Fowler steps in seamlessly to lead Astros

Fowler steps in seamlessly to lead Astros
February 23, 2014, 6:00 pm
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(USA Today Images)

KISSIMMEE, Fla. -- Dexter Fowler spent his entire career with Colorado before an offseason trade to the Houston Astros.

But the center fielder isn't taking the quiet approach of a new guy. He's already perfectly at home with Houston, taking over a leadership role this young team desperately needed.

"It's a good chance to get to nurture the guys," Fowler said. "Guys are here and I'm trying to get them over that learning curve because we've all gone through it."

As for his leadership style, Fowler lets each player dictate how he deals with them. At times he'll offer advice and other times he'll sit back and wait for someone to come to him.

At just 27, Fowler is one of the most experienced position players on Houston's roster after starting full time for the Rockies the past five years. The four other outfielders on Houston's roster are all younger than Fowler and none even has a full year of service time in the majors.

"It's a younger crowd, but that keeps me young," he said with a laugh. "I'm going on 28 years old and I feel like I'm the old, old guy here. I've been around the Todd Helton's and I've been around the young guys coming in so I feel like that has molded me."

Manager Bo Porter was thrilled to add someone of Fowler's caliber to his team. Fowler came to Houston in a trade that sent last year's starting center fielder Brandon Barnes and pitcher Jordan Lyles to the Rockies.

"(He has) a track record of success on the field. More importantly you look at his makeup and I think what he brings to our ball club off the field will be advantageous as well," Porter said.

Another advantage to acquiring Fowler is that it gives the Astros a true leadoff hitter for the first time since Michael Bourn was traded in 2011. Fowler has hit leadoff his entire career and is a .270 hitter with a .365 on-base percentage.

"That's home for me," Fowler said of batting leadoff. "My job is to get on base and score some runs and do it any way I can. I've always liked that challenge and I've done pretty well with it."

Along with the upheaval in his professional life, Fowler also experienced a major change in his personal life last month when he and his wife Aliya welcomed baby Naya Iman.

Fowler breaks into a huge smile simply at the mere mention of his little girl.

"It's a new journey and you have something else to play for," he said. "That's your daughter so you're playing for her future."

It's tough being away from his family, but he makes sure to video chat with his lovely ladies as often as he can.

"Her face changes every day," he said. "We Facetime a lot and she still knows my voice and my face."

He was concerned about touching her at first. The lanky 6-foot-4 athlete was worried he'd do something wrong.

"It was scary just handling her because my hands are so strong," he said gazing down at his big mitts. "So it was just like, `I didn't want to hurt her.'"

And don't think Fowler is one of those dads that won't help out when things get a little messy.

"I'm a master at changing diapers," he said.

Even the dirty ones?

"I do them all," he said. "Other than that, the burping and all that I have to give her to my wife."

For now he's off daddy duty and dealing with a different group of youngsters. He has simple expectations for the guys on this team hoping to turn things around after three straight 100-loss seasons.

"Just be accountable," he said. "If everybody is accountable for what they do and they do it (hard), that's all you can ask for."

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