July 2011

Want to take batting practice at Minute Maid Park? “Candlelighters” will show you the way.

A fundraising project benefitting ill children will take place at Baseball USA later this summer, and eventually, those efforts will also filter downtown, to Minute Maid Park.

Houston kids will comprise 88 baseball and softball teams that will play in the Candlelighters all-day baseball tournament on Aug. 27 at Baseball USA, raising funds for families of children with cancer. Participants will solicit donations in the weeks leading up to the tournament, and the top 12 fundraisers will win the grand prize — a round of batting practice at Minute Maid Park, under the tutelage of none other than Scrap Iron himself — former Astros manager Phil Garner.

A total of 15 fundraising folks will win the batting practice session. In addition to the 12 spots that will go to the kids who played, three more will be allotted to anyone who did NOT play in the tourney but still wants to raise money for Candlelighters.

In other words…

If you’re 45 years old with bad knees and your baseball career both peaked and plummeted your junior year of high school, but you’d still like to hang out with a former World Series manager, this one’s for you.

If you’re a soccer mom who was always picked last and stuck in right field during Wiffle Ball battles at family reunions, but you still yearn to step into the batter’s box at a real Major League stadium, listen up.

If you’re a college kid trying to impress that girl in your Western Civ class who has no idea who you are and, worse, shows no sign of really caring who you are, pay attention. (You get to bring guests!)

Donate, donate, donate

The last three spots are open to any and all. The only requirement is you have to finish in the top three of all non-playing fundraisers. The process is easy: Go to the Candlelighter’s registration section and sign up for a personal fundraising page. Upon registering, you will receive an email that contains your player fundraising link and a sample email to send to your family and friends.

We were tipped off to this event by Astros radio broadcaster Dave Raymond, who was key in getting the Astros and the Astros in Action Foundation involved.

“It’s a chance to take batting practice on a Major League field with a Major League, World Series-managing Astros legend as your coach,” Raymond said. “Astros in Action and (Vice President of Foundation Development) Marian Harper have been very generous to set up the batting practice portion for us.”

Batting practice will take place before a home game in September. The exact date will be determined in the near future.

A good cause

Candlelighters began in 1989 with two parent support groups from the Medical Center: one at Texas Children’s Cancer Center and one at MD Anderson Cancer Center. The Texas Children’s Hospital group sought formal incorporation, and in 1992 Candlelighters was legally formed. In the fall of 1992 they invited the MD Anderson Parent Group to join them and the two organizations merged into one.

The Parent Consultant Program was developed to directly meet the needs of families at the treatment centers and to inform them of potential resources. Their programs and services extend beyond the hospital walls with their Family Camp, Adopt-A-Family, Fall Festival, quarterly newsletter, and other special events.

Over the years, they have learned how critically valuable it is for our Parent Consultants to be able to personally hand parents of children with cancer practical assistance such as a meal pass, parking pass, phone card, or gas card. Candlelighters is designed to bring comfort to childhood cancer families when stress is so high and they feel so helpless.

For more information on Candlelighters and the baseball and softball tournaments, please visit http://strikeoutkidscancer.org.

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Astros lineup at Pirates. First pitch 6:05 p.m. CT

Boyhood friends and teammates grow up to be big leaguers.

Astros outfielders Jason Bourgeois and Michael Bourn and Red Sox outfielder Carl Crawford all grew up in Houston and played baseball together as youngsters. They’ve remained close friends to this day, especially Crawford and Bourn, who became inseparable once Bourns’ dad, Ray, plucked Crawford from a Salvation Army youth team nearly two decades ago.

Ray Bourn coached his son’s team and became a big role model for Crawford, who came from a much less privileged background and during a recent interview with FS Houston said “Coach Bourn was like the perfect man. He was married, had the kids and nice yard. He had stuff to me I only saw on TV. So just to see that example gave me something to strive for.”

All three players — Bourgeois, Bourn and Crawford — aimed high and persevered.  They posed for a photo before the finale between the Astros and Red Sox on Sunday, and now, we share it with you. Photo courtesy of Kyle Emery.

