2009 Community OutreachAstros Community Relations Department and Astros In Action Foundation manage the various community outreach aspects of the Houston Astros Baseball Club that are of interest to fans. See what we've been up to this year.
Houston Astros MLB Urban Youth Academy Groundbreaking
In a special ceremony on September 25, Major League Baseball (MLB), the Houston Astros and the Houston Parks and Recreation Department (HPARD) broke ground on the Houston Astros MLB Urban Youth Academy at Sylvester Turner Park. The future site of the second MLB Urban Youth Academy in the country will provide year-round free baseball and softball instruction to local youth ages 7-17. Several MLB officials, city and state representatives and baseball supporters were in attendance at the event emceed by Astros Hall of Fame broadcaster Milo Hamilton.
Some of the guests included Astros President of Business Operations Pam Gardner, MLB Executive Vice President of Baseball Operations Jimmie Lee Solomon, State Representative Sylvester Turner, Astros Interim Manager Dave Clark, Astros first base coach Jose Cruz and players Michael Bourn, LaTroy Hawkins, and Wesley Wright.
After the groundbreaking ceremony, MLB hosted over 250 children from the Harris Academy and the local Reviving Baseball in Inner Cities (RBI) Program to a youth-oriented event called Wanna Play?, providing various baseball activities such as batting and pitching cages, base running contests, and demonstrations by Houston Astros players and coaches.
Hawks Big League Bass Classic
On Thursday September 24 LaTroy Hawkins traveled to the Academy Sports + Outdoors store located on Houston's northwest side off highway 290 to sign autographs for fans. The appearance was part of his partnership with Academy to help promote his off-season charity event, Hawks Big League Bass Classic.
Hawk's Big League Bass Classic gives sports fans the exclusive opportunity to spend a November weekend in Del Rio, Texas fishing with him, four other Major League Baseball players and professional bass fishermen. During the month of September, Astros fans were able to register to win, at no charge to the winner, one of the five spots courtesy of Academy Sports + Outdoors. The exclusive weekend event convenes at Indianhead Ranch, a 10,000 acre, exotic hunting reserve complete with thousands of free roaming animals. Proceeds benefit Lifeline Youth and Family Services an organization that provides programs for children and families at risk for abuse, neglect, and delinquency.
Astros 2010 Player and Pet Calendar
The Houston Astros have teamed up with the Houston Humane Society (HHS); a Houston based non-profit organization, to produce the third annual Astros Player and Pet Calendar.
Astros players posed for photos with their pets, as well as homeless animals from HHS. Astros featured in the 2010 pet calendar include Jeff Keppinger, Doug Brocail, Hunter Pence, LaTroy Hawkins, Brian Moehler, Jason Michaels, Chris Sampson, Carlos Lee, Jeff Fulchino, Geoff Blum, Tim Byrdak, Lance Berkman, Darin Erstad and Mike Hampton.
Calendars went on sale September 22 and are just $15. They are available for purchase at Minute Maid Park in the Team Store, Houston area Petco stores, Houston Humane Society adoption centers and clinics and astros.com.
The Houston Humane Society is a non-profit animal shelter dedicated to eliminating cruelty, abuse, and the overpopulation of animals.
Forecast - Lots of Sunshine
Minute Maid Park was filled with smiling young faces as the Sunshine Kids enjoyed a very special party with Astros legend, Craig Biggio. On September 14 the Astros, along with Craig and Patty Biggio, hosted approximately 200 people from the Sunshine Kids to a "play day" at the ballpark. After running around the field and taking swings off of Biggio's pitching, the kids enjoyed a ballpark dining experience in the FiveSeven Grille which included autograph and picture opportunities with the Astros star.
The Astros were honored to be able to grant the wish of Zak Rosen on September 13. An avid Astros fan, Zak's wish was to throw out the first pitch before a game and work the Minute Maid Park scoreboards. Before doing both, the Astros treated Zak and his parents to lunch in the FiveSeven Grille.
Baseball Tomorrow Fund Equipment Drive
Each year, clubs around Major League Baseball partner with the Baseball Tomorrow Fund to host equipment drives to support the growth of youth baseball and softball. On September 12, Astros fans made a pitch for Houston youth by taking part in the 2009 Astros and Baseball Tomorrow Fund Equipment Drive benefiting the Boys and Girls Clubs of Greater Houston. Items collected included baseballs, bats, cleats, gloves and helmets. Astros fan and youth baseball player Reed Fredricks helped make the drive a huge success by donating two full carloads of equipment he collected himself.
Along with the donated equipment, the Astros presented the Boys and Girls Clubs of Greater Houston with a $5,000 grant from the Baseball Tomorrow Fund to further help them purchased needed equipment.
Astros Play GreenTM
The Astros Play GreenTM program continued in September with two events geared towards improving the environment and raising conservation awareness with children, the Earth's future caretakers.
On Thursday, September 10 Hunter Pence, the team's Play GreenTM Ambassador, joined Astros staff to help plant 20 trees at 300 North Post Oak Lane. The 20 trees represented the number of Astros home runs hit at Minute Maid Park in June and July. The Astros tree planting is in partnership with Keep Houston Beautiful, HLS Enterprises, Christison Landscape and Tree Town USA.
On Tuesday September 8, the Astros other Play GreenTM Ambassador Geoff Blum and Astros broadcaster Dave Raymond visited Woodland Hills Elementary School in Kingwood. An environmentally focused school, Blum's visit rewarded the students for their Earth-friendly efforts. While there, he read William Is Going Green to the second graders. William is an honest, good-natured, green hybrid garbage truck and the leader of the pack. His friends are a diverse crew of recycling trucks with very distinctive personalities; each painted the color that matches his or her individual duty. Blum presented the kids with their own autographed copy of the book, which is 100% recyclable, along with Play GreenTM baseball caps and tickets to a future Astros game.
September's Hometown Hero
Each month, the Astros In Action Foundation partners with CenterPoint Energy to recognize an individual who has gone above and beyond to serve their community as part of the CenterPoint Energy Hometown Heroes Program. On September 8, Ken Davis was honored as September's Hometown Hero.
Davis proudly serves as the principal at McNeill Elementary. While at Lamar CISD, he worked at two campuses and both schools received exemplary status - the highest ranking given to a school in the state of Texas. By building a culture of high expectation at both campuses among teachers, parents, and students, Davis has proven that his dedication can make a difference in his schools. In 2009, Davis received the honor of being named the Distinguished Principal for Texas and will represent Texas in October when all the distinguished principals from across the nation meet in Washington, D.C.
Roberto Clemente Award
On September 4 Hunter Pence was recognized as the Houston Astros recipient of the 2009 Roberto Clemente Award presented by Chevy. He is one of 30 Major League Club nominees for the national 2009 Roberto Clemente Award, which is given annually to the Major League Baseball player who combines outstanding skills on the baseball field with devoted work in the community. As he has quickly become an integral piece of the Astros championship aspirations, Pence has also willingly taken an active role in team activities off the field.
