January 2011

If only we earned frequent flier miles for caravans…

Three thousand miles, 13 cities, 13 days. And it isn’t even Spring Training yet! Another caravan season is complete, and it appears few stones, if any, were left unturned. A full rundown, courtesy of the Astros Community Affairs department…

HOUSTON,
TX

– The Houston Astros 2011 Caravan wrapped up another successful tour on
Saturday, January 29 with a clinic at the Houston Astros MLB Urban Youth
Academy.  With that event, the Astros caravan completed its annual tour,
making 44 stops in 13 cities over 13 days traveling more than 3,000 miles.

 “Every
January the Astros caravan hits the road visiting fans throughout Texas and
this year we expanded our travels to Oklahoma City, the home of our new AAA
team,” said Astros owner Drayton McLane.  “The caravan is something we
have been doing for many years and we enjoy and are grateful for the
opportunity it gives us to spend quality time with our fans.”

 The
Houston Astros 2011 Caravan began with three full days of visits throughout the
Houston area (Jan. 13-15).  Highlights included a reading pep rally at
Northshore Middle School, hosting an elementary class from Bauerschlag Elementary
to a behind-the-scenes tour at NASA, a visit with the citizens of Brookwood
Community Center and free, public autograph sessions at Academy Sports +
Outdoors stores. 

 During
the caravan’s second week, the Astros made a two-day trip to Oklahoma City
(Jan. 18-19), where the team visited pediatric patients at the Jimmy Everest
Center for Cancer, met Oklahoma City fans at several RedHawks functions and
spent time with military personnel at Tinker Air Force Base.  The
three-day swing through central Texas (Jan. 18-20) included visits with kids at
the Helping Hand Home for Children, Dell Children’s Medical Center, Dawson
Elementary School and the Boys and Girls Club, along with several stops at
military installations.  Visits to Corpus Christi and Victoria (Jan. 21)
wrapped up the caravan’s second week.

 The
final week of the tour featured three days in the Temple, Texas area (Jan.
24-26) meeting students from numerous area schools, visiting patients at Scott
and White Hospital and signing autographs for fans at Academy Sports + Outdoors
and the Temple Mall.  The team’s annual trek culminated back in Houston
with a multicultural caravan that visited fans in culturally diverse
communities (Jan. 27-29).

 Activities during each
caravan date are detailed below:

 

HOUSTON AREA – JANUARY 13-15

Thursday, January 13 – Houston, Clear Lake and Webster

Brian
Bogusevic, Bill Hall, Chris Johnson, Larry Dierker and Jim Deshaies

  • Northshore
    Middle School
  • NASA
  • Academy
    Sports + Outdoors (Webster)

 

Friday, January 14 – Katy

Bill
Hall, Hunter Pence, Bobby Meacham, Jimmy Wynn and Dave Raymond

  • The
    Brookwood Community
  • Katy Elementary School
  • Academy
    Sports + Outdoors (Katy)

 

Saturday, January 15 – College Station, Cypress and Spring

Brian
Bogusevic, Michael Bourn, Bud Norris, Shane Reynolds and Brett Dolan

  • Academy
    Sports + Outdoors (College Station)
  • Academy
    Sports + Outdoors (Cypress)
  • Little
    League Chalk Talk

 

 

OUTER MARKETS – JANUARY 18-21

Tuesday, January 18 – Oklahoma City

Brad
Mills, Brandon Lyon, Bud Norris, Jordan Lyles, and Milo Hamilton

  • Jimmy
    Everest Center for Cancer and Blood Disorders in Children at OU Children’s
    Physicians Building
  • Oklahoma
    City RedHawks Season Ticket Holder Reception

 

Wednesday, January 19 – Oklahoma City

Brad
Mills, Brandon Lyon, Bud Norris, Jordan Lyles, and Milo Hamilton

  • Edwards
    Elementary School
  • Oklahoma
    City RedHawks Luncheon
  • Tinker
    Air Force Base
  • Academy
    Sports + Outdoors

