This story was excerpted from Brian McTaggart’s Astros Beat newsletter. To checked out the complete newsletter, click on this link. And register for get it routinely in your inbox.
Billy Wagner keeps in mind browsing a Spring Training clubhouse in Kissimmee, Fla., the very first time he was welcomed to Major League camp by the Astros in the mid-1990s as a possibility and fearing. His locker was beside Doug Drabek, a previous Cy Young winner. Around him were lockers for previous All-Stars Darryl Kile, Jeff Bagwell and Craig Biggio.
“As a young kid, you’re like, ‘Holy cow, what am I doing?’” Wagner stated.
It didn’t take wish for Wagner to make his stripes and begin accumulating some distinctions himself. He made 3 All-Star groups throughout his 9 seasons with the Astros, conserving a club-record 225 video games, consisting of a single-season-record 44 in his last season in Houston in 2003. So when Wagner learnt recently his child, Astros possibility Will Wagner, had actually been welcomed to camp as a non-roster gamer, it was a full-circle minute.
“I’m excited for him because he’s earned it,” Billy stated. “He’s had some good seasons. I think the [Arizona] Fall League was a big jump for him. I think that was something that was exciting to watch and see him have success and hit so well. They won a championship out there. He knows he’s got a lot of work [to do], but I think being around guys that have the work ethic and know the game, you get to see what it’s about. That’s for anybody in their first camp.”
It didn’t take Billy Wagner long to determine gamers like Drabek, Kile, Bagwell and Biggio can assist you and direct you, and even secure you. They lead. All he needed to do was want to enjoy and discover what made them effective and “get some useful tidbits and try to gain that knowledge and try to take their job.”
Will Wagner was born July 29, 1998 — 2 weeks after Billy, while pitching for the Astros, was struck in the head by a line drive in Arizona. He was brought off the field, invested the night in the healthcare facility and needed to get rid of vertigo to return on the mound — however he went back to his dominant methods later on that summertime. The Astros prepared Will in the 18th complete of Liberty University in 2021; Billy was prepared in the preliminary out of Ferrum College in 1993.
Last year, Will, a left-handed-hitting infielder, slashed .261/.374/.394 with 10 homers and 53 RBIs in 117 Minor League video games in between High-A Asheville and Double-A Corpus Christi. He split time in between 3rd base, very first base and 2nd base. Wagner ended up second in the AFL in OPS (1.145) last fall, slashing .346/.433/.712 with 3 homers and 15 RBIs in 52 at-bats.
Being able to have fun with Alex Bregman and Jose Altuve this spring ought to be a big increase for Wagner, who will likely open the 2023 season back in Corpus Christi with an opportunity to be at Triple-A by the summertime.
“I know he’s excited; he’s embraced it,” Billy stated. “I know that the moment’s not big for him. He knows the game. He’s just excited, like me and his mom. You get drafted in the 18th round, you better do a lot of things well. And he’s put in the hard work, and I’m happy for him. He knows he’s got to do more and continue to do what he’s doing. To be around those guys, it’s a big honor for him.”