Donating Saves Lives
The second of two community blood drives hosted by the Astros and ARAMARK and run by The Eileen Murphree McMillin Blood Center at The Methodist Hospital was held on August 22 at Minute Maid Park. The blood drive was open to everyone 17 and older, weighing at least 110 pounds, and in generally good health. All who donated or attempted to donate received a special Astros T-shirt and a half-price coupon redeemable for tickets to a future Astros home game.
Astros Buddies Party At The Park
The Coca-Cola Astros Buddies Club is the team's fan club for kids 14 and under. One of the many 2009 membership benefits was an invitation to the team's end of the summer members-only autograph party on August 20. In addition to autographs, members enjoyed visits to the Astros dugout, playing a variety of games and interacting with the Astros mascots, face painters, balloon artists and magicians.
Doug Brocail, LaTroy Hawkins, Jeff Keppinger, Brian Moehler, Miguel Tejada and Jose Valverde signed autographs for the Astros best young fans.
UMPS CARE Charities is a non-profit organization established by Major League Baseball (MLB) umpires to provide financial, in-kind and emotional support for America's youth and families in need. Three times this season MLB umpires have hosted children in foster care to a game at Minute Maid Park. The final of these three events happened on August 9.
Umpire Sam Holbrook provided five kids that had been part of the Spaulding for Children agency with tickets to the game, a goody bag of treats, and the unique opportunity to step onto the field for a souvenir baseball and photo.
August's Hometown Hero
Each month, the Astros In Action Foundation partners with CenterPoint Energy to recognize an individual who has gone above and beyond to serve their community as part of the CenterPoint Energy Hometown Heroes Program. On August 8, Mary Moreno was honored as August's Hometown Hero.
Moreno founded Military Moms and Wives in 2003. This group collects donations and supplies to make care packages to send to American troops fighting overseas. One of the goals of the organization is to remind the troops that they are not forgotten. In 2008, the organization sent over 5,000 care packages to soldiers in Iraq and Afghanistan.
Sharing Smiles And Sunshine
Astros players welcomed a group of Sunshine Kids and their families to the game on August 7. Sunshine Kids is an organization that provides positive group activities and emotional support to young cancer patients and their families. Prior to the game many of the Astros players spent a few minutes signing autographs and taking pictures with the group. Over the past 16 years, the Astros and the Sunshine Kids have shared timeless memories and formed a very special bond.
Astros Wives Black Ties And Baseball Caps Gala
The Houston Astros Wives, led by Co-Chairs Michelle Quintero and Pamela Michaels, hosted the 20th Annual Black Ties and Baseball Caps Gala benefitting The Houston Area Women's Center on August 6. Held on the field at Minute Maid Park, the event was attended by current and former Astros players, including Jeff and Erica Bagwell and Craig and Patty Biggio along with Astros Chairman and CEO Drayton McLane and his wife Elizabeth. Hall-of-Fame Broadcaster Milo Hamilton once again served as the Master of Ceremonies. This year's Gala raised over $450,000 and in 20 years the Black Ties and Baseball Caps Gala has raised more than three million dollars for The Houston Area Women's Center.
This season, the Houston Astros and Whataburger took the players off the field and into the Houston community through the Whataburger Ultimate Whatafan contest. August 4 was the final appearance, in a series of four visits, and offered fans the opportunity to meet and take pictures with Astros infielder Jeff Keppinger. The other three restaurant appearances included visits from Doug Brocail, LaTroy Hawkins and Chris Sampson.
While there fans could register to become the Whataburger Ultimate Whatafan. At the end of the season, the Ultimate Whatafan will receive autographed jerseys from the Houston Astros, Round Rock Express and Corpus Christi Hooks. In addition, the winner will also receive two (2) suite tickets to the Astros vs. Reds game on September 26, the opportunity to be on the field for batting practice, take part in the Astros Minor League MVP Ceremony and will throw out the ceremonial first pitch.
A Family Affair
On July 26, Astros players and executives all took to the field and enjoyed a game of catch with their families. Children sported their 2009 Family Day t-shirt and received goodie bags. After field play, the team took one big family photo and enjoyed lunch before the game.
Commit For Life
Astros fans once again did their part and on July 24 participated in the second of two blood drives hosted by the team, ARAMARK and the Gulf Coast Regional Blood Center (GCRBC). All who donated or attempted to donate received a special Astros T-shirt and were entered into a drawing for tickets to future Astros games. The GCRBC began operations in 1975 and has grown to more than 700 employees serving more than 170 hospitals and health care institutions in the 25-county Texas Gulf Coast, Brazos Valley and East Texas regions.
Youth Learn From Experts At Minute Maid Park
Minute Maid Park was the site of a youth clinic presented by Powerade. On July 23 the Texas Baseball Academy led approximately 60 kids between the ages of 13-18 through skill stations focused on base running, hitting and throwing. Astros players Wesley Wright and Jeff Keppinger conducted a question and answer session and signed autographs.
Youth participating in the clinic won the opportunity through the POWERADE ION4 ™ Houston Astros Baseball Sweepstakes. Five grand prize winners were selected in a random drawing from among all eligible entries received. Each winner and up to twelve of their friends or teammates participated in the fantasy baseball clinic and were given tickets to a future Astros game. In addition to the clinic, grand prize winners received select POWERADE ION4 ™ dugout equipment including a water cooler, water bottles, towels and a six-month supply of Powerade ION4 ™.
July's Hometown Hero
Each month, the Astros in Action Foundation and CenterPoint Energy honor an area citizen with the title of Hometown Hero. Those that have been recognized have gone above and beyond and performed extraordinary acts within their communities.
On July 22, the Astros honored Tammy Sharp as the July Hometown Hero. After grieving the loss of her 15-year-old daughter to cancer, she dedicated herself to combating cancer by getting involved with the American Cancer Society. She is actively involved in Relay for Life events and an avid supporter of the Sunshine Kids, an organization that provides positive group activities and emotional support to young cancer patients and their families. Four years ago she started the first Alvin Manvel Relay for Life. The relay has grown from 10-12 teams to over 40 teams. In addition, she has written and published a book entitled Laughing through the Fear. Using laughter to manage her fear and her daughter Kelly's fear, the book illustrates the obstacles they endured battling Kelly's illness.
Lunar Landing Turns 40
The day was all about NASA. Forty years to the date, one step for man signified one giant leap for mankind. Commemorating a momentous milestone in space exploration, the Astros joined NASA at Minute Maid Park to celebrate the 40th Anniversary of the Apollo 11 Lunar Landing mission.
Several festivities commemorated the July 20, 1969 event. Prior to the game, Astros Chairman and CEO Drayton McLane held a press conference along with seven long-time members of the NASA Team that contributed to the success of the Apollo Program: Andrea Mosie, Frank Hughes, Jack Kinzler, Jerry Goodman, Joe Kosmo, Randy Stone and Sylvia Stottlemyer. The NASA Team members also took part in that night's pregame ceremony, which included each of them simultaneously throwing ceremonial first pitches. Astronaut Dottie Metcalf-Lindenburger sang the national anthem.
Additionally, all Astros players sported special caps featuring the Apollo 11 patch. The first 10,000 fans at the game also received a replica of the Apollo 11 cap courtesy of United Space Alliance and NASA exhibits were displayed in Union Station during the game.
