Captain’s Corner – You Hit Home Runs Not by Chance

By CAPT Bill Diehl, USCG (Ret.), P.E.

Port Bureau Astros Fans

CAPT Bill Diehl (center) with Janette Molina (left) and Cristina Gomez (right)

The Houston Astros just finished playing one of the most exciting World Series games in baseball history. Just when we thought Game 2 was the all-time best, along came Game 5 zigzagging through ten innings – the second longest game in the World Series record – with not one, not two, but three comebacks! And the series ending as World Series Champions! I think we can agree that Astros have been absolutely thrilling!

Growing up, baseball was big in the Diehl family—you see my grandfather was a professional baseball player. He was signed by Branch Rickey and drifted around the minor league until eventually making it to the major league in Philadelphia. Unfortunately, shortly after being called up, WWI called him onto a different playing field. When he returned to the sport he was considered too old for the majors, but continued to play minor league ball. The better part of the story that my dad tells, almost nonchalantly, is when grandpa retired he became good friends with Babe Ruth. My dad tells stories of him being around a lot and even caddying for Babe Ruth. Sadly, my grandfather passed at an early age, so we never got coached by him nor heard many of his playing days’ stories. My dad does say that he was passionate about the sport and very dedicated to practicing.

This is what I like about the Astros organization—they appear to be very dedicated to building a long term successful team by planning for the future. Delve into Astros’ history a bit, and you will easily see it took preparation, planning, and patience to bring them to this championship-playing level. It all started with a selloff of the premium players and an unprecedented tanking operation that produced two of the worst teams in MLB memory. Such disappointing seasons resulted in plenty of high draft picks and a farm system that produced many of their current players. Come 2017, the Astros patient and carefully-planned rebuild produced stunning results on the ballfield.
<[>Long-range planning has always been important to me. I may not always exhibit the patience the Astros have shown in pursuing their goals, but I choose to think I share their mind-set. I think, also, this mind-set is shared by the port “brain trust” as we work to keep the Houston Ship Channel deep and wide. While dredging the Ship Channel may not be as exhilarating as Game 5 of the World Series, it represents no less preparation, planning, and patience – and we have great players to keep us moving forward on the playing field.

The Army Corps of Engineers are midway through their navigation study and recently presented their findings at public meetings. (If you’d like an update, see article on page 18.) ACOE have identified a Tentatively Selected Plan to improve deep-draft navigation on our waterway. At this time, we are definitely on second base. Plan details still need to be addressed to reach home plate.
Another important aspect of the dredging planning and preparation process is the availability of dredged material placement areas. Significant private industry investment has been made along the Ship Channel, with the prospect of more to come, and preparation for these areas vital to our operations is crucial to a winning game plan. This, too, relates to ACOE’s navigation study, but devising sufficient placement areas will come at ingenuity of the whole Ship Channel team.

The Port Bureau’s dredging committee represents many industry stakeholders, and I invite you to join this champion team. We support advocacy for all the issues related to dredging, most recently lending our efforts to shine the spotlight on the insufficient allocations from the Harbor Maintenance Trust Fund that should rightfully help our ports with adequate maintenance. We may not have carried home the championship title yet, but we have scored a few home runs as we have worked with local public officials to secure more funding.
One sports commentator said of the Astros’ performance: “Every move hasn’t been perfect, but close.” It doesn’t get much better than that. Our goal at the Port Bureau is to imitate that success as we keep on root, root, rooting for the home port team.


  • Date November 20, 2017
  • Tags November 2017