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Now on other side, Porter still close with Nats

Now on other side, Porter still close with Nats

VIERA, Fla. -- The most popular member of the Porter family to return to Space Coast Stadium on Tuesday afternoon wasn't Astros manager Bo Porter, who exchanged no shortage of handshakes and hugs in his first appearance at Nationals camp as an opposing manager.

Based on the messages Porter was receiving from Nationals players and staff, it might have been a certain 5-year-old that everyone in a Washington uniform wanted to see the most.

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"They were more interested in Bryce, my son, coming to the ballgame," Porter said. "I told them Bryce will be here, and a lot of those guys are excited to see Bryce as well."

The Porter homecoming was the story of the day for the Astros, who tabbed the 40-year-old former Nationals third-base coach to be their manager last September. Porter has said he prepared for the role of manager for much of his life, and Nationals manager Davey Johnson was as big of an influence on him as anyone he's encountered.

The two friends and now rivals met behind the batting cage prior to the Astros-Nationals game, and it was hard to tell who was beaming with the most pride.

"It's great," Porter said. "I have a lot of friends over here, of lot of great relationships. It's not like we're being reunited. We keep in contact constantly and leading up to today. It's great to be back and see a lot of these guys, and they've got a good thing going on. It's a good ballclub and they've got a chance to do something special."

Johnson, who managed the Mets to the 1986 World Series title while Porter was still in middle school, said Porter is the perfect man to lead the young Astros.

"I know it was a big loss here [with the Nationals], but I think he is fully prepared to be an outstanding manager in the Major Leagues," Johnson said. "He is in the rebuilding program, obviously. He is fundamentally sound in all aspects of the game. He is a great judge of talent.

"So I look for him to be there a long time. It's great that [Porter] could be in his hometown. It doesn't get better than that. So I wish him nothing but the best. I talked to him over the winter on numerous occasions. I'm sure he is going to do a great job."

Surrounded by about a dozen reporters, mostly from the Washington market, prior to the game, Porter spoke of what Johnson meant to him and his career. He said they've talked frequently and aren't afraid to bounce ideas off each other now that the Astros and Nats are in different leagues.

"We talk about our roster, we talk about our players and we talk about their players, because I know their guys," Porter said. "He's very interested in what's going on in our camp. There are a lot of times I may call him with a question, and he's been there. It's not an everyday thing. It's not something that's just for Spring Training. We've talked throughout the offseason, we've talked during Spring Training, and we will continue to talk.

"When you have someone of Davey's accomplishments and he's readily available to help you, it would be foolish not to take advantage of it."

Porter explained to reporters about the new atmosphere he's tried to instill in the Astros' clubhouse and how he's laying the groundwork for success. The one thing he doesn't want anybody doing is asking him about rebuilding.

"What's that word you just said?" Porter bristled when asked how he sells rebuilding to his players. "I didn't even know that word was in the dictionary. I haven't used that word one time since [he was hired] Sept. 27, and I'm not planning on using it."

In addition to Johnson, Porter has remained close to several Nationals players through an online book club that focuses on works of inspiration. The club, which includes Nationals players Bryce Harper, Ian Desmond, Steve Lombardozzi, Tyler Clippard, Drew Storen and Adam LaRoche, among others, recently read and discussed Tony Dungy's "Uncommon Life."

The fact his former players are willing to keep in touch with him gives you an idea of how popular Porter was in the clubhouse.

"We actually communicate every morning via the book club, and [Tuesday] there were some responses, 'Hey, we can't wait to see you,'" Porter said.

Brian McTaggart is a reporter for MLB.com and writes an MLBlog, Tag's Lines. Follow @brianmctaggart on Twitter. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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