Again this season, the Astros partnered with HomeAid Houston and the Greater Houston Builders Association for Project Playhouse.
Designed and constructed by the Custom Builders Association, the farmhouse-style playhouse was completely furnished for full-time play. The playhouse included an air conditioning unit and featured a 32-inch flat screen television, a DVD player, Nintendo Wii game console and was decorated with Astros items.
The house was displayed at Minute Maid Park from July 20 through August 23 and during that time fans were able to support the initiative, benefitting homeless advocacy group HomeAid Houston, by purchasing $5 raffle tickets.
Call To Duty
July 10 marked a special day for Astros players, fans and citizens across Houston. The Astros Adopt-A-Firehouse Day began with nine Houston Astros players "adopting" the local fire station that corresponded with their uniform number in recognition of the firefighters' service to the Houston community. While the players were at the fire stations, they presented the firefighters with an autographed, framed jersey, signed autographs and took pictures with the firefighters and their families.
Participating players included: Hunter Pence (Firehouse No. 9); Miguel Tejada (Firehouse No. 10); Ivan "Pudge" Rodriguez (Firehouse No. 12); Cecil Cooper (Firehouse No. 15); LaTroy Hawkins (Firehouse No. 22); Russ Ortiz (Firehouse No. 23); Doug Brocail (Firehouse No. 26); Geoff Blum (Firehouse No. 27) and Chris Sampson (Firehouse No. 43).
In addition to the visits during the day, the Astros and their fans honored fallen firemen Captain James Harlow and Damion Hobbs by having members of the Harlow and Hobbs families participate in a special pre-game ceremony and one member of each family threw out the ceremonial first pitches.
During the game, the Astros public show of support for the Houston Fire Department continued as the entire team wore special issued Houston Fire Department baseball caps. The game-worn caps were autographed by players after the game and auctioned to raise money for the Firefighters Protection Fund.
Houston's All-Star Takes The Field In St. Louis
On July 7, the Astros conducted a special pre-game ceremony recognizing Houston native Gary Lynn as the Astros "All-Star" of the "All-Stars Among Us" campaign, which acknowledged individuals who are impacting their communities in extraordinary ways. Out of the three "All-Star" finalists representing the Astros, Gary Lynn was chosen by fans across the nation for his community service through the Gary J. Lynn Foundation.
Gary, who has cerebral palsy and is wheelchair bound, started the foundation as a way to support and encourage others with cerebral palsy and to improve their quality of life. Joining Astros All-Stars Hunter Pence and Miguel Tejada in St. Louis, Gary was honored during pre-game ceremonies at the 2009 MLB All-Star Game along with 29 other "All-Stars Among Us" finalists representing their respective Major League Baseball clubs.
Pledge To Be Healthy
Youth often lack information about how to live active, healthy lifestyles and teaching them about proper nutrition along with appropriate exercise combats youth obesity and other children's health issues. Led by Astros trainers Nathan Lucero, Rex Jones and Dr. Gene Coleman, on July 7, the Houston Astros hosted the 2009 PLAY event at Minute Maid Park. More than 75 kids from the Boys and Girls Clubs of Greater Houston attended the clinic and engaged in educational stations focused on healthy living and the dangers of steroid abuse.
Following the clinic, Astros pitchers LaTroy Hawkins and Tim Byrdak reinforced the message of living a healthy and balanced lifestyle as they conducted a brief question and answer session.
PLAY stands for Promoting a Lifetime of Activity for Youth and is a public awareness campaign of the Professional Baseball Athletic Trainers Society (PBATS) that began in 2004. Working in conjunction with the Taylor Hooton Foundation and Major League Baseball clubs, PBATS is incorporating anti-steroid education within the PLAY campaign to generate awareness of this problem.
Members of the Coca-Cola Astros Buddies Club receive special benefits available only to kids 14 and under. One of those unique benefits is the chance to take part in Buddies Behind-The-Scenes Day.
On June 28, fifteen lucky members were chosen to learn more about the front office aspects of the game and were mentored by current team employees.
Each year, members are invited to register to win the chance to "work" for the Astros at Buddies Behind-The-Scenes Day. The jobs offered insight into the various responsibilities of Astros staff before and during an Astros game. Members took on the tasks as grounds crew and park patrol members; Junction Jack, Jr.; reporter; TV broadcaster; radio broadcaster; Spanish radio broadcaster; pre-game coordinator; public address announcer; first pitch; kids' first call and scoreboard operator.
New this year, was the addition of nine Buddies members who won the opportunity to "work" as Astros players. Each of these kids took their position on the field right before the game and were joined by the Astros player that started at their position. The Buddies remained on the field for the anthem, received a baseball autographed by the player and then watched the rest of the game as honorary players from their seats.
Youth Clinic At Houston Astros Major League Baseball Urban Youth Academy
The Houston Astros and the Houston Area Urban League (HAUL) hosted a Youth Baseball Clinic on June 27 at the Houston Astros Major League Baseball (MLB) Urban Youth Academy at Sylvester Turner Park.
The Youth Baseball Clinic, sponsored by the Astros in Action Foundation and HAUL, featured skills led by Darrell Miller, Major League Baseball's Urban Youth Academy Director. Kids ages 7-13 in attendance received one-on-one instruction focusing on fundamental baseball skills including base running, hitting, throwing and fielding. Texas Southern University Baseball players were also in attendance to assist in skills instruction.
Following the clinic, former Astros players Enos Cabell, Larry Dierker and Jimmy Wynn and current Astros pitcher LaTroy Hawkins conducted a question and answer session with participants and signed autographs.
Kids participating in the clinic represented HAUL, St. Monica Youth Sports Ministry, Smokey Jasper Park baseball program, and the Pleasantville community baseball program from Houston's historical Acres Homes District.
The clinic was the first event hosted by the Astros at the site since the MLB field ribbon cutting ceremony in January. The event was the first of many that will enable youth throughout the city to develop their baseball and softball skills while also learning more about the lesser known aspects of baseball administration. On-site instructional seminars included free lessons on umpiring, athletic field management, scouting and player development, sports and broadcast journalism, public relations and statistics as well as athletic sports training.
Leading In The Field Of Medicine
During the month of June, the Houston Astros and The Methodist Hospital System worked together on a number of community events including, Berkman's Bunch, a community blood drive and a special Astros visit to The Methodist Hospital. This partnership furthers the shared mission of making a difference in the Houston community in a personal and impactful way.
The 2009 Berkman's Bunch program kicked off in June with special visits on June 27 and June 6. For the ninth consecutive year, Lance Berkman and The Methodist Hospital System hosted several special days at Minute Maid Park for disadvantaged youth.
The program gave these children a chance to attend an Astros game and experience baseball in a unique way. Berkman met with approximately 50 children prior to each Saturday home game in the summer, provided them with tickets to the game, a special goodie bag and the opportunity for one-on-one interaction with the Astros first baseman.
Community Blood Drive
The first of two community blood drives hosted by the Astros and ARAMARK and run by The Eileen Murphree McMillin Blood Center at The Methodist Hospital was held on June 27 at Minute Maid Park. The blood drive was open to everyone 17 and older, weighing at least 110 pounds, and in generally good health. All who donated or attempted to donate received a special Astros T-shirt and a half-price coupon redeemable for tickets to a future Astros home game.