 

Tuesday, January 18 – Austin

Clint
Barmes, Chris Johnson, Brett Wallace and Bill Brown

  • Texas
    Military Forces Museum
  • Helping
    Hand Home for Children

 

Wednesday, January 19 – Austin

Clint
Barmes, Chris Johnson, Brett Wallace and Bill Brown

  • Dell
    Children’s Medical Center
  • Dawson
    Elementary School
  • Boys
    and Girls Club of Austin-South Club
  • Academy
    Sports + Outdoors

 

Thursday, January 20 – San Antonio

Clint
Barmes, Chris Johnson, Brett Wallace and Bill Brown

  • Randolph
    Air Force Base
  • Warrior
    Family Support Center
  • Academy
    Sports + Outdoors

 

Friday, January 21 – Corpus Christi and Victoria

Brad
Mills, Bud Norris, Doug Brocail, Milo Hamilton and Fred Nelson, Astros Director
of Player Development

  • Naval
    Air Station Corpus Christi
  • Corpus
    Christi Hooks Luncheon
  • Boys
    and Girls Club of Victoria
  • Academy
    Sports + Outdoors (Victoria)

 

 

OUTER MARKETS – JANUARY 24-26

Monday, January 24 – Temple

Humberto
Quintero, Nelson Figueroa, Bobby Meacham and Milo Hamilton

  • Yoe
    High School

 

Tuesday, January 25 – Temple

Brad
Mills, Humberto Quintero, Nelson Figueroa and Milo Hamilton

  • University
    of Mary Hardin Baylor – Athlete Breakfast
  • Shoemaker
    High School
  • Belton
    High School
  • Temple
    College
  • Academy
    Sports + Outdoors

 

Wednesday, January 26 – Temple

Brad
Mills, Humberto Quintero, Nelson Figueroa and Milo Hamilton

  • Temple High School
  • Scott
    & White Hospital
  • Temple
    Lions Club Luncheon
  • Temple
    Mall

 

 

Multicultural Caravan Houston Area -
JANUARY 27-29

Thursday, January 27 – Houston

Wandy
Rodriguez, Brian Bogusevic, Alex Trevino and Francisco Romero

  • AAMA
    George I. Sanchez Charter School
  • Fiesta
    Mart

 

Friday, January 28 – Houston

Jason
Bourgeois, Jason Castro, Humberto Quintero, Alex Trevino and Francisco Romero

  • Pleasantville
    Elementary
  • Chinese
    Community Center

 

Saturday, January 29 – Houston

Jason
Bourgeois, Jason Castro, Michael Bourn, Alex Trevino and Francisco Romero

  • Astros
    MLB Urban Youth Academy Clinic

Video board update: halfway there.

Installation of the new video board began on Saturday around 7 a.m., and by the time the Astros front office staff arrived to work Monday morning, around half of the work was already done.

If everything stays on schedule, the entire board — 54 feet high by 124 feet wide — will be installed by the end of the week.

(For comparison purposes, the old video board was 26 feet high and 45 feet wide.)

Here are updated photos, before-and-after style:

Before: Saturday, late morning:

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After: Monday, early morning:

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Food and buses. Such is life in the big leagues.

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Caravans involve plenty of visits to hospitals, schools and military bases, but the time in between stops involves two things: riding on a bus, and eating.

All things being equal, I think the traveling party can agree the “party bus” we’re on during this tour through Central Texas is the way to go. We’re definitely not as exciting as a bachelor or wedding party, but I can see where this environment would be conducive to such events. Plenty of room, lots of TVs, a bathroom and a refrigerator to keep the bottled water cold.

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We’ve been given some fantastic recommendations for restaurants as well. On Tuesday, we had lunch at Salt Lick Barbecue near the Dell Diamond in Round Rock, and today, we had lunch at Threadgills — another fine southern-style establishment with a huge home-cookin’ menu.

