Why Drayton McLane sits behind home plate

<div class="meta image-caption"><div class="origin-logo origin-image none"><span>none</span></div><span class="caption-text">Shots of fans from the home opener &#40;photos: Mike McGuff&#41;</span></div>
April 9, 2008 10:40:11 PM PDT
As our Houston Astros sit near the bottom of the National League West, we take a closer look at the familiar face at the helm. Fan-friendly Drayton McLane is in his 16th year of shaking hands, and sitting in his familiar seat.

With all the heartache and hard times that come with owning the Houston Astros, Drayton McLane also gets the best seat in the house. Right behind home plate for the start of virtually every Astros home game.

He says he sits there because he is the one responsible for the team.

Sometimes he sits next to his wife, Elizabeth. Sometimes down the row from the former President George Bush, but always where you and his players can see him.

"I want players to know I care and I want fans to know I care," he said. "Although some of them say can't you sit in the suites somewhere?

No. He can't.

And if you were signing the huge checks you might sit there too.

The Astros opened their home season not exactly ready to challenge for the championship. A prediction odds makers made months ago.

Las Vegas says the team is going to win 72 or 73 games this year.

"I don't agree," McLane said. "I bet $96 million they're wrong!"

McLane says he is as optimistic on this opening day as he has been every opening day for the past 15 years, although this is a different year for him.

Jeff Bagwell and Craig Biggio are still at the park, but made of bronze and playing outside.

For the first time since McLane's owned the team, neither of the Houston legends are in the lineup.

I asked him if he missed them.

"Of course," he replied. "I talked to Craig today. I talked to Jeff."

This year 50% of the Astros roster is brand new.

"When we had the opening of spring training, we had to have the players introduce themselves," McLane said.

McLane is optimistic Houston fans will embrace the new team. He will know what they think at a time when many baseball owners are out of sight.

McLane mixes with fans every night. He leaves the best seat in the house to wander Minute Maid's concourses. It is something he's done for 15 years and considers part of his job.

"I walk through the stands every night," he said. "I talk to the fans and ask them what would you do if you owned the team? It's amazing what they tell you."

The talk is frequently about games lost or trades not made. This year he is certain some of the talk will be about steroids, an issue McLane considers history. He thinks it is something to move past, not dwell on.

"Do you deserve any of the blame," I asked.

"I don't think so," he replied. "In 16 years, I never saw anything and I was in the locker room before every home game. I never heard anyone even mention steroids."

Is that enough for you? You can ask him yourself? But be prepared, McLane is ready to look to this season and his new team.

It's his team, his money, and you can watch him spend it happily or not from his seat right behind the plate.

Watch a portion of McLane's interview in the above video player.

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