Bourgeois, Crawford, Bourn

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Astros lineup vs. Red Sox. First pitch 1:05 p.m. CT

Jeff Bagwell was at the game Saturday, and suddenly, our Watch Party became more enticing

It’s always nice to see Jeff Bagwell at the old ballyard on Saturdays, but it was especially nice to see him on this particular Saturday, because it provided the perfect opportunity to do what I do best — follow him around with a Sharpie and hit him up for autographs.

Bags, who provides color analysis with Brownie and J.D. in the television booth every Saturday home game, was nice enough to autograph a few items we’ll be giving away at our Watch Party on Wednesday (July 6) at Lucky’s Pub. So far, the list of items we’re giving away includes a Chris Johnson pink bat bobblehead and four rally towels — two signed by Bud Norris and Mark Melancon and two by Brad Mills and Clint Barmes. All four were signed by Bagwell.

The Watch Party will take place in the back bar area of Lucky’s Pub on St. Emanuel, near Minute Maid Park. We’ll meet at 6-ish, right around the time the Astros and Pirates begin play at PNC Park in Pittsburgh. If you wear Astros gear — hats, shirts, jerseys, etc — you’ll get half-price appetizers. They’re also running several fantastically cheap beer specials:  Fifty-cent Small Domestic Drafts; $2 Smitchers $4.00 24oz Tecate, Dos XX, & Mexican beers / $2.50 Import Cans.

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Astros lineup 7/2 vs. Red Sox. First pitch 6:05 p.m. CT

Astros notables: Watch Party, bobbleheads and photos from Friday’s BP.

The Astros are leaving town soon, and with your friendly neighborhood blogger strategically planning her escape trip to Corpus Christi late next week, we found the early part of the roadie to be a perfectly appropriate time to host another Watch Party.

On Wednesday, July 6, we’ll gather in the back bar area at Lucky’s Pub on St. Emanuel near Minute Maid Park around 6 p.m. CT, just as the Astros are taking their first at-bats against the Pirates in Pittsburgh.

We’ll hand out t-shirts and give away some more signed items, such as this Chris Johnson pink bat bobblehead that CJ was nice enough to autograph after batting practice Friday.


The good folks at Lucky’s are offering half-price appetizers to anyone wearing Astros gear — that includes hats, shirts, jerseys, etc. And here are the cheap beer specials:

Fifty-cent Small Domestic Drafts; $2 Smitchers $4 24oz Tecate, Dos XX, & Mexican beers,  $2.50 Import Cans.
Hope to see you there!

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We posted a picture of the Brett Myers bobblehead a while back, but with the big day upon us on Sunday, it can’t hurt to show it again, especially seeing how close the ceramic version is to the real thing.

The first 10,000 fans will receive a Myers bobblehead, and while the Red Sox series sold well, there are still tickets available to the two remaining games.

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Here’s a cool new initiative the Astros have adopted, continuing their efforts to honor the military:

Operation Veteran Appreciation, presented by Gallery Furniture, is the Astros newest program honoring military service.  A specific tribute to retired military members for their past service, Operation Veteran Appreciation recognizes the sacrifices made by veterans and celebrates their dedication to country, demonstration of selflessness, courage and patriotism.

Each Astros home game beginning July 15, one veteran and their guest will attend a game courtesy of the team, watching from two unique and patriotic seats.  These specially designed red, white and blue seats will be field level behind home plate and are in section 119, row 31, seats 11 and 12.  The tickets are pre-loaded with $15 that can be spent at most concession and retail stands at the ballpark.

Fans can help honor the great community of retired military for their valor, excellence and timeless service by nominating a veteran they know for Operation Veteran Appreciation at http://www.astros.com/operationvet.  Winners are selected weekly through the end of the season from all eligible submissions.

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We conclude with some pregame photos from the series opener with the Red Sox on Friday…

Chris Johnson and his dad, Red Sox coach Ron Johnson, were a popular interview target by Boston and Houston reporters.

Mills, the former Red Sox' bench coach, talked extensively on his long-standing friendship with Sox manager Terry Francona.

Carlos Lee

Man love: Carlos, Carl Crawford and Michael Bourn.

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Astros lineup 7/1 vs. Red Sox. First pitch 7:05 p.m. CT

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