HOUSTON -- Nationals bench coach Randy Knorr might know the Astros -- and the city of Houston -- better than most who sit on the visiting bench in Minute Maid Park.
Knorr spent three seasons with the Astros during his playing career (1996-97, '99) and either played for, played with or coached with nearly half of Houston's current coaching staff.
"I loved this city and I consider it one of the better baseball cities out there," Knorr said. "There was a lot of excitement around our club."
Knorr was a backup catcher on two separate Astros division championship teams, including the '97 team, who reached the playoffs for the first time in 11 years and just the third time in the franchise's history.
"That was my defining memory, when we dogpiled on each other," Knorr said, pointing at the pennant in left field honoring that title. "I was traded from Toronto after winning two World Series and I knew the Astros were working toward a championship. I had been through that phase already, and I think we left our mark here."
Knorr played with Astros third-base coach Pat Listach and special assistant to the general manager Doug Brocail during his time in Houston.
Listach was also Washington's third-base coach for two seasons (2009-10), and Houston manager Bo Porter was actually Listach's replacement from 2011-12 before taking over as the Astros' skipper. Houston pitching coach Brent Strom coached on the staff of the Astros' 1996 team when Knorr played.
His Houston connections run deep, though Knorr laments that series like these are the few times he gets to reconnect with old teammates and co-workers.
"It's probably not as hard to keep up as we make it, but you don't forget about these guys," Knorr said. "I still have a great friendship with Pat and a lot of respect for the times all of us had. I'm thrilled to see Bo with his own team out there."
Though the Astros' recent fortunes haven't matched Knorr's time -- or even the Nationals' current contending ways -- he did point out one major upgrade.
"This ballpark," he said, motioning to Minute Maid Park's open roof. "The Astrodome was just kind of bland, there it is, like so many of those dome parks. The fans were great there. But this place, I'd love to throw the uniform on and play a few more games here."
Chris Abshire is a contributor to MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.Less