On Friday, June 26, Houston Astros players Lance Berkman, Hunter Pence, Chris Sampson, and Jason Michaels along with Astros Chairman and CEO Drayton McLane and Astros President of Business Operations Pam Gardner took a special trip to The Methodist Hospital. This annual event was highlighted by a pep rally emceed by Astros Hall of Fame broadcaster Milo Hamilton.
The pep rally featured games in which Astros players competed against Methodist Hospital employees all in the spirit of fun and in celebration of the employees' hard work and service. Following the pep rally, players visited patients receiving treatment at the hospital.
Home Runs = Trees
On June 24, Astros infielder Geoff Blum, and the team's front office employees planted 29 trees around the Sawyer Heights Lofts community to represent the home runs hit by the Astros at Minute Maid Park during the months of April and May. This season, the Astros are working with Play GreenTM partners, Keep Houston Beautiful, HLS Enterprises, Christison Landscape and Tree Town USA to plant a tree for every Astros home run hit at their home ballpark.
June's Hometown Hero
Each month, the Astros in Action Foundation and CenterPoint Energy honor an area citizen with the title of Hometown Hero. Those that have been recognized have gone above and beyond and performed extraordinary acts within their communities.
On June 23, the Astros honored Matthew Stephenson as the Hometown Hero. Matthew was chosen for his commendable deeds through his charitable campaign, "Matthew's Challenge". Two years ago, Matthew, who suffers from mild cerebral palsy, started the fundraising campaign which benefits United Cerebral Palsy of Houston.
At the youthful age of 11 years old, Matthew pledged to raise $30,000 and is well on his way. To date, Matthew's Challenge had raised over $14,000. Matthew's efforts have been featured in Houston's Prime Living magazine, July's issue of Texas Monthly and on several billboards throughout the city.
Matthew's exemplary strides of defying the odds and helping others with cerebral palsy illustrated the true measure of a Hometown Hero.
A Broadcast With A Cause
During the Astros contest against the Chicago Cubs on June 10, the Astros In Action Foundation (AIAF) and Fox Sports Houston teamed up to host a live in-game charity auction. Funds raised from the event totaled more than $60,000 with all proceeds benefitting the Houston Astros Major League Baseball Urban Youth Academy at Sylvester Turner Park and the Boys and Girls Clubs of Greater Houston.
Broadcast live, the auction gave fans the opportunity to bid on exclusive Astros memorabilia, premium packages, one-of-a-kind experiences and more.
Throughout the game, FS Houston's Bart Ennis and Patti Smith encouraged fans both in-stadium and viewers at home to support the worthwhile cause. Some of the unique items included an Owners Suite package for 20 people, Private Batting Practice experience and a Golf Package that included an invitation for four to play with an Astros celebrity along with a meet and greet with several Astros legends.
In addition to the auction items, fans purchased Fox Sports Houston Astros VIP Fan Bags for $100 each. The bags, valued at $300, included an Astros autographed baseball, Astros promotional items and numerous passes to area attractions.
Sharing Smiles And Sunshine
In the second visit this season, Astros players welcomed a group of 60 Sunshine Kids and their families to the game on June 5. The Sunshine Kids is an organization that provides positive group activities and emotional support to young cancer patients and their families. Prior to the game most of the Astros players spent a few minutes signing autographs and taking pictures with the group. Over the past 16 years, the Astros and the Sunshine Kids have shared timeless memories and formed a very special bond.
Houston's Greenest Classroom
On June 2, Astros Play Green ambassador Hunter Pence met with 45 local Cinco Ranch High School students who were selected as the Greenest Classroom in an Astros online Play Green contest. In addition to winning a visit with an Astros player, the students received tickets to the Astros game against the Colorado Rockies and the class was also recognized on the field in a pre-game ceremony for their "green" practices.
Racing For The Finish Line
On May 30, more than 2,900 Astros fans and running enthusiasts took to the starting line and participated in the 7th Annual Astros In Action Foundation Race for the Pennant tallying the race's largest turnout since its first run in 2003. With the help of presenting sponsors The Methodist Hospital and the JLH Foundation, and in partnership with Academy Sports + Outdoors and the Chevron Houston Marathon, more than $100,000 was raised to benefit the Astros in Action Foundation.
This year's Race for the Pennant course featured a new route that sent runners on a scenic route of downtown. Beginning at Minute Maid Park on Crawford Street, the route headed towards the Elysian Viaduct, traveled back through downtown Houston, and finished inside the ballpark.
Overall Masters Male and Female Winners were Sean Wade (15:11.6) and Caroline Burum (19:43.1) and the Overall Open Male and Female Winners were Sesar Figueroa (14:53.3) and Lauren Smith (17:46.3). Top finishers in each category received special prizes while all registered participants received an official race T-shirt, a ticket voucher for two free tickets to a 2009 Astros home game and an invitation to the post-race party inside Minute Maid Park.
In addition to presenting sponsor The Methodist Hospital and the JLH Foundation, the Astros In Action Foundation received Race for the Pennant sponsorship assistance from community partners: Academy Sports + Outdoors, Chevron Houston Marathon, ARAMARK, Buffalo Specialties, Inc., Minute Maid, Coca-Cola, Continental Airlines, Michelob Ultra, FS Houston, Newsradio 740 AM KTRH, Precision Graphics Centers, HEB, Kolache Factory, Mliepins Graphics Company, Pei Wei Asian Diner, Last Train Out, and Hilton Americas Houston.
A Grand Slam For Higher Education
The Houston Astros and the makers of Minute Maid created Grand Slam for Youth Baseball (GSFYB), a four-part program designed to bring the benefits of the National Pastime to the young people of Houston. One piece of this program is the GSFYB Scholarships that provide Houston-area high school senior boys and girls with college expenses.
These scholarships are largely funded by the Astros In Action Foundation and Minute Maid; however, recently one group of local students took it upon themselves to raise money and fund a scholarship for a deserving student. Beck Junior High School's Honor Society students sold Minute Maid products at school events and raised an impressive $2,500 which provided one scholarship to a graduating high school senior in the Greater Houston area.
On May 23, Beck Junior High School students Rosemary Anthony and Claudia Wood, National Junior Honor Society President Jordan Stading and Principal James Cross presented their check to the Astros In Action Foundation for the Grand Slam for Youth Baseball Scholarship Program during a pre-game ceremony.
Fielding A Dream Is Never Too Late
May flowers blossomed into cheers of joy when four special Astros guests attended a game at Minute Maid Park. Many are familiar with the Make-A-Wish Foundation and the organization's aspiration to grant the wishes of children with life-threatening medical conditions; however, few are aware of the Never Too Late Foundation. This unique charity's primary purpose is to also provide life-changing experiences but with one small difference, they cater to the wishes of elderly individuals and help make their dreams come true.
Trudy Robbins, Ethel Lawrence and Bonnie Pyle have three things in common; they are all 90+ years young, are devoted Astros fans and reside at Atria Assisted Living. Their wish was to meet the Astros. At the same time the Astros were able to grant the wish of Christopher Martinez a 14-year-old Astros fan battling Mosaic Trisomy 14. His wish was to also meet the Astros and in particular Lance Berkman.
