By Jason Chlapek

Killeen Daily Herald

Milo Hamilton is no stranger to Major League Baseball.

In fact, he has been the voice for several teams ? both Major and Minor League ? for more than 60 years. And starting in April, he will begin his 63rd season announcing as he will announce home games for the Houston Astros.

Hamilton was on hand with Astros pitchers Brian Moeller and Wesley Wright when the trio spoke to Shoemaker High School athletes on Wednesday at Shoemaker High School.

Hamilton and members of the Astros organization were on their annual visit of the Greater Killeen/Fort Hood/Temple region when they stopped by Shoemaker, a school that has a large enrollment of students who have at least one parent serving at Fort Hood.

"We like to go to Fort Hood to see the troops, but we weren't able to get on base this year so we decided to go to Shoemaker because a lot of these kids have parents who are serving in Iraq or Afghanistan," Hamilton said.

During the talk, Hamilton told members of the Shoemaker student body that the troops were in his prayers.

Hamilton began his announcing career in 1945 in the Minors before landing his first gig in the Majors by announcing for the Chicago White Sox. A few years later, he went to the north side of Chicago to announce for the Cubs.

Hamilton then announced for the St. Louis Cardinals, Milwaukee/Atlanta Braves and Pittsburgh Pirates before landing his current gig with the Astros. Hamilton also has a World Series ring from the 1979 season when the Pirates won the World Series.

Through the years, Hamilton has seen his share of changes, but none are more notable than the start of pitching rotations, the designated hitter and weight training and conditioning.

"The biggest change in baseball has to be the creation of relief pitchers," Hamilton said. "The days of a pitcher throwing a complete game in the Majors are rare, and after the sixth inning, you see different pitchers come in. You have right-handers throwing against right-handed batters, left-handers throwing against left-handed batters, a set-up man in the eighth inning and then the closer in the ninth. The bullpen is as important as the starting rotation nowadays."

While the American League adopted the use of a designated hitter in 1973, the National League still has the pitchers go up to bat. Hamilton has never been a fan of the DH.

"The DH was created to bring more offense and run-production," Hamilton said. "I say, 'let the pitchers hit.'"

Another opponent of the DH is Moeller, a member of the Astros' starting rotation.

"I spent six years in the AL (with the Detroit Tigers), and that's why my batting average is so bad now," Moeller said. "I spent six years not batting that it's almost like I forgot how to hit. I think pitchers should have to hit, and the league needs to do away with the DH."

The third-biggest change Hamilton has seen over the years is the evolution of weight-training and conditioning regimens into professional baseball.

"When I started announcing, plenty of coaches didn't want their players lifting weights or swimming during the season," Hamilton said. "When Rogers Hornsby was a manager, he didn't allow his players to go to the movies during the season because he thought the big screens messed up their hand-eye coordination. "

One thing Hamilton does see a lot more of because of weight-training and conditioning is the longevity of players' careers.

"Once upon a time, if a player played into his mid-30s, he had a lengthy career," he said. "But, because of weight-training and conditioning, players can play into their early or mid-40s."

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