Morgan Ensberg spent five of his eight big league seasons as the starting third baseman for the Houston Astros. The Southern California native finished his career with a 110 homers (105 of those with the Astros). He made an All-Star team, he started in a World Series, and he holds the record for most homers hit in a season by an Astro third baseman -- 36 in 2005. Ensberg is now involuntarily retired from his playing career, and he is trying to break into broadcasting.
But we're discussing Morgan Ensberg today because he has started writing a blog, Morgan Ensberg's Baseball IQ. The blog is a compelling read. Using examples from his career, Ensberg provides a fascinating insight into the world of baseball, the life of a player, and just being a human being.
I started reading his blog when I saw a twitter link to his blog post about Jeff Bagwell. After reading several more entries, I contacted Ensberg, and he agreed to answer a few questions about his career, about life as a former player, and the various quirks of being a Houston Astro.
He retired in 2009, after the Tampa Bay Rays, who invited him to camp, refused to offer him a major league contract. And being retired isn't exactly the easiest thing for a baseball player who loves the game.
"I was retired...I didn't choose to be retired," he said. "I still wanted to play, but there were legitimately zero teams interested so I guess I am done. It has been the hardest year of my life. All I knew was baseball and now I am trying to transition into the mainstream world. It has been incredibly difficult on my wife and kids. Having me around has really thrown a 'wrench' in my wife's usual duties so it has been really hard on her. But it will get better."
But while he might baseball might be finished with him as a player, Ensberg is not finished with baseball. While he is interested in coaching, his focus now is on broadcasting -- his last game was the Auburn/Vanderbilt game broadcast on ESPNU this past Sunday. It's a challenge he's enjoying, and it's one that he's approaching much as he would as if he were a player.
"It is so interesting that I am starting from the bottom again," he said. "There is nothing better to understanding your craft better than 'grinding' it out and that is what I am doing.
"Preparation for a broadcast is all about information. My goal is stay up to date with baseball while concentrating on my next job. For example, I [had] the Auburn vs. Vanderbilt game this [past] Sunday, April 18th so I have been reading about those teams."
Ensberg had the joy of playing with the Astros during their recent run of glory years. He hit some big home runs. He played in memorable playoff games -- I really urge you to read his post about how an optical illusion at Minute Maid Park ended up being the real reason that Brad Lidge had to face Albert Pujols in a very historic baseball moment. He played alongside Jeff Bagwell, Craig Biggio, and Roger Clemens.
But ask Ensberg, and he'll tell you his most memorable baseball moment is actually something that happened off of the field.
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"My proudest achievement was winning the Daryl Kile 'Good Guy' Award," he said. "I remember speaking at our banquet and this is what I said: 'Daryl Kile was known to be a great guy who was a great teammate. I hope that when my baseball days are over, people don't think of me as a homerun hitter or some guy that played well. I want to be known as a "Good Guy" just like Daryl Kile is.'"
And since he had blogged about the optical illusion problem at Minute Maid, I asked him if there was any quirk more than any other that really bugged him about Minute Maid. My focus was on the Crawford Boxes, and how that might have affected his positioning, but his answer came from another direction.
"My biggest annoyance at Minute Maid was that the sun ricocheted off of a door in the Luxury seating," he said. "I had to duck or move to a spot that allowed me to see the batter. It stunk. I used to go ask if they could put something up in the door window so that it would block the sun. They just felt like it was something we could deal with."
Next week, I'll offer up some more from the interview. Ensberg will talk about playing with Bagwell and the Rocket. He offers up a sympathetic view on Milton Bradley -- something rarely seen or heard. We'll also find out the toughest pitcher he ever had to face. Meantime, look for him behind the microphone at college baseball games, and make sure to keep checking his blog.