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Getting up early, driving a couple of hours a day, eating too much…come to think of it, this is good practice for Spring Training.

Kids and military heroes. This is why we caravan.

Caravans traditionally are designed to reach out to fans in and around the Houston area, to get people excited about the season and introduce them to a few players who they might see in uniform in the coming months.

But so often, caravan visits engage people who have no idea who these players are, who have never been to a baseball game and don’t have many opportunities to watch them on TV.

Those are the visits that are often the most meaningful, as the Astros traveling party quickly discovered Tuesday evening when they stopped by the Helping Hand Home for Children in Austin. 

Armed with 24 large pizzas and four two-liters of Sprite, the caravaners — Chris Johnson, Clint Barmes, Brett Wallace and Bill Brown – walked into a room filled with enthusiastic kids who, on the outside, looked like your typical four to 13-year-olds: chatty, wide-eyed, curious.

These kids are anything but typical, however. They come from homes where they were severely abused, or neglected, or both. They were taken out of their homes by the court system and in some cases, the parental rights were completely terminated. In other cases, there’s hope for a reunion with a family member, or a foster family.

But for now — months, or sometimes, years — their place of residence is the Helping Hand Home for Children. And on Tuesday, they partied in style, with four choices of pizza not only provided by the Astros, but served by them as well. As far as I could tell, the players didn’t mess up a single order.

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Following dinner, it was playtime. Johnson engaged a bunch of kids in an intense round of Operation, while Wallace went toe-to-toe with a friendly seven-year-old in a game of Jenga. I sat down next to Wallace to watch the game, and the kid looks at Brett, looks at me, and says, “Are you his mother?”

ANYHOO…

We were asked not to take any pictures of the kids, for privacy/safety reasons. So we had to get a little creative:

CJ, playing Operator with the kids:

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Barmes, holding the various forms of origami given to us by one talented kid:

0118_origami.JPG

Another youngster asked if he could take a picture with my camera, and as it turns out, it’s one of the few I could use for this blog:

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More presents from the kids:

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Earlier in the day, we visited Camp Mabry personnel at the Texas Military Forces Museum. The Astros had a meet and greet with Army National Guard, Texas Air National Guard, Texas State Guard and Army and Marine Reserves:

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0118_barmes_soldier.JPG

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Baseball Dinner and Caravan highlight a busy week

When the 2011 caravan concludes in a couple of weeks, the Astros will have visited more than a dozen cities, talked to hundreds of kids and signed countless amounts of autographs for fans in just about every market considered “Astros territory.”

This week ended with visits to Katy Elementary and the Brookwood Community, in addition to the annual Baseball Dinner, honoring the best players from the 2010 season.

Though they fly under the public radar, the Astros community development department should be commended. These folks have the caravan running like a well-oiled machine, sticking to the schedule and shuffling players in and out of town with perfect timing. Somehow, they’re not a minute late to any scheduled appearance so far have had not one issue with players forgetting where they need to be, or what time they need to be there. I don’t know how they do it, but that’s probably why they’re in charge and the rest of us just follow instructions.

Anyhoo…here’s the pictorial rundown of the week that was (and still is)…

Katy Elementary

Bill Hall, Hunter Pence

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Lots and lots and lots of Katy students.

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Dave Raymond interviews one lucky student

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Bobby Meacham, Hall, Pence

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0114_katy_student.JPG

Brookwood Community

Hall

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Pence with Brookwood residents

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Baseball dinner

Astros Rookie of the Year Chris Johnson with his mom, Karen.

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Drayton McLane, Hunter Pence, Chris Johnson

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A bearded Brett Myers talks to the media before the banquet.

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Brad Mills, Chris Johnson

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Touring NASA and hula hooping with the kids. Day One of caravan is in the books.

