Covered in a sharp new uniform colored in bright orange, dark blue and white, Astros manager Bo Porter confidently leaned back against a wooden dugout rail and kicked out his legs.

Long rows of seats inside Osceola County Stadium were empty. A maintenance worker applied yellow paint to the top of a green center-field wall. The ballpark was quiet, sun-filled and serene.

Time for a new beginning. Time for Porter to make something out of the losing, depressing, once-faithless Astros.

“We will create a winning environment,” Porter said Sunday, less than 24 hours before pitchers and catchers were to report for spring training. “Those that want to be on that bus, they will be on that bus. Those that don’t want to be on the bus, we’re going to get them off the bus. It’s that simple.”

There are signs that point to the bus. Actual signs. Ones that Porter first promised in November while he walked through a hallway inside a vacant Minute Maid Park and pointed out the lack of MLB inspiration pouring through the stadium’s walls. Signs inspired by Hayden Fry, Porter’s college football coach at Iowa.


Porter brought the message to Kissimmee, lining the inside of the Astros’ spring training complex with motivational mantras, self-help code words and a 6-foot-tall Wheel of Fortune-like circle that features two World Series trophies inserted between team-based terms such as “Sacrifice,” “I’m all in” and “Loyalty.”

Positive energy
Baseball analysts predict daily beatdowns for the 2013 Astros. The New York Times suggested Saturday that the team could become only the second club to lose 106 games in three straight seasons (the 1962-65 Mets did it four years in a row). Unwavering, Porter is preaching culture change. It starts with self-belief. It begins with a message.

“From the first time I met him, he’s been very energetic and positive, which is good,” outfielder J.D. Martinez said. “It’s something you need. This game is very negative, and it’s just good to see something where everything you see is just positive.”

Big words are easy in mid-February. Winning MLB games in July isn’t. Porter’s not naive. He just believes in what others are convinced will fail. Inside Porter’s clubhouse Flywheel — a concept derived from Jim Collins’ book “Good to Great: Why Some Companies Make the Leap … And Others Don’t” — is the term “break point.” Porter evaluated all 162 of the Astros’ 2012 games, which featured a franchise-record 107 losses. He discovered 35 that featured a break point — a contest the Astros could have captured but lacked the focus and will to claim.