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Houston Astros owner addresses Cove Lions

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Posted: Wednesday, April 29, 2009 12:00 pm | Updated: 8:15 am, Thu Aug 16, 2012.

By Evan Mohl

Killeen Daily Herald

COPPERAS COVE – Drayton McLane Jr. talked about the importance of change on Tuesday in front of the Copperas Cove Lions Club at the Hillside Ministries Church.

And McLane, who made his second trip to Central Texas in one week, had plenty of adjustments to make when he bought the Houston Astros in 1993.

"I thought to be successful, you should win 90 percent of the games," McLane said with a laugh. "That's what I had done all my life to get to that point: achieve 90 percent of my goals."

Then-coach Art Howe, along with general manager Mike Wood, informed McLane 135 wins in 162 games would be a record in Major League Baseball's 127-year history. Winning two-thirds of the team's games would put Houston in contention for a league title.

"It goes to show you I didn't know much about baseball at the time," McLane said. "But it also highlights the need for people to change and adapt. We're creatures of habit. We tend to stick to something that works and get content and believe in our own stuff. We must be able to change – whether it's a different road to work or a new business plan – to find success."

McLane even called on Bulldawgs coach Jack Welch, and asked if he could direct a good football program by running the same plays all the time. Welch responded with a "No sir."

The Cameron-born McLane spoke for 20 minutes, a task he joked was "hard for a Southern Baptist." He shared baseball stories, talked business and stressed the need for leadership.

During the group's business session, McLane even voted yes on a matter of whether to give funds to a third-grader who needs glasses.

"I was really getting into it," McLane said. "These organizations are great because you get to help people and carry on our values of freedom and religious values. Aren't we just blessed to have something to preserve?

"That's why the Houston Astros go to over 3,000 events for non-profits in a single year. That's just as important as winning."

Dr. Rose Cameron, Copperas Cove superintendent and current president of Lions Club, smiled and said McLane had to be a member to vote. She did, however, offer an application and added: "We'll gladly take your check so you can vote."

Even without McLane's vote, the motion passed.

McLane vehemently believes that the single hardest task in sports is to hit a baseball. He explained the physics just don't make sense of trying to hit a round ball going 95 miles per hour and often curving with a round bat.

"It's why we pay those athletes millions of dollars," he said.

Baseball also taught McLane how to deal with failure. He said it's the only sport where the defense controls the game, which is why pitching determines roughly 70 percent of the team's win-loss record. He also added that the best athletes succeed just 30 percent of the time.

"I don't think that would get me out of Copperas Cove High School," McLane said.

McLane, who made his fortune in wholesale grocery and later as vice chairman for Wal-Mart when the two companies merged, shared a story when he walked into the Astros' clubhouse after a bitter defeat. He became disgusted when loud, up-beat music blared from the speakers.

McLane approached first baseman Jeff Bagwell with the question. The slugger responded: "You have to have hope that you can do better the next day. We have a game in 24 hours. If we dwell on the game tonight, it will affect us. We can't focus on the past and what we can't fix."

Bagwell taught the owner not to be discouraged by failure and past mistakes – just do better the next day.

McLane concluded his talk with the importance of leadership. He said the best leaders take people where they wouldn't have gone otherwise. He then added three important qualities that leaders must have: operate out of imagination, seek adversity and walk with the big guys.

"We can never have too many leaders," McLane said. "They're the backbone of this country."

Contact Evan Mohl at emohl@kdhnews.com or (254) 501-7564.

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