We’ve been to dozens of caravans, school visits, class assemblies and other community events over the years. When we left North Shore Middle School Thursday afternoon, we all agreed that this one was one of the best we’ve ever attended.

The traveling party — Chris Johnson, Brian Bogusevic, Bill Hall, Jim Deshaies and Larry Dierker – were greeted by what seemed to be the entire student body as soon as we arrived to the school. They were lined up from the street all the way through inside of the hallways, loudly applauding as the band played and the cheerleaders, well, cheered.

The assembly was loud, raucous, enthusiastic and very well-behaved. The kids were clearly having a good time, as were the Astros, as you’ll see from the pictures below.

Following the “formal” part of the program, during which select students engaged in a question and answer session with the players, the entertainment began in earnest. The cheerleaders and dance team performed, the entire assembly joined together for a rousing rendition of “Take Me Out to the Ballgame,” followed by — what else? — a round of “Deep in the Heart of Texas,” a staple at Astros game at Minute Maid Park.

Then came the hula hoop contest. This was probably designed to be a competition among the kids only, but the Astros players, led by a very enthusiastic Johnson, quickly jumped in and took a couple of turns with the hoops. CJ was actually pretty good at it. Hall and Bogusevic? Well, let’s just say they get an “A” for effort.

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0113_north_shore_hall_hug.JPG

 

Then we were off to Johnson Space Center, where astronaut Clayton Anderson gave us a tour of a space vehicle mockup facility. We were basically given a tutorial about how astronaunts live during space missions and exist in the very cramped quarters sans gravity for months at a time.

The group was joined by fifth graders from Bauerschlag Elementary. The Astros players were duly impressed when one particularly astute student asked Anderson, “Don’t you suffer from bone deterioration when you’re up in space for so many days?”

Bill Hall raised his hand and observed, “You guys are the smartest kids I’ve ever met.”

Read Brian McTaggart’s coverage of the tour of NASA here.

 

The players were invited to step into the sleep capsules, where astronauts catch their zzz’s. Not much room for tossing and turning.

The caravan continues Friday, when the Astros visit Brookwood Community Center, Katy Elementary School and Academy Sports + Outdoors at 23155 I-10 West (77450) from 3 to 4 p.m. Astros on deck: Hall, Hunter Pence, Bobby Meacham, Jimmy Wynn and Dave Raymond. 

An Austin high school gets a new field of dreams.

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Dan Bergstrom’s home field is Minute Maid Park, but over the last six months, another baseball field also became a major part of his life.

Bergstrom (above), the Astros’ Director of Field Operations (a.k.a. head groundskeeper) spent much of his spare time making the three-hour trek west to Austin, where he spearheaded a renovation project that turned an old, dilapidated high school field into a brand new, sparkling baseball facility.

Every year, the Major League Baseball Groundskeepers convene for industry meetings, during which the group goes into the community and selects a baseball field in need of repair. This year’s recipient was Reagan High School in Austin, Texas.

“The project grown last 10 years,” Bergstrom said. “It used to be basic — we’d hop on bus, go out, fix up the mound, fix up home plate, hop on the bus and go back to class. Now, it’s grown into a deal where we have sponsors through Major League Baseball and the Astros and others.”

Aided by a $40,000 grant from the Baseball Tomorrow Fund and with donations from three major sponsors (Toro, Turface Athletics and Covermaster Incorporated) and the Astros In Action Foundation, the Groundskeepers have overseen the complete renovation of the playing surface and other baseball facility upgrades at Reagan High School.

“It’s an awesome relationship that the Baseball Tomorrow fund has established with Major League Baseball Groundskeepers,” said Cathy Bradley, BTF’s executive director. “We really appreciate their hard work they do in Major League stadiums and we’re thankful they’ve donated their time and efforts to improve community programs in all the cities they visit as a group.”

The field was unveiled Tuesday afternoon at the high school during a ceremony attended by representatives from 24 Major League clubs, in addition to Colorado pitcher Huston Street, an Austin native.