Through the Never Too Late Foundation and the Make-A-Wish Foundation, on May 23 these two dreams came true. Robbins, Lawrence and Pyle, who never miss watching an Astros game, attended the Astros game against the Rangers. Their wish to meet an Astros player was topped by watching batting practice from the field and meeting several players. Christopher's experience included playing catch on the field with Berkman, touring the clubhouse, watching batting practice from the field and throwing out the game's ceremonial first pitch. His never-ending smile punctuated a day full of magical moments.
Buses For Baseball
On May 21, Astros players Geoff Blum, Michael Bourn, Tim Byrdak, Jeff Fulchino, Geoff Geary, LaTroy Hawkins, Jeff Keppinger, Russ Ortiz and Chris Sampson provided enduring memories to 50 parents and children from Crockett Elementary, as the Major League Baseball Players Trust's "Buses for Baseball" program motored into Houston.
Crockett Elementary serves underprivileged children from low-income families. The attending families also participated in the Volunteers of America, Strengthening Families Program, where parents and children learned better ways to communicate with each other.
This season, "Buses for Baseball," a program administered by the Players Trust and underwritten by Majestic Athletic, a division of VF Imagewear, Inc., provided transportation and personal greetings for more than 1,500 underprivileged children attending Major League Baseball games as invited guests of their big league heroes. Courtesy of the players' charitable foundation, the families received round-trip transportation to the game, met the players, and received free tickets, food, beverages and souvenirs.
May's Hometown Hero
Each month, the Astros in Action Foundation and CenterPoint Energy honor an area citizen with the title of Hometown Hero. Those that have been recognized have gone above and beyond and performed extraordinary acts within their communities.
On April 28, Houston was hit with torrential rain and unexpected flooding leaving homes, cars and many people in perilous situations. As a result, Houston Fire Department's Rescue No. 10 was called into action and saved five people that found their lives threatened. They were also joined by a selfless citizen who helped in the rescue operation.
The Rescue No. 10 Crew was dispatched to the Beltway 8, I-10 feeder at 4:00 a.m. in the morning where the location was 14 feet under water. Over the course of several hours, the crew would make four separate extremely dangerous water rescues in the pitch black brightened only by lightning strikes. They were joined in the rescue by a selfless citizen who was attempting to rescue a woman from her sinking vehicle prior to the rescue crew arriving on the scene.
On May 21, the Astros In Action Foundation recognized these individuals as May's Hometown Heroes. They included from the Houston Fire Department's Rescue No. 10: Captain C.E. Mathison, Matt Whatley, Christopher Garcia, Beau Moreno and Ebodio Reynoso, the Houston citizen, who fearlessly joined the team's rescue efforts.
Derby Day At Minute Maid Park
The Astros In Action Foundation hosted the 7th Annual Home Run Derby at Minute Maid Park on May 20 as part of Reliant Energy's Power Blast Program. Houston Texans players David Anderson, Alex Brink, Nick Ferguson, Chris Myers, Owen Daniels, Andre Johnson, Vonta Leach, Dan Orlovsky, Matt Schaub and Eric Winston stepped into the Astros batting cage at Minute Maid Park and through their home runs and hits raised $31,300 for the Boys and Girls Clubs of Greater Houston.
For every home run hit, Reliant Energy donated $500 and $100 for each hit into the outfield. This year's Derby featured two new "bull's eye" and "money ball" challenges. Additional dollar amounts ranging from $1,000 - $10,000 were donated for every ball hitting a "bull's eye." Each player's last swing was designated the "money ball," and the money raised from that swing was doubled by Reliant. The Texans combination of home runs and hits resulted in a donation of $31,300.
During the Astros and Brewers game that night, Reliant also awarded $500 for each Astros home run hit by an Astros player. Shortstop Miguel Tejada's home run in the second-inning increased the total funds raised on "Derby Day" to $31,800.
In just four short years, the Reliant Energy Home Run Derby has raised $69,850 and when combined with Reliant's donations for Astros home runs hit at Minute Maid Park over the last four plus years, the Reliant Energy Power Blast program has raised $166,350 (through May 2009). Funds raised support after school and summer programming including homework help and tutorials, computer learning centers, and sports leagues at the Boys and Girls Clubs of Greater Houston.
Going Back To School
Astros infielder Jason Smith went back to school on May 20. Smith visited with third, fourth and fifth graders at Maplebrook Elementary answering questions about playing Major League Baseball and signing autographs for the students. Maplebrook Elementary won the visit as part of an Astros promotion that registered schools that booked a Minute Maid Park educational tour.
Tommy Bahama Island Cowboy Classic
On May 18, the Astros took part in the 4th Annual Tommy Bahama Island Cowboy Classic. The golf tournament benefitted the Astros in Action foundation and Montgomery County Special Olympics. Current players Russ Ortiz and Darin Erstad, third base coach David Clark, former players Jeff Bagwell, Enos Cabell, Jim Deshaies, Larry Dierker, Doug Drabek, Shane Reynolds, and Jimmy Wynn along with broadcasters Bill Brown and Dave Raymond took part in the festivities.
Pink In The Park
Astros players and coaches joined several of their mothers and wives on May 9 at Minute Maid Park at the Astros In Action Foundation's Pink In The Park Brunch and Bazaar presented by Minute Maid with proceeds benefitting The Methodist Cancer Center and the Houston Affiliate of Susan G. Komen For The Cure.
Pam Gardner, Astros President, Business Operations, and Elizabeth McLane, wife of Drayton, served as Honorary Chairpersons for the event.
Several Astros executives, including Chairman and CEO Drayton McLane, General Manager Ed Wade and President of Baseball Operations Tal Smith also took part in the event, which featured both a shopping bazaar tailored to women and a brunch, hosted by Hall of Fame broadcaster Milo Hamilton.
Actor James Denton, famous for his role in the TV series Desperate Housewives, was a featured guest at the event. Denton hosted question-and-answer sessions with Lance Berkman, his wife Cara and mother Cynthia and Hunter Pence and his mother Gail.
Several other players' mothers were in attendance, including Carrie Bourn, Dorothy Erstad, Marie Geary, Valerie Keppinger, Lynn Michaels, Connie Muecke (Blum), Teresa Ortiz, Linda Sampson, Ellie Towles and Ruby Wright.
In addition to presenting sponsor Minute Maid, other Pink In The Park Brunch and Bazaar sponsors included Reliant Energy, The Methodist Hospital, Joe and Harriet Foster/Nancy and Bryan Ruez, Bank of Texas, CenterPoint Energy, Don and Chris Sanders, UPS, and Fox Sports Houston. Proceeds from the event benefitted both The Methodist Cancer Center and the Houston Affiliate of the Susan G. Komen For The Cure.
Other "Pink" Activities
To further support breast cancer awareness and research, the Astros "pinked out" Minute Maid Park during the May 6-10 homestand. Pink ribbons were displayed throughout the ballpark on dugout tops, on the train, and on banners and signs. The Astros star on the wall behind home plate was pink as well.
