- Location: Kissimmee, FL
- League: Florida State League 1985-1994
- Affiliation: Houston Astros 1985-1994
- Ballpark: Osceola County Stadium
The first professional baseball club from Kissimmee, FL, the Osceola Astros were moved from Daytona Beach, FL to the Houston spring training site in 1985. Drawing 38,082 fans (7th in the 11-team league), the team went 77-58 under manager Dave Cripe to take the Central division of the FSL. In the playoffs, they fell 2 games to 1 to the Fort Lauderdale Yankees. Osceola outscored the opposition 625-536. Rob Mallicoat (16-6, 1.36) was second to Greg Mathews in the league ERA race and only allowed 119 hits in 179 IP. Mallicoat took the other two legs of the pitching Triple Crown (striking out 158) and was rated the #3 prospect in the FSL by Baseball America. Mark Baker (4-5, 3.09) led the league with 24 saves. Joining Mallicoat on the league All-Star team was 3B Ken Caminiti, who hit .284/~.355/.404 with 83 runs and 9 triples.
In 1986, the Astros were 59-78, 26 games out in the central, under Tom Wiedenbauer. They drew 36,135 fans, 10th in the 12-team league. Outscored 623-567, they had no All-Stars though Dody Rather (12-9, 3.21) was ranked the #10 prospect in the league and led with 149 Ks. 3B John Fishel (.269/~.371/.433, 82 R, 83 RBI) was the offensive leader and led the FSL with 36 doubles. 2B Mike Brown hit .240/~.310/.327 but played all nine positions plus DH in one game. Blaise Ilsley (8-4, 1.77) pitched well, while the worst performer was a future major-leaguer, Mel Stottlemyre Jr. (0-7, 7.82).
The 1987 Osceola entry took the central division again (80-59) and made it to the finals, where they fell 3 games to 1 to Fort Lauderdale. Ken Bolek managed that year. They drew 38,068 fans, 9th in the 14-team league and outscored the other teams 662-488 in posting the lowest team ERA (3.02). MVP Jose Cano (15-3, 1.94, the club's lone All-Star) was first in the league in ERA, beating out Ramon Martinez. Jose Vargas (11-8, 2.33, a league-leading five shutouts) was third and Don Dunster (7-4, 2.50) seventh. Cano was picked as the #3 prospect by Baseball America. Brian Meyer (8-9, 25 Sv, 1.99) led the league in saves. OF Calvin James (.319/~.403/.414) lost the batting race by one point and C-1B Troy Afenir (.276/~.349/.493) provided the power.
In 1988, the Astros won the Central title in the first half (44-26), went 39-28 in the second half to finish half a game behind the Lakeland Tigers and had the best composite record in the FSL. They beat the West Palm Beach Expos in the semifinals but lost the championship to the St. Lucie Mets 2 games to 0. Drawing 44,023 fans, they were 10th in the 14-team league but significantly outdrew the much larger Miami, FL club. Keith Bodie served as manager and the team outscored the opposition 622-495, leading the league in runs and setting a new FSL record with 360 steals (in 484 tries). Osceola had an All-Star in first baseman Mike Simms, who Baseball America rated as the #2 prospect in the league. OF Tuffy Rhodes was picked as the #3 prospect. Simms only hit .243 but drew 76 walks and had an OBP around .361. He slugged .404 and his 16 homers were one shy of the league lead. His 73 RBI tied him for third place. Providing the speed were Rhodes (.283/~.397/.308, second in the league in OBP with 65 steals in 88 tries, second in steals), 2B-SS Lou Frazier (.235/~.364/.271, 87 SB in 103 tries, the league steal leader and one behind the leader in walks), utility man Trenidad Hubbard (.260/~.353/.363, 44 SB in 62 tries, 11 triples, one behind leader Sammy Sosa) and OF Bert Hunter (.233/~.291/.311, a league-leading 148 K, 54 SB in 59 tries and 86 runs, second to Milt Cuyler in the FSL). OF Victor Hithe (.270/~.340/.354) stole 31 in 41 tries and two others stole 20, giving them 7 players at that figure - even C Tony Eusebio (.245/~.324/.276) swiped 20. Pedro DeLeon (14-5, 2.44) was third in the league in wins and strikeouts (129), was 8th in ERA and tied Mark Petkovsek for the shutout lead with five.
In '89, Osceola produced a 72-65 record under new manager Rick Sweet. Drawing 53,586 fans, they were now 8th in the 14-team league. They outscored opponents 587-557. The All-Stars were P Wally Trice (16-4, 2.57, the league leader in wins and 7th in ERA) and utility infielder Andy Mota (.319/~.371/.400, 28 SB, the league batting titlist). DH Luis Gonzalez (.286/~.367/.453) would go on to the brighest career.