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Huston Street

“Growing up in Austin, you always have people that inspire you and offer opportunities that come your way,” Street said. “Today was another step in that process for the next generation of kids. The Major League Baseball groundskeepers — they’re the people that make my life better every single day. And now, they’re doing it for kids.”

Bergstrom received a standing ovation from the crowd as he walked to the podium with a long list of people to thank who helped along with way either with donations or sponsorships or assistance in building the field.

“Every time I came over here, I had people in the community helping me out — 10 to 15 people helping out, doing the work,” Bergstrom said. “It’s really an amazing, special project.”

The ceremony also served as the official launch of RBI Austin. RBI (Reviving Baseball in Inner Cities) is an outreach program of Major League Baseball serving youth ages 5-18 in over 200 cities worldwide.

This is the first RBI program ever in Austin and the 11th program currently in Texas.  RBI Austin will use Austin Reagan’s newly renovated baseball field for clinics and a summer league, reaching youth at Reagan and many surrounding schools in East Austin.

“We are incredibly grateful for the generous contributions and tireless work put into this project,” said Matt Price, Director of RBI Austin. “The renovated field is a huge step forward in our efforts to reinvigorate the love for baseball in this community.”

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Spring Training is fun for fans, but for young players, its serious business.

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In any given offseason, it is not at all unusual to find a large crop of Astros players working out four or five days a week in the home clubhouse at Minute Maid Park.

After all, Houston is often a permanent landing spot for players after they play a few seasons here. Plenty have moved here over the years, making a daily stop at the home ballpark an easy part of their daily routine.

What impressed me this year was how many players who don’t live in Houston year-round have chosen to do so, solely for the purpose of working out regularly with teammates and strength and conditioning coach Gene Coleman. A slew of young players have been here all or parts of the offseason, including Bud Norris (a California native), Chris Johnson (Florida) and Brian Bogusevic (Chicago), along with full-time residents Hunter Pence, Humberto Quintero and Wandy Rodriguez. Brett Wallace was also due to town at some point this week.

It especially makes sense for Bogusevic to be here, considering he’ll be fighting for a job on the Major League roster this spring, and working out at all outdoors in Chicago is pretty much out of the question. In Houston, he has use of the gym facility as well as the MMP field, so staying here for the offseason was probably a good move.

Bogusevic was the guest on Astroline on Wednesday, and as expected, a lot of the questions surrounded his chances to win a job this year. Drafted as a pitcher in 2005, Bogusevic was converted to an outfielder in 2008 and pretty much had to start over in terms of working his way up the Minor League food chain. The Astros would like to see him separate himself from the pack this year and show he can play on the Major League level, and they’re prepared to give him every chance to do so during Spring Training.

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Bogusevic, right, with Milo Hamilton at Astroline

That said, a lot still has to go “right” for Bogusevic to be given that chance. Should Wallace win the first baseman’s job during Spring Training, that will push Carlos Lee back to left field, which would diminish — but not eliminate — Bogusevic’s odds to make the team. The club still needs a fifth outfielder, and the left-handed hitting Bogusevic would have the inside track to win that job, with Jason Michaels serving as the right-handed hitting bat off the bench.

Should Wallace not have a good spring, that could push Lee to first base, which would open up left field and a possible platoon situation with Michaels and Bogusevic. Others will be competing for outfield jobs as well.

What does this mean? Bogusevic can expect to get a lot of Spring Training at-bats, which means he’ll be taking a ton of bus trips (and by a ton, I mean, all).

And that’s fine with him. “I’ll play when they tell me to play,” he said during the Astroline broadcast. “If I’m playing, it means no one else is. I’ll take any playing time I can get.”

Other interesting nuggets that emerged from the show:

* Bogusevic and Tommy Manzella are entering their ninth season as teammates. They played three years together at Tulane, were drafted by the Astros the same year (’05) and have played every level of the Minor Leagues together.