Pink was also a theme at concession stands as ARAMARK sold Minute Maid pink lemonade with proceeds, up to $5,000, benefitting breast cancer research through the Astros In Action Foundation. A frozen pink lemonade adult beverage and pink cupcakes were also for sale. Special Astros pink merchandise was also available at the Team Store.
Throughout the week many fans received pink giveaway items including caps, jerseys and silicone bracelets, the team hosted a Women's Health Expo prior to the May 8 game and the post-game fireworks on May 9 even had a pink theme.
On Mothers' Day, May 10, Major League Baseball at each game honored one woman as the "Honorary Bat Girl" who was selected for her heroics in battling or supporting the cause of breast cancer research. Karissa Ma, a devoted Astros fan and breast cancer survivor was chosen as Houston's honorary bat girl.
Choices - On The Field And In Life
Each year, area schools are invited to participate in the Fielder's Choice Program by submitting students' essays that address the importance of making good choices.
On May 8, Houston Astros players, broadcasters and Whataburger representatives visited the four 2009 Fielder's Choice winning schools and talked to students about making good choices as part of the Astros and Whataburger Fielder's Choice Program.
Visiting players and broadcasters included: Russ Ortiz and Alex Trevino (Looscan Elementary, Houston ISD); Wesley Wright and Brett Dolan (Rita Drabek Elementary, Fort Bend ISD); Brian Moehler and Bill Brown (Westwood Elementary, Friendswood ISD) and Chris Sampson and Dave Raymond (Willow Wood Junior High, Tomball ISD).
April's Hometown Hero
Each month, the Astros in Action Foundation and Centerpoint Energy honor an area citizen with the title of Hometown Hero. April's Hero was Bill Stephenson of Vidor, Texas who more than 65 years ago was eating breakfast in his ship's galley in Hawaii when the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor. He served his country bravely during the war and is one of the few remaining Pearl Harbor survivors living in Texas.
These days he is an active member of his church and loves spending time with his grandchildren and great-grandchildren. He watches or listens to every Astros game. When he was honored at the April 26 game, it was the first time he had ever attended a Houston Astros game, at the age of 85 years young.
Promoting Good Health
On April 25, Methodist Willowbrook Hospital in Northwest Houston celebrated good health by offering a free community health fair to area citizens. To help promote preventive care, Hunter Pence visited the health fair and signed autographs for those in attendance.
A Grand Slam for Youth Baseball Fields
On Friday, April 24, The Astros In Action Foundation (AIAF) and Minute Maid dedicated the newly refurbished First Colony Little League, Fields 1 and 3 at a ribbon-cutting ceremony. The ribbon-cutting ceremony was held at the First Colony Baseball Complex in Sugar Land, TX. Astros Chairman and CEO Drayton McLane, Astros President of Business Operations Pam Gardner, Astros pitcher Brandon Backe, former Astros player Jimmy Wynn, Astros broadcaster Dave Raymond, Senior Vice President of Coca-Cola North America Michael Saint John and Mayor of Sugar Land James A. Thompson took part in the festivities.
Following the dedication, Backe pitched to Dream League players during a brief two-inning game which was "called" by Raymond.
The First Colony Little League fields were selected because the Dream League provides opportunities for kids with special needs to play baseball. The renovations make the site more accessible for these players. New improvements to the field included rebuilding and enlarging the dugouts, expanding the spectator viewing area and adding accessible seating, adding fencing and repairing turf.
At the dedication, the AIAF and Minute Maid made an important announcement regarding the 2010 Grand Slam For Youth Baseball field refurbishment program. The 2010 renovation effort would be dedicated to assisting leagues and fields that were damaged by Hurricane Ike.
Miguel Making A Difference
This season, Astros shortstop Miguel Tejada focused his time on Houston youth that needed extra words of encouragement and support.
Once a homestand, Tejada hosted a group of 20 less fortunate youth to a game at Minute Maid Park. In addition to buying the tickets and Astros Bucks for each participant, Tejada spent time with the kids answering questions and sharing his story - one of determination and focus that led him out of childhood poverty and into a successful future. On Wednesday, April 22, Tejada hosted his first group, children from the Boys and Girls Clubs of Houston Clayton Homes site. Tejada hosted the program before each Wednesday home game.
On Earth Day, the Astros launched the team's 2009 season-long Play GreenTM campaign, building on the team's ongoing green efforts started in 2008. Activities included a Habitat for Humanity home build, a Play GreenTM school visit and a green-themed game.
Prior to the April 22 game, the Astros and Fox Sports Houston (FSH) employees worked on an energy efficient Habitat for Humanity home and were joined by Astros outfielder and Play GreenTM ambassador Hunter Pence and FSH broadcasters Bill Brown and Jim Deshaies. The home is located in Umland Park, a 126 home Houston Habitat for Humanity subdivision just south of the Texas Medical Center off the 288 freeway. The three-bedroom one-bath house was "green built" and certified by the Greater Houston Builders Association green building standards.
That evening's game against the Dodgers featured many green-themed activities.
The following day, on April 23, Play GreenTM ambassador Geoff Blum, Astros radio broadcaster Brett Dolan and mascot Junction Jack visited the second grade at Kolter Elementary. An environmentally focused school, Blum's visit rewarded the kids for their Earth-friendly efforts and while there he read William is Going Green to the second graders.
William is an honest, good-natured, green hybrid garbage truck and the leader of the pack. His friends are a diverse crew of recycling trucks with very distinctive personalities; each painted the color that matches his or her individual duty.
In addition to the reading, Blum presented the kids with their own autographed copy of the book which is 100% recyclable along with Play GreenTM baseball caps and tickets to an Astros game.
Sharing Smiles And Sunshine
Astros players welcomed a group of Sunshine Kids and their families to the game on April 18. Sunshine Kids is an organization that provides positive group activities and emotional support to young cancer patients and their families. Prior to the game many of the Astros players spent a few minutes signing autographs and taking pictures with the group. Over the past 16 years, the Astros and the Sunshine Kids have shared timeless memories and formed a very special bond.
Making Lemonade, Developing Entrepreneurs
The Houston Astros hosted Lemonade Day registrations at Minute Maid Park April 17-19. Astros legend Jeff Bagwell is the spokesman for the program and he signed autographs each day for kids that registered for Lemonade Day.
Lemonade Day was on Sunday, May 3 and was a community-wide event sponsored by Prepared 4 Life (P4L) that teaches kids the skills they need to be successful by encouraging them to start, own and operate their own lemonade stands. Youth learn to set goals, develop a business plan, establish a budget, seek investors, provide customer service, and give back to the community.
P4L, which launched the first Lemonade Day on May 6, 2007, is a non-profit 501 (c)(3) corporation that helps prepare youth for life through fun, proactive and experiential programs infused with life skills, character education and entrepreneurship.
