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New radio team arrives in Astros camp

KISSIMMEE, Fla. -- The Astros' new radio team of play-by-play voice Robert Ford and color analyst Steve Sparks arrived in camp Wednesday, and the two have been trying to get up to speed as much as they can prior to their first broadcast Saturday.

"The biggest challenge is not having names on the backs of jerseys," said Ford, who had served as the radio pre- and postgame host for Kansas City Royals games. "It's going to be a challenge, but you have to remember it's not all going to happen in a day and kind of take it slowly. Hopefully, by the end of Spring Training I'll have a pretty good handle on who's who."

Sparks says he was not going to push the issue of learning too much at once.

"I've done my work as far as following [the media]," Sparks said. "During the course of the season and during Spring Training, it will come naturally, getting to know guys a little bit better, having some conversations and seeing what makes them tick. And then talking to the pitching coach and hitting coaches and find out what guys are working on, so hopefully I can recognize that during the broadcast."

The new radio team is scheduled to broadcast 33 Spring Training games and all 162 regular-season games on SportsTalk 790, the new radio home of Astros baseball. Their first broadcast will be the Astros' Grapefruit League opener Saturday against the Phillies at 12:05 p.m. CT on MLB.TV.

Sparks says he and Ford will have good camaraderie.

"We've been trying to learn where each of us has come from," Sparks said. "I listen to how he speaks, when he trails off to determine my turn to speak and what's going to happen during the broadcast. He seems like a very engaging guy, very knowledgeable, and he's confident. He's going to do a great job, and I'm going to enjoy working with him."