Groundbreaking ceremony and Build-a-Bear. Hawkins has had a busy week.

Nine months after they announced plans to open the second MLB Urban Youth Academy, the Astros ceremoniously tossed the first pieces of dirt at the very spot where the facility will reside in less than a year.

The story detailing the event can be read here, and below are several pictures to illustrate the groundbreaking ceremony, attended by dozens of Astros and Major League Baseball dignitaries.

Michael Bourn and LaTroy Hawkins looked like they were enjoying this part, especially while trying to the throw dirt far enough that it grazed the photographers taking their picture.

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Major League Baseball and the Astros contributed $600,000 to the construction of the Houston Astros MLB Urban Youth Academy at Sylvester Turner Park, which equaled the contributions by both the City of Houston and the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department.

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Hawkins was introduced by Darrell Miller, director of the Urban Youth Academy, at the “Wanna Play?” event. The program provided various baseball activities such as batting and pitching cages, baserunning contests, wiffle ball games and demonstrations by Bourn, Hawkins and Wesley Wright and Dave Clark. Wanna Play? was launched at the 2009 Gillette Civil Rights Game in Cincinnati and is intended to provide baseball activities to young people in urban areas.

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Wright.

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Bourn.

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It doesn’t matter how bad a season is or how anxious the players are for it just to be over…there’s always time to have a little fun. Or, in Hawkins’ case, a lot of fun, thanks to a rookie hazing ritual that is alive and well in the Astros’ clubhouse.

I have a tremendous amount of access to all the behind-the-scenes action at the ballpark, but I’d trade several of those pictures for just one of Hawkins at Build-A-Bear, where he took the painstaking steps to order one bear for each of his rookie teammates.

Rookies have to carry the bears with them everywhere they go, minus the field, of course.

Hawkins didn’t just order the bears. He dressed them up and gave them birth certificates and names. Bud Norris’s bear is named “Dew Ruu,” after pitching coach Dewey Robinson. Chris Johnson’s is named Adam Piatt, after the former big league player who happened to attend the same high school as the young third baseman. Tommy Manzella’s bear is named “Scarface,” while Wilton Lopez’s is called “Suba,” a nod to bullpen catcher Strech Suba.

I can hardly wait to see what getups Hawkins and his veteran teammates have picked out for the “Rookie Road Trip,” which inevitably will take place sometime during the Philly-New York swing. Whether the attire is Hooter’s outfits or hula skirts — or worse — I’ll be sure to snap lots of pictures and post them on this blog.

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I recently quelled any notions that Jim Deshaies had a chance to become the Astros’ next manager, but apparently, there are still some out there who are holding out hope.

Yesterday, I received this in the mail — not signed, with only “Austin” in the postmark:
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Turns out, just about every sports reporter in the city, plus Lance Berkman and J.D. himself received the same mailing. I especially like the part at the bottom, where the anonymous lobbyist reminds us to “Join the movement, feel the excitement.”

(The envelope also included a Deshaies baseball card, which truth be told, I was kind of fired up about.)

2 Comments

I’m feeling the excitement! J.D. for manager!

OK, I’ll be the first to say it. JD sent them!

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