Astros, CITGO And The Muscular Dystrophy Association
Muscular Dystrophy Association (MDA) Goodwill Ambassador Child, Abbey Umali warmed the hearts of the Astros and CITGO Petroleum Corporation representatives with her charm and relentless spirit on Friday, April 17. The Astros visited CITGO headquarters as part of the company's week-long campaign to raise money for the MDA. The day's festivities included Miguel Tejada, Geoff Blum, Mike Hampton, Cecil Cooper, Jose Cruz, broadcaster Brett Dolan, Astros President Pam Gardner and Junction Jack attending a special MDA reception along with a CITGO employee assembly and autograph session.
Later that night, Umali participated in the Astros pre-game ceremonies and helped throw out the ceremonial first pitch. In an attempt to raise even more money for MDA CITGO pledged $10,000 for every home run hit that night by an Astros player and $5,000 for an Astros win during the Astros contest against the Reds. In addition CITGO pledged $1,000,000 to MDA for the first Astros player that hit the CITGO sign that evening.
Milo Hamilton Way
A special tribute was paid to Milo Hamilton, the Voice of the Astros on April 8. On the 35th anniversary of his famous call of Henry Aaron's 715th home run, Hall of Fame radio broadcaster Milo Hamilton had a street named in his honor. A stretch of Hamilton Street that runs along the East side of Minute Maid Park is now called Milo Hamilton Way.
Mayor Bill White, KTRH radio personality Michael Berry, Astros Chairman and CEO Drayton McLane, several members of the 2009 Astros team and Milo Hamilton fans attended the dedication ceremony and street sign unveiling.
NASA Astronauts Return from Space and Visit the Astros
Before the April 8 game the Astros were treated to a visit by the crew of Space Shuttle Mission STS-119 that returned to Earth on March 28 from a 13-day mission to the international space station. This was NASA's 125th shuttle mission and the crew performed vital tasks on the space station including the completion of the solar panel installation. The crew that visited the team included Air Force Col. Lee Archambault, Pilot Navy Cmdr. Tony Antonelli, mission specialists Joe Acada, Steve Swanson, Ricky Arnold and John Phillips along with astronaut Sandy Magnus who returned home aboard the shuttle discovery after a four month stay at the space station.
Astros Opening Week Celebrations
April 8 was "Astros Day" at Methodist Willowbrook Hospital. The all-employee event celebrated the start of the 2009 baseball season. Michael Bourn went out to the hospital and visited with employees and signed autographs. Junction Jack and the Park Patrol also participated in the festivities.
Sprint employees were in a baseball frame of mind on April 8 when former Astros player Jimmy Wynn visited with them at a special work session. While there he signed autographs and distributed tickets to an upcoming Astros game.
Commit for Life
Astros fans again once again did their part and participated in the annual Opening Day blood drive on April 6 hosted by the team, ARAMARK and the Gulf Coast Regional Blood Center. All who donated or attempted to donate received a special Astros T-shirt and were entered into a drawing for tickets to future Astros games. More than 225 people attempted to donate and 199 total donations were received.
Astros In Action Foundation FanFest
With much anticipation, the Houston Astros and Astros In Action Foundation kicked off the 2009 season with FanFest festivities on April 4. As part of the Astros exhibition game against the Cleveland Indians, the day-long event included autograph sessions with current and former Astros, Talkin' Baseball seminars with Astros Chairman and CEO Drayton McLane, broadcasters and staff.
The baseball card and memorabilia show produced by TRISTAR Productions featured a one-of-a-kind display - the first ever baseball card produced. Fans attending FanFest had the unique opportunity to view the very first trading card, featuring the first professional baseball team: the 1869 Peck & Snyder Cincinnati Red Stockings card. The card was recently purchased in an auction by Houston-based TRISTAR Productions President and CEO Jeff Rosenberg. The card and its previous owner, Bernice Gallegos, received a groundswell of interest in the card after she was a featured guest on The Tonight Show with Jay Leno prior to the card's purchase by Rosenberg.
FanFest was an event for fans of all ages. Children enjoyed face painting, clowns, the Astros team mascot Junction Jack and other fun-filled activities. Fans also had the opportunity to bid on silent auction items, and to purchase promotional merchandise and memory lane autographed items at the popular Garage Sale. All proceeds generated from the event benefited the Astros In Action Foundation.
Larry Dierker Participates in MDA Stride and Ride Event
On March 28, Larry Dierker participated in the MDA Stride and Ride event sponsored by CITGO. The one mile walk held at Minute Maid Park helped raise money and awareness for local kids and adults affected by Muscular Dystrophy. Larry signed autographs while congratulating walkers and encouraging those affected by the disease.
Grand Opening Festivities Include Larry Dierker and Jimmy Wynn
With anticipation building for Opening Day, on March 21, Astros legends Larry Dierker and Jimmy Wynn helped open the newest Academy Sports + Outdoors store located in Bunker Hill. They met fans and signed autographs as part of the store's grand opening celebration.
Kissimmee Little League Opening Day Features Wesley Wright
Astros pitcher Wesley Wright was a very popular guest at the annual Kissimmee Little League Opening Day Ceremonies on February 28th. At the event, which took place in the morning at Oak Field in Kissimmee, Wright threw out the ceremonial first pitch and greeted several of the 200+ young ballplayers in attendance.
Astros Annual Winter Caravan
An Astros tradition that dates back to the early Colt .45 days, the Astros Annual Winter Caravan is a three-week odyssey designed to bring the team and its fans closer together. "The caravan is something we look forward to every year as it provides wonderful opportunities for personal, one-on-one interaction with our fans across the region," said Astros Chairman and CEO Drayton McLane. "We have two missions, to be a champion and to make a positive difference in the community, and the caravan is a great way to further extend our community outreach efforts."
More than 35 current players, alumni, broadcasters and front office staff participated in this year's tour. The caravan visited 21 cities in 13 days over the course of three weeks. From January 14-17, the Caravan spent time in Houston and kicked everything off with a special project in Dickinson, Texas. Astros employees along with Brandon Backe, Cecil Cooper, Darin Erstad, Chris Sampson and broadcaster Brett Dolan worked to help build a house in conjunction with the Bay Area Habitat for Humanity. Following the week in Houston, the caravan toured New Orleans, Baton Rouge and Lake Charles, Louisiana (Jan. 19 and Jan. 21) and made stops throughout central and southern Texas (Jan. 20-23), including Beaumont, Corpus Christi, Victoria, Temple and College Station.
The caravan culminated with a three-day trip featuring Mike Hampton, Mark Saccomanno, Jeff Bagwell, and Milo Hamilton in central Texas (Jan. 26-28) and Miguel Tejada, Cecil Cooper and Alex Trevino on a two-day excursion to Mexico City, Mexico and McAllen and Laredo, Texas (Jan. 28-29). The highlight of the central Texas trip was a visit to the State Capitol where the Astros, in partnership with Keep Austin Beautiful, HLS Enterprises and Tree Towne USA, planted oak trees on the Capitol grounds as part of the team's ongoing Play Green ™ initiative.HOUSTON
January 14- Galveston/NASA
The Houston Astros kicked off the 2009 version of the team's annual caravan by joining the Bay Area Habitat for Humanity (BAHFH) on a special project that included manager Cecil Cooper, pitcher Chris Sampson, Galveston native Brandon Backe, outfielder Darin Erstad, broadcaster Brett Dolan and Astros front office personnel. Through a monetary donation from the Astros in Action Foundation and a commitment of manual labor from the team, the Astros assisted in the building of a home in Dickinson, Texas. The home and others in the neighborhood under construction will help families affected by Hurricane Ike. Following lunch and a free autograph signing at Landry's Saltgrass Steakhouse the caravan made its way to NASA for a special tour and signing for NASA employees. The final stop of the day was a free autograph session at Academy Sports + Outdoors in Webster.
