HOUSTON -- With the Astros about to embark on a new era that will include a move to the American League, a new color scheme and new uniforms next season, the team on Thursday revealed the man it wants to lead the players into the new frontier.
The Astros named Nationals third-base coach Bo Porter to become their 17th manager at a news conference at Minute Maid Park. The 40-year-old Porter, a resident of Houston, will remain with the Nats until their playoff run is over.
Astros interim manager Tony DeFrancesco, who was a candidate for the job, will guide the team over the final six games of the season and will remain in the organization in some capacity.
Astros general manager Jeff Luhnow, who along with owner Jim Crane and team president and CEO George Postolos flew to Philadelphia on Wednesday to finalize the deal, praised Porter's leadership and communication abilities, as well as his baseball acumen.
"He has a tremendous amount of experience and worked under some great managers," Luhnow said. "He's currently working under Davey Johnson for a successful Washington Nationals franchise and is going through an important time for them."
The chance to manage the Astros is a dream come true for Porter, whose wife, Stacie, grew up in Houston. The family has lived in the area for years, and Crane said he got several recommendations from Houston-area baseball people.
"I'm completely honored," Porter said in a conference call from Philadelphia. "It starts at the top with Jim Crane. He's putting together a great leadership team, and I'm honored to be part of that leadership team. When you look at successful organizations, you have success from the top all the way to the bottom. They did a thorough search and did a great job doing their due diligence and throughout the process, and I'm honored they decided and were in agreement I was the man for the job."
Porter, who signed a multiyear contract, had previously interviewed for managerial positions with the Marlins and Pirates before being hired by the Nats. The Astros had an initial list of 49 candidates, which they whittled to nine semifinalists and eventually four finalists.
"We're very excited to bring Bo on board," Crane said. "We want to be respectful of the Washington Nationals and they've been courteous in letting us go through this process in advance. They're in the playoffs and Bo has some work to do before he gets here. We went through a very thorough process and interviewed a lot of candidates. We're excited about Bo's energy, his sense of urgency and his skill set."
Porter's career includes stints as a roving instructor, coach and player, but his focus with the Nats has been on baserunning and outfield defense. Luhnow said he has no doubts about Porter's ability to manage a game, but his communications skills are what set him apart.
"When you talk about our young players and our system, we need someone with a real specific emphasis on playing baseball the right way," Luhnow said. "We have a lot of young, exciting players who are still learning the game at times at the big league level, and it's important we have a manager and staff that reinforce that."
Porter takes over an Astros team coming off its two worst seasons in its 51-year history with back-to-back 100-plus-loss campaigns. Under the leadership of Crane and Luhnow, the Astros are rebuilding through the Draft and player development, and they wanted a manager capable of seeing the process through to the end.
"His style is his biggest asset," Luhnow said. "He's a natural-born leader. He's very charismatic. You will get to know him over time, he's a motivational speaker but not to the extent you hear it five times a week, it wanes. But he's able to connect individually, connect with groups, gets the best out of people, and that's really what we found the most compelling part of his style. He has genuine energy."
Even with the Astros moving to the AL, Porter doesn't expect the transition to be difficult, admitting there will be a get-to-know-you phase.
"At the end of the day, it's baseball," he said. "Just like when you have Interleague games, the only thing that changes when an American League team goes to a National League ballpark, the pitcher has to hit. My experience in baseball and being in the NL as a coach many years and playing in the AL as a player, it's baseball and you're going to have to play the game."
This season is Porter's second as third-base coach for Washington and his sixth as a Major League coach overall. Prior to joining the Nationals' staff in 2011, he began the 2010 season as third-base coach for the D-backs before being promoted to bench coach on July 1 when Kirk Gibson became manager. Porter also served as third-base coach for the Marlins for three seasons (2007-09) prior to joining Arizona.
Porter also has experience as a manager, skippering the Marlins' Jamestown club of the New York-Penn League for the 2006 season. He made his coaching debut as hitting coach for Class A Greensboro of the South Atlantic League in 2005.
During his playing career, Porter played in parts of three seasons in the Major Leagues as an outfielder for the Cubs (1999), A's (2000) and Rangers (2001), appearing in a total of 89 games. He appeared in two playoff games for Oakland in 2000. Originally drafted by the Cubs in 1993, he hit 113 home runs with 503 RBIs and 236 stolen bases in 10 Minor League seasons.
Porter was an outstanding athlete while at Weequahis High School in New Jersey, reaching All-State status in baseball, football and basketball. He attended the University of Iowa, where he earned a bachelor's degree in communications studies and played football and baseball.
He hopes all those experiences have prepared him for his biggest challenge yet.
"What excites me the most is it's a very young group, but a very talented group, and Jeff Luhnow and his staff from the day he took over has done a great job of surrounding himself with quality people off the field and on the field," Porter said. "The talent pool is very good, and now it's time to roll up our sleeves and get to work."