The 1990 Kissimmee-based club was nearly identical in record (72-66) and fell back to 10th in fans drawn (46,421) while continuing to outdraw Miami. Sal Butera was now at the helm and the team scored 603 while allowing 576. The big star was outfielder Kenny Lofton, who was second to Jacob Brumfield in the batting title race. Lofton hit .331/~.409/.395, stole 62 bases (second in the league to Eric Young), scored 98 runs (three behind leader Young) and legged out 159 hits, the most in the league. C-DH John Massarelli (.295/~.364/.346) was 7th in the league in batting average. Jeff Juden (10-1, 2.27) and Gabriel Rodriguez (12-5, 10 Sv, 1.68) were the pitching stars, while several staff members got rocked - Brian Griffiths (5-10, 4.81) and Ken Luckham (6-12, 4.14) tied for the league lead with 88 runs allowed while Todd Jones (12-10, 3.51) walked a league-worst 109 in 151 innings.
In '91, the Astros lacked All-Stars and top prospects but still outscored the opposition, 484-455. Managed by the same guy for two years in a row, they were 64-63 for Butera. 48,341 fans showed up, putting them 12th in the 14-team league in attendance. Massarelli (.309/~.362/.371) was one of the top hitters, while OF Brian L. Hunter hit .240/~.318/.301 and stole 32 bases. Carl Grovom (0-1, 1.51), Griffiths (4-3, 1.92), Ed Ponte (7-6, 10 Sv, 1.78, 43 H in 76 IP), Mark Small (3-0, 2 Sv, 1.61) and Donne Wall (6-3, 2.09) were all effective on the mound.
1992 marked a rise to 72-62 in Butera's third season. They were the top team in the central division in the first half but skidded in the second half (30-36). In the playoffs, they beat St. Lucie 2 games to 1 in round one, then fell to the Baseball City Royals 2 games to 1 in the semifinals. They had a 602-591 edge in runs, placing third in runs scored while allowing the most and committing the most errors (218). Hunter improved to .299/~.340/.418 with 80 runs, 9 triples and 16 steals. He was fourth in the FSL in average. 2B James Mouton (.282/~.370/.430) led the league in steals (51 in 62 tries) and runs (110) as well as errors at second (43). All-Stars were 1B Roberto Petagine (.293/~.387/.459) and P Jim Dougherty (5-2, 31 Sv, 1.56). Also bucking the bad pitching trend were Chris Hill (16-7, 2.93), Jim Lewis (5-1, 1.12) and Ben Gonzales (7-2, 3 Sv, 2.06, 109 IP of relief). 49,857 fans came out, making them next to last in attendance.
In '93, Houston's FSL affiliate only went 56-74 under Tim Tolman and drew 51,527 fans, 12th in the league - while their attendance continued a general upward trend, the rest of the league was also increasing its popularity. They were outscored 621-503 and had no All-Stars or top prospects. What they did have was a future superstar, OF Bobby Abreu (.283/~.352/.430), the league leader with 17 triples. 3B-1B Dennis Colon (.316/~.340/.397) was fifth in the FSL in batting average. Doug Mlicki (11-10, 3.91) allowed the most homers (16) in the loop while Ken Wheeler (10-14, 4.35) allowed the most runs (101).
1994 was marked by further decline for the Osceola county club. Tolman's team finished dead last at 46-89, 35 and a half games out of first and 13 1/2 behind the next team. Attendance fell to 38,496, 13th in the league. They scored 506, second-fewest, and allowed 691, 81 more than any other club. For the third straight year, their fielding percentage was worst in the league as their 216 errors were 42 more than any other team. They had no All-Stars, no top prospects and no league leaders. The only regularly effective offensive player would go on to the best career from the group, OF-3B Melvin Mora. Mora hit .282/.352/.426 but was caught stealing in 16 of 40 attempts.
After 10 years and the '94 debacle, the team name was changed to the Kissimmee Cobras.
|Year||Record||Finish||Manager||Playoffs||Hitting coach||Pitching coach|
|1985||77-58||2nd||Dave Cripe||Lost in 1st round||Charley Taylor|
|1986||59-78||9th||Tom Wiedenbauer||Stan Hough||Gary Tuck|
|1987||80-59||3rd||Ken Bolek||Lost League Finals||Jack Billingham|
|1988||83-54||1st||Keith Bodie||Lost League Finals||Jack Billingham|
|1989||72-65||8th||Rick Sweet||Jack Billingham|
|1990||72-66||7th||Sal Butera||Bobby Ramos||Jack Billingham|
|1991||64-63||7th||Sal Butera||Bobby Ramos||Jack Billingham|
|1992||72-62||7th||Sal Butera||Lost in 2nd round||Frank Cacciatore||Jack Billingham|
|1993||56-74||9th||Tim Tolman||Bob Robertson||Jack Billingham|
|1994||46-89||14th||Tim Tolman||Ivan DeJesus||Jack Billingham|