January 15- Katy
Day two of the Caravan headed west to Katy, Texas. Cecil Cooper, LaTroy Hawkins, Hunter Pence, Larry Dierker and Bill Brown spent time visiting with patients at Shriners Hospitals. Hawkins, Pence and Junction Jack even tried to help one young lady with her homework. Following this visit Lance Berkman joined the group as the caravan rolled on to the Brookwood Community Center, a very special educational, residential, and entrepreneurial community for adults with functional disabilities. After stopping for lunch at Saltgrass Steakhouse, the team went to Bonnie Holland Elementary School and wrapped up the day signing free autographs for fans at Academy Sports + Outdoors.
January 16- The Woodlands
The Caravan rolled into the Woodlands as broadcasters Dave Raymond, Jim Deshaies, manager Cecil Cooper, pitcher Wesley Wright and former player Craig Biggio hosted the Astros Fielder's Choice Program at Bailey Middle School. The assembly style visit addressed the importance of making good choices. Geoff Blum joined the caravan for other Woodlands activities that included a visit with senior citizens at Hearthstone at Rivershire, a free signing at Academy Sports + Outdoors, and a baseball clinic followed by a question and answer session with youth baseball players and parents at the Legends Sports Complex.
January 17- Sugar Land and Pearland
The first week of the caravan wrapped up with stops in Sugar Land and Pearland. While in Sugar Land Geoff Blum, Michael Bourn, Jimmy Wynn and Jim Deshaies visited patients at The Methodist Hospital and met fans at an autograph session at Academy Sports + Outdoors. Pitcher Clay Hensley joined the group at a special Grand Slam for Youth Baseball event at the Alief Community Center and continued on to meet fans at the Academy Sports + Outdoors store in his hometown of Pearland.
January 19- New Orleans/Baton Rouge
The Houston Astros hit the road looking to reach fans in the outer markets. The day started with a special stop at the Children's Hospital New Orleans (CHNO) and players making the trip included Astros pitchers Geoff Geary and Brandon Backe, former player Craig Reynolds and Broadcaster Brett Dolan. The players then traveled to Baton Rouge where they visited the LSU baseball team prior to their practice and followed that up with an autograph signing at Alex Box Stadium. The day concluded with a signing at Academy Sports + Outdoors.
January 20-22 - Temple
The Astros Caravan made its way again to Temple, Texas the home of Chairman and CEO, Drayton McLane. Making the excursion were pitchers Wesley Wright and Brian Moehler along with Hall of Fame broadcaster Milo Hamilton. The caravan started out with a special visit to Yoe High School, McLane's alma mater and also included a free autograph session for fans at Academy Sports + Outdoors. On Wednesday the 21st the Caravan got an early start as the group attended a breakfast with athletes from the University of Mary Hardin Baylor. Additional stops included Shoemaker High School, lunch at the Temple Lions Club and visits to Temple College and the William R. Courtney Veteran's Home. The third and final day of the trip featured visits with children receiving treatment at Scott and White Hospital, student-athletes at Temple High School and a free autograph session at Temple Mall.
January 21- Lake Charles/Beaumont
Pitcher Geoff Geary, outfielder Jason Michaels, Louisiana native and former player Shane Reynolds and broadcaster Bill Brown made several stops throughout the Lake Charles and Beaumont area. The day included two signings at the Academy Sports + Outdoors Lake Charles and Beaumont locations; a hospital visit with patients at the Christus St. Elizabeth Hospital and a surprise visit to residents at the Buckner Children's Village located in Beaumont.
January 22- Corpus Christi/Victoria
Astros outfielder Hunter Pence, pitcher Roy Oswalt, Assistant General Manager and Director of Player Development Ricky Bennett and broadcaster Jim Deshaies began the day with a meet and greet with the Naval Station Ingleside sailors. Pence returned to his former AA team and Astros affiliate the Corpus Christi Hooks as they hosted the caravan at their annual winter luncheon. The caravan also made a stop at the Mary Carroll High School where the Astros hosted a Baseball Chalk Talk question and answer session with Corpus Christi Independent School District baseball teams. Late in the day the Caravan made its way to Victoria where the guys signed free autographs for fans at the Academy Sports + Outdoors store.
January 23- College Station/Cypress
College Station is where Astros broadcaster Dave Raymond, outfielder Michael Bourn, pitcher Doug Brocail and Assistant General Manager of Baseball Operations Dave Gottfried spent most of their day. The first stop was at the Cypress Grove Intermediate School where team members spoke to the students about making good, smart choices. This was followed by a free autograph session at the Academy Sports + Outdoors. The caravan completed its College Station stop with a signing at Texas A&M University. The last visit of the day was with fans at the Academy Sports + Outdoors store located in Cypress.
January 26-28 - Waco, Round Rock, Austin, San Antonio
Pitcher Mike Hampton, Astros prospect Mark Saccomanno, fan-favorite Jeff Bagwell and Hall of Fame broadcaster Milo Hamilton set out early Monday morning, January 26 on a three-day, 2-night caravan adventure. The group's trip through central Texas started in Waco with a stop at the Texas Sports Hall of Fame and was followed by a free autograph signing at the McLane Student Life Center on the campus of Baylor University. Saccomanno, a Baylor baseball alum, felt right at home at his old stomping grounds. The first day of the trip concluded with an autograph signing at Saltgrass Steakhouse in Round Rock.
Day two started in Round Rock and then moved to Austin. The first stop of the day was to visit with patients at Dell Children's Medical Center of Central Texas. After signing autographs and offering words of encouragement, the team then attended a luncheon hosted by the Astros AAA affiliate the Round Rock Express. The Caravan moved on to Austin and conducted two free autograph signings, one at the University of Texas and the other at Academy Sports + Outdoors.
The last day of the trip featured stops in Austin and San Antonio and started out with a unique visit to the State Capitol. Building on the team's Play Green ™ environmental efforts the group helped plant trees right on the Capitol's grounds and then were treated to a tour of the building.
Before returning home the Caravan stopped in San Antonio where they met military personnel at Lackland Air Force Base and then signed autographs for fans at Academy Sports + Outdoors.
January 28 and 29 -Mexico City, McAllen and Laredo, TX
On Wednesday, January 28 Cecil Cooper, Miguel Tejada and Alex Trevino departed for Mexico City. The team's first stop was to host a special baseball clinic for 50 youth from the Mau and Michou Foundation for burn victims. Later that evening the group attended a special reception for local travel agents and tour operators that book travel to Houston. Following the Mexico City stops the caravan rolled into McAllen and Laredo, Texas on the 29th. Stops included free autograph sessions for fans at two BBVA Compass bank branches in McAllen and in Laredo along with a private visit with patients at the Doctors Hospital of Laredo.