* Bogusevic took three official visits to colleges when he was decided where he wanted to go: Illinois, Notre Dame and Tulane. It came down to climate. Southern schools can start playing right after the first of the year and the conditions are usually comfortable. Northern schools deal with rain and snow until about halfway through the season, which can thwart development. “The amount of time you can put in working on baseball, it’s a better situation in the south than it is in the north,” he said.

* Transitioning from pitching to playing a position can’t be done overnight. There are stamina issues that require players to ease into the new role. The Astros laid out a physical plan for Bogusevic that lasted about two months:

“I started off with a week of just practicing,” he said. “When you start playing games, it was three innings, sit the rest of the game, then five innings, sit, then take a day off. Once I built up to play nine innings at a time, it was, one game on, one game off. Then two games on, one game off.”

Couple more images from Astroline:

Bogusevic signing autographs for fans during commercial breaks.

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Cute family alert — the Foremans: Scott, Seantele, Spencer and Shane. Any married couple who chooses to spend their 20th wedding anniversary at Astroline deserves a mention, wouldn’t you agree?

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Getting married? Read on.

The Astros Special Events team will have a booth at the Bridal Extravaganza this weekend on Saturday (10 a.m. to 5 p.m.) and Sunday (11 a.m. to 5 p.m.) at the George R. Brown Convention Center to promote opportunities for weddings, rehearsal dinners, bachelor outings, and portrait sessions.

The Astros encourage attendees to visit booth #4005. They are offering discounts on portrait sessions should you come and visit with us at the event.

____________________

For the first time, Baseball Dinner tickets are now available online

The Astros and the Houston Athletic Committee are now offering the opportunity to purchase tickets to the annual Baseball Dinner on Astros.com.

The Baseball Dinner, presented by Minute Maid, is traditionally held late in the winter every year, serving as an unofficial end to the offseason and as a warm-up to Spring Training and a brand new season.

The banquet, which will be held Jan. 14 at the Hilton Americas Convention Center Hotel, recognizes the best of the best from the 2010 season, and this year’s honorees include:

Hunter Pence, Most Valuable Player;
Brett Myers, Pitcher of the Year;
Chris Johnson, Rookie of the Year;
Geoff Blum, recipient of the Darryl Kile “Good Guy” award;
Barry Waters, Astros traveling secretary, recipient of the Fred Hartman Long and Meritorious Service award;
Carl Crawford, Houston Area Major League Player of the Year.

Additionally, several local folks will be recognized: Mike Rutledge of Kyle Chapman Baseball, Anthony Rendon of Rice University, Rick Lynch of Tomball High School, the Greater Houston area’s top 16 high school seniors and the Pearland Little-League All-Stars team.

The evening will conclude with a live auction featuring a Hunter Pence-themed auction package which includes: four (4) Diamond Level seats for a 2011 Astros regular season home game, dinner in the Diamond Club, in-game recognition and a first pitch, breakfast with Hunter Pence at Buffalo Grille and more. The opening bid starts at $2,500.

Individual tickets are $75, with tables of 10 available for $750. To order tickets, click here.

 

Ringing in 2011 with caravans, Astroline and a Seinfeldian airing of the grievances.

Happy New Year, Astros fans…now that we’ve all flipped the calendar to 2011, the offseason is, for all intents and purposes. over. We’re back in baseball mode, where caravans, awards banquets and…oh yea…that little pending Hall of Fame announcement kick off what should be a busy month of Astros activity.

A few changes have been made to the initial caravan schedule we posted before the holiday break. A lot of you have asked who will replace Matt Lindstrom during the Houston-area visits Thursday, Jan. 13 through Saturday, Jan. 15. Rather than replacements, it looks like there will instead be a slight shuffling of players. Bill Hall has been added to the visit to the Academy Sports + Outdoors in Katy on Jan. 14, while Chris Johnson has been scratched from that visit and added to the Central Texas trip (Austin and San Antonio) Jan. 18-20.

