Burke, Qualls still root for Astros
Former Houston players contributing to D-backs' success
PHOENIX -- As Chris Burke thought about the upcoming series between the Diamondbacks and Astros, he started to wonder how he would feel when he saw his old teammates for the first time.
"Yesterday was the first day I really thought about it," he said Monday. "I was like, man, tomorrow's going to be weird, seeing everybody."
Well, not everybody. Nearly half the players on the Astros' roster were elsewhere in 2007, so when it came time to say hello to old friends, it didn't take very long to make the rounds. As the Diamondbacks were wrapping up their batting practice session, Burke snuck over to the Astros' side to say hello to a handful of former teammates and coaches, including Brad Ausmus, Lance Berkman, bench coach Jackie Moore and manager Cecil Cooper.
Burke and Berkman keep in touch regularly, so there wasn't much catching up to do when they spent the afternoon together in Phoenix on Monday. Still, the reunion was meaningful to Berkman, who was happy to see both Burke and Chad Qualls, two members of the 2005 team who reached the World Series.
"He's one of my best friends, not just in baseball but in life in general," Berkman said of Burke. "Anytime we can get together, I really enjoy that. As far getting to see guys like Chad, I love Chad. It seemed like all the guys we had on those teams in '04, '05 and '06, whether it be Russ Springer ... you just love seeing those guys."
At the time of the trade, Burke was disappointed but not surprised, considering the Astros had already signed second baseman Kazuo Matsui to a three-year contract. Qualls, however, was blindsided by the news that he was traded. His wife, Tara, a Houston native, was devastated, and it took a while to adjust to the idea of living somewhere else for half the year.
"She gets homesick," Qualls said. "She's never been away from home this long. I've been doing this since I got drafted. You go away to college; you go to the Minor Leagues. You're used to it."
Burke has had a slow start to the season, hitting .143 over 16 games while playing sporadically at first base, shorstop, third base and outfield. Qualls has performed well, allowing three runs -- all unearned -- over 14 1/3 relief innings.
Before most home games, Burke and Qualls lounge in a corner of the clubhouse with the television tuned to the Astros games.
"Pretty much right here, at 5 o'clock, I'll put that TV on the Astros games," Qualls said, pointing to a TV in the right corner of the clubhouse. "I'm pulling for them, pulling for the guys over there, the guys that I know."
"They give us a bunch of grief about that," Burke said of their D-Backs teammates. "But it's perfect -- we're two hours behind, so we get to watch the first five or six innings every day. I have to check in on Lance."
Both players are thrilled to have landed with a contending team and say they have no ill will toward the Astros.
"No hard feelings," Burke said. "I really feel great about the situation over here. It's very exciting time to be a member of this team. I think they have a real good team over there [in Houston]. They've got some good players. Hopefully, they start playing well again after they leave here."
Alyson Footer is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.