Oct. 4, 2012
Editor’s Note: The following first appeared in the University of Iowa’s Hawk Talk Daily, an e-newsletter that offers a daily look at the Iowa Hawkeyes, delivered free each morning to thousands of fans of the Hawkeyes worldwide.
IOWA CITY, Iowa — Bo Porter was named manager of the Houston Astros last week. The former University of Iowa dual-sport athlete has ascended up the Major League Baseball coaching ranks, but has not forgotten his Hawkeye roots.
Porter was an outfielder and defensive back for the Hawkeyes from 1990-94. He was Iowa’s starting centerfielder in 1993, hitting .318 with 33 RBIs, eight doubles, four home runs and nine stolen bases. He was a three-year letterman in football from 1992-94, earning team MVP honors as a senior.
Following his time in Iowa City, he played three seasons in the majors as an outfielder for the Chicago Cubs, Oakland Athletics and Texas Rangers. He was drafted in the 40th round of the 1993 Major League Baseball Draft by the Cubs before making his MLB debut in 1999.
The New Jersey native will become a first-time MLB manager with the Astros after two seasons as the third base coach for the playoff bound Washington Nationals. He has also been on major league staffs in Florida and Arizona, while also serving as a minor league manager and outfield and base running coordinator.
The 2012 season marked his sixth as a big league coach.
“(Nationals manager) Davey Johnson has entrusted a lot of responsibilities to me,” said Porter. “I am involved in every aspect of the game. From line-ups, to double switches to pitching changes; he gives me complete leeway to run the game. It has been a great learning experience and has made me more confident in my ability to one day take that chair.”
Porter now has that opportunity to step into the manager’s chair. He will lead the franchise into a new era, as the Astros will compete in the American League for the first time in 2013.
Porter attributes his success to the foundation he built for himself at the University of Iowa.
“I was blessed to play for two of the most heralded coaches, not just in the history of the University of Iowa, but in college sports history,” said Porter. “I look at myself today, and the maturation that has taken place, I have to thank coach (Hayden) Fry and coach (Duane) Banks. The things I was able to learn from them about being a professional, work ethic, attention to detail…they really set the foundation for me; not only in sports, but in the maturation of life.”
His time at Iowa prepared him to climb the big league ranks.
“The commitment that has to be made to academics and two sports prepares you for dealing with time management and detailed preparation,” said Porter. “I really had to have my priorities in line. My time was limited. I went from one sport to the next. That was a huge factor when I left. All of those attributes help coaches maximize their ability.”
Porter earned his bachelor’s degree from Iowa in communication studies, while also learning from two of the finest coaches the college ranks have seen.
“On the football side of it, playing for a coach like Hayden Fry and his attention to detail, looking at every aspect of your opponent and how you can take advantage of different things your opponent does…our information in our scouting reports was so detailed,” said Porter. “That has helped me as a player, and as a coach, and it is an attribute I have taken with me for life.
“Coach Banks was the same way. He preached fundamentals to us. From an offensive standpoint, situational hitting, understanding game situations…those are things that when you are young, when you have that foundation instilled in you…you continue to grow in that position, or in other aspects of your life. That foundation will never leave you.”
Porter, who was heavily recruited out of high school, fondly recalled his recruiting visit to Iowa. He knew right away he wanted to be a Hawkeye.
“From coach Fry, coach (Frank) Verducci and coach (Bernie) Wyatt and all the coaches, to student services and Fred Mims…they laid out a four-year plan for me for academics, football and baseball,” said Porter. “It was an overwhelming visit that capped off the great communication I had with the staff. When I left Iowa after that visit, my mind was made up.”
During the busy 162-game MLB schedule, Porter still finds time to connect with the Hawkeyes.
“I try to get back to Iowa City at least once a year,” said Porter. “I talk to (assistant athletic trainer and travel coordinator) John Streif all the time. He keeps me up to speed with everything that is going on. I talk to (associate athletics director) Fred Mims and coach Banks a lot. I had that chance to visit with coach Fry on the telephone about a month ago.
“I have a Google alert for the Hawkeyes on my phone. I follow all the seasons.”