Astros celebrate Bob Watson Education Center

March 5th, 2020

HOUSTON -- ’s friends packed the room with laughter and stories and a few tears on Thursday morning.

“There was nothing he wanted other than to help you,” Joe Torre said. “That’s all you need to know about this man.”

That was a familiar theme as the Astros expanded their Urban Youth Academy with the dedication of the Bob Watson Education Center.

The Astros Foundation invested more than $3 million to build the two-story facility that includes classrooms, computer labs and locker rooms to upgrade a facility that has been a dazzling success story.

In the last seven years, more than 160 baseball and softball players have received college scholarships, and six were selected in the MLB Draft. In that most basic of ways, lives have been changed, and this latest expansion will include annual youth baseball and softball tournaments also named in Watson’s honor.

Watson seemed almost overwhelmed at times. Now 73, and in fragile health, he sat in a wheelchair as speaker after speaker spoke of their feelings for him.

Daryl Wade, the academy’s director, said one of the first calls he got after taking over the facility was from Watson announcing he was bringing over an assortment of equipment.

Watson’s two adult children, Keith and Kelley, spoke of their father, and so did Carol, his wife of 51 years.

“It just makes you feel really good,” Bob Watson said. “When you get into baseball, this isn’t what you think about. You can’t imagine something like this. To know you’ve had a good impact on people, it makes you feel good.”

Watson was MLB’s second African American general manager when he took over the Astros in 1993. He later had the same job with the Yankees and played a role in Torre’s hiring.

His life in baseball spans six decades in all, including 19 seasons as a player -- 14 with the Astros. He’ll be inducted into the Astros' Hall of Fame this summer.

“This is all about Bob and his career here and what he gave back to the community,” Astros owner Jim Crane said. “It’s our way of saying thank you very much for being such a great individual, such a great ballplayer and mentor to so many people.”

Watson was a member of the three Braves teams Torre managed from 1982-1984.

“Even though he was a player, he was a coach,” said Torre, who is now a special adviser to Commissioner Rob Manfred. “He would take these young kids under his wing. So it’s appropriate this education center be in Bob’s name. This Bob Watson Education Center will be here for decades helping so many young people.”

Former Astros shortstop Craig Reynolds may have spoken for everyone when he said: “When I drive up and see that name, it gives me joy. The Astros Foundation could not have chosen a better name. I’m so proud to know you and have a chance to play with you. There’s a million baseball things to say about Bob, but he has a core at the bottom of his soul. He is a fine, fine man, one of the kindest men.”