyst while working with Brown, but will also fill in for Brown in handling the play-by-play duties. Geoff Blum will serve as color analyst when Ashby handles the play-by-play duties.
The veteran of the group, and one of the most recognizable broadcasters in the game, Brown has over 30 years of Major League experience on the air, having broadcasted full-time for the Houston (1987-2013) and Cincinnati (1976-82) franchises. In his long career, Brown has also called select games for the Cardinals, Pirates and Royals. He is a member of the Texas Baseball Hall of Fame and was elected by his peers in the Houston media to the Houston Media Wall of Honor in 2011.
Most recently, Ashby had been calling games on radio and television for the Toronto Blue Jays for the past six seasons (2007-12). Ashby's hiring marks a return to Houston for the popular former Astros player and radio broadcaster. Ashby spent 11 of his 17 Major League seasons as a catcher with the Astros from 1979-89, during which he was a part of three postseason teams. From 1998-2006, Ashby worked as the Astros color analyst on radio alongside Hall of Famer Milo Hamilton. Prior to his broadcasting career, Ashby also served as a coach and minor league manager in the Astros farm system. As part of the club's 50th anniversary celebration in 2012, Ashby was named to the Astros All-Time 25-man roster. Previously, he was named to the All-Time Astrodome team in 1999, and in 2000 was inducted into the Texas Baseball Hall of Fame.
The 38-year-old Blum, who recently retired after 14 Major League seasons as an infielder (1999-2012), will make the transition from the playing field to the broadcast booth in 2013. During his playing career, Blum had two stints with the Astros, totaling five seasons in Houston (2002-03, 2008-10). A switch-hitter, Blum was known as one of the top pinch-hitters and utility players in the game, appearing at all four infield positions for nine straight seasons (2000-08). He appeared in the postseason three times (2005-06, 2011).
THE ASTROS RADIO BROADCASTERS
On radio, Robert Ford will handle play-by-play duties while Steve Sparks will provide color commentary.
Prior to joining the Astros, Ford had served as the radio pre- and postgame host for Kansas City Royals games on 610 AM KCSP, the Royals flagship station, since 2009. He has seven years of experience broadcasting minor league baseball, having called over 800 games during stints with the Binghamton Mets, Kalamazoo Kings and Yakima Bears. Ford was twice named Frontier League Broadcaster of the Year (2003 and 2004). He also has extensive play by play experience in college basketball. He is a 2001 graduate of Syracuse University, where he earned a bachelor's degree in broadcast journalism.
Sparks, 47, has served as a pre- and postgame analyst for Astros television games over the last several seasons. He has also filled in as a color analyst on Astros radio and television broadcasts. A knuckleballer, Sparks pitched in the Major Leagues in parts of nine seasons (1995-2004) for the Brewers, Angels, Tigers, A's and Diamondbacks. His best season was in 2001 while with Detroit when he went 14-9 in 35 appearances (33 starts) with a 3.65 ERA while leading the Majors in complete games with eight. He also tallied a career high in innings pitched (232.0) that season. Sparks, who currently resides in Houston, attended Sam Houston State University.