HOUSTON -- The palm trees were pressed against a blue South Florida sky, the temperatures were in the upper 70s and Astros manager A.J. Hinch couldn't help but envision his players working out in preparation for the regular season.Hinch spent about five hours Wednesday touring the Astros' new Spring Training
HOUSTON -- The palm trees were pressed against a blue South Florida sky, the temperatures were in the upper 70s and Astros manager A.J. Hinch couldn't help but envision his players working out in preparation for the regular season.
Hinch spent about five hours Wednesday touring the Astros' new Spring Training facility in West Palm Beach, Fla., a site they will share with the Washington Nationals. Houston pitchers and catchers report on Feb. 14, and the facility will open to fans on Feb. 18.
The Astros have already begun to move some equipment into the facility, and it won't be long before players and staff start showing up. Workers will be putting the finishing touches on the facility throughout the spring, but Hinch was impressed with the team's new digs.
"I think it's going to be great," he said. "It's a big facility, but it feels very connected. It's a perfect place to have our players train. It's going to have state-of-the-art everything and will bring a lot of good work to our guys."
Hinch, entering his third season as Astros manager, toured the facility with senior vice president of business operations Marcel Braithwaite, director of Florida operations Jay Edmiston, clubhouse manager Carl Schneider and visiting clubhouse manager Steve Perry.
"The fields are all coming together," Hinch said. "They were still finishing up a lot of different areas. It's impossible not to visualize pitchers throwing bullpens, the people in the cage, the fungos, the preparation. When we went into the stadium, it made me ready for games."
The first game in the 6,500-seat stadium will take place on Feb. 28 when the Astros and Nationals meet. That's the first of seven games this spring between the two teams that will call The Ballpark of the Palm Beaches home.
The Astros, whose offices and workout fields are beyond left field of the stadium, will have six workout fields, batting cages and a large weight room, a clubhouse and other team areas. There is also a turf agility field, featuring an Astros logo, on which the players will stretch each morning.
"I'm excited about the agility field," Hinch said. "Within that agility field is a full half field that's turf for early work, for extra work, that will drain a lot better than natural grass. The cages are really big. The functional areas are massive -- weight room, clubhouse, video room. We've upgraded in so many different ways that we're going to feel as we move into it and as we live in it a little bit, we took a major step forward by what I've seen so far, and we haven't even lived in it yet."
Astros owner Jim Crane, whose Floridian National Golf Club is 32 miles away from The Ballpark of the Palm Beaches, was at the facility on Wednesday for a short time, as well.
"The fields are ready to go," Crane said. "They have to do a little fine-tuning on them. They're going to be nice. They're still scrambling with some of the finish work on the suites, but it will be ready to go. They'll be doing some clean-up and fix-up as we get done, but it's ready to go."
Crane said the team will entertain sponsors and have a players' dinner at the Floridian this spring.
Brian McTaggart has covered the Astros since 2004, and for MLB.com since 2009. Follow @brianmctaggart on Twitter and listen to his podcast.