Wagner gives high school kids HOF-caliber trip

Former Houston reliever's baseball team visits Astros camp, meets MLB legends

March 6th, 2023

WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. -- wasn’t sure if the boys on the high school baseball team that he coaches knew who Reggie Jackson, Jeff Bagwell and Craig Biggio even were before Monday.

“They probably have no idea,” Wagner joked prior to the Astros’ 7-1 loss to the Cardinals at the Ballpark of the Palm Beaches.

The teenagers of the Miller School of Albemarle in Charlottesville, Va., got a crash course in baseball and life from three Hall of Famers, each of whom spent a few minutes talking to Wagner’s team during a visit to the Ballpark of the Palm Beaches. The team took a bus down to South Florida for a high school tournament, but not before a pit stop at Astros camp.

“I know what it means to me to have these guys, teammates, that have been so great, to take their time out to talk to the young,” said Wagner, who spent most of his 16-year career with the Astros. “It’s a great opportunity, and you have Reggie step out, too. It’s a blessing for us to be around in that situation.”

Wagner’s son, Will, is an infield prospect who’s in Major League camp with the Astros. Another one of Wagner’s sons, Kason, is a freshman infielder/pitcher at Miller. All three reunited briefly on the back fields Monday after Astros practice had concluded and prior to Wagner’s team taking the field.

, 24, was born in Houston while Billy was a star closer with the Astros. The Astros drafted him in the 18th round in 2021 out of Liberty University, and last year he hit .261 with 19 doubles, three triples, 10 homers, 53 RBIs and eight stolen bases combined between High-A Asheville and Double-A Corpus Christi. Will’s locker sits between Alex Bregman and Jeremy Peña, the 2022 World Series MVP.

“He’s doing fine,” Billy said. “He’s got great people around him with Bregman and Peña. Just like I told these guys, sit around the veterans and pay attention and keep your mouth shut and go about your business and you’ll pick up a lot of things. And he is. He’s enjoyed it, and it’s great to have that opportunity.”

Biggio can relate to this stage in Wagner’s life. Biggio coached both of his sons at St. Thomas High School in Houston following his 20-year career with the Astros. His youngest son, Cavan, is currently with the Blue Jays. Biggio told Wagner’s team they were fortunate to have him as a head coach.

“Wags is great people, man,” Biggio said. “He’s one of my favorites. Bringing his kids down here to play, it’s kind of like the same thing I did. You step out for a little while and you get to coach your kids a little bit. Wags has got so much knowledge that he’s going to help those kids out. He had about a half dozen kids going to college. When you’re doing this side of it like he’s doing it and you’re able to get some of these kids out and continuing their career, getting a good education, that’s all you can ask for.”

Billy Wagner (L) and Craig Biggio (R)

Jackson, who is an advisor to Astros owner Jim Crane, reminded the boys that the big leagues aren’t as far away as they think.

“Billy was in the big leagues when he was 24 and I was in the big leagues when I was 20,” Jackson said. “I said, ‘You guys are 16, 17, 18 years old; you’re not far away from there. You never know what could happen. Just pay attention and enjoy and respect this game. This guy loves people and loves the kids, and you’re being coached by a guy who should be in the Hall of Fame and probably will be in a couple of years.’”

Wagner appeared on 68.1 percent of Hall of Fame voting ballots this year, putting him in position to reach the 75 percent needed for election as early as next year, which will be his ninth year on the ballot. Wagner’s support has increased from 10.5 percent in 2016 to 10.2 percent in '17, 11.1 percent in '18, 16.7 percent in '19, 31.7 percent in '20, 46.4 percent in '21 and 51 percent in ‘22.

“The guys I talked to, Baggy and Bidge, they definitely think he’s a Hall of Famer,” Jackson said. “They said when he retired he wanted to get home to his family and still was throwing 100 [mph]. He was in a different league from me, but he was a legend with the Astros and he went to the Mets. I sure knew who he was, that’s for sure.”