HOUSTON -- Larry Dierker met with reporters on Tuesday wearing one of his trademark Hawaiian shirts, standing just a couple of feet away from a picture of him blowing out candles on his 18th birthday -- the day he made his Major League debut for the Colt .45s on Sept. 22, 1964.
Dierker has been a part of the Astros organization for nearly a half-century, though a recent public breakup forced him to have sleepless nights. Now that he's back with the club as a special assistant to president of business operations Reid Ryan, Dierker is sleeping better these days, and he is eager to help the Astros get to where they need to be.
Ryan brought Dierker -- the popular former pitcher, broadcaster and manager -- back to the family last week after he had turned down a job offer from the club earlier this year, one he thought was too structured and not fulfilling.
"It was a very awkward feeling to feel I didn't want to do what they wanted me to do, and also to have the flexibility to say, 'No,'" Dierker said. "For about a week, I was having trouble sleeping. I'm sleeping pretty good now."
Tuesday marked Dierker's first day on the job, and he spent it meeting with Ryan as well as shaking hands with fans at Larry's Big Bamboo Bar at Minute Maid Park. He'll be making public appearances throughout the season, writing for the team's game program and lending a hand wherever Ryan sees a need for it.
"I wanted to do something that has more impact, something more important than showing up every time we get a certain amount of people together," Dierker said. "I think that's ultimately what I'm going to end up doing, to be honest, but it's a little flexible at this point. I know I have things I can add from my perspective that [Ryan] may not have encountered at the Triple-A level.
"Most of it is not going to be in the baseball area; most of it is going to be building an image for the fans, building within the organization, so we constantly have our best foot forward instead of being caught in a PR dilemma as we have a few times recently. What it grows into, I don't know. I hope it will grow into something more next year."