(Additional note: Hall is now confirmed for Jan. 15 in College Station/Cypress.) 

Additionally, Nelson Figueroa will accompany the Astros to Temple and will appear at two public autograph signings on Jan. 25.

An updated schedule can be found here, but please keep in mind this is still TENTATIVE and more changes could be made. The venues for the visits, however, will remain unchanged.

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Astroline

After a two-week holiday hiatus, Astroline, the Astros’ weekly offseason radio show, will resume on Wednesday (Jan. 5) — same time (7 p.m. CT), same place (Buffalo Wild Wings on Gray St. in Midtown). Aired on KTRH and Astros.com, this week’s Astroline show will feature host Milo Hamilton and outfielder Brian Bogusevic.

We’ll be there tweeting, of course, so send me your questions for Bogusevic and we’ll read/answer them on the air.

Future Astroline guests have yet to be booked but we will convey the information as soon as we know.

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Applause, applause

0103_wilton.jpgCongratulations to relief pitcher Wilton Lopez, who was selected by the Nicaraguan Sports Writers Association as the Professional Athlete of 2010. He was chosen ahead of athletes such as world boxing champion Roman ‘Chocolatito’ Gonzalez and pitcher Vicente Padilla.

Lopez (shown above, receiving his Pitcher of the Year plaque from the Corpus Christi Hooks during Spring Training last year) will be honored at an awards dinner on Feb. 5 at the Holiday Inn hotel in Managua.

The banquet will be attended by the President of the Republic. Also expected to attend is the most successful Nicaraguan-born player in big league history, former pitcher Dennis Martinez, who played 23 years in the Majors.

Incidentally, Lopez is only one of eight players from Nicaragua to ever have appeared in a Major League game. Padilla and shortstop Everth Cabrera are the only other active Nicaraguans in the Majors.

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A Festivus for the rest of us

In addition to many traditional holiday parties I enjoyed over our eight-day break, I attended an annual Festivus celebration, which included (but wasn’t limited to) re-gifting, a Festivus pole and a scrumptious array of black and white cookies.

Festivus, as most of you over the age of 27-ish probably remember, is a fictional holiday made up by George Costanza’s cranky and socially inept dad on the hit 1990s show “Seinfeld.” The holiday offers the practice of “Airing of Grievances,” which occurs during the Festivus meal and allows each person to tell everyone else all the ways they have disappointed him or her over the past year. It’s perfect for the typical American dysfunctional family, which is why it worked so well for the Costanzas.

It works well in baseball circles, too, come to think of it. And all of this Hall of Fame chatter in the last week has my head spinning. So, to steal a very famous line from the cantankerous Frank Costanza, I say to select media outlets, “I’VE GOT A LOT OF PROBLEMS WITH YOU PEOPLE!”

No, not for the reasons you might think. Yes, I’ve read the same stuff you’ve read. I’ve pored over columns and blogs and tweets of dozens of writers splattered all over the country and clearly, there are a lot of voters who are not voting for Jeff Bagwell. They have their reasons, ranging from their suspicion of PED use to simply not being overly impressed with the man’s 15-year career.

Whatever. They vote, I don’t, and they’re entitled to their opinions (although I strongly disagree with the majority of the dissenters). Free speech is alive and well in this country, thankfully, so have at it.

But for crying out loud, can they not find better pictures to illustrate their pointed opinions about our lovable former first baseman?

I mean, really. Are the columns more complete if Bagwell is shown looking sad? Forlorn? Confused? Irritated? Defeated? Tired? Every time I open a story on the ‘net, there he is, looking, well, not so great.

So in honor of our pal Bags, here’s my contribution to the voting process (since I’m not involved in any way, shape or form with the voting process): a nice, happy shot of him.

Enjoy…and here’s to a great 2011…

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