September 2011

Astros lineup 9/13 vs. Phillies. First pitch 7:05 p.m. CT

In observance of somber anniversary, Astros honor Houston’s finest.

The Astros weren’t home on Sept. 11, but they pulled out all of the usual stops one day later to honor local heroes while commemorating the somber anniversary of the terror attacks on our country 10 years ago.

The pregame ceremony began with recognition of the “invisible heroes” who work tirelessly for the safety of all of us — the 9-1-1 call takers who serve as the vital link for a citizen in need of emergency assistance. On Monday, there were nearly 1,000 9-1-1 call takers and their families at Minute Maid Park, representing public safety agencies in Fort Bend and Harris Counties.

Honored on the field were 2011 Texas Telecommunicator of the Year honorees Keturah Nelms of the Harris County Sheriff’s Office, Danielle Grunden of the League City Police Department, and five from the Houston Emergency Center: Desaray Rodriguez, Lola Purvis, Devon Jones, April Smith and Estella Rostro.

The Astros then recognized local heroes from the United States military, police, fire and EMS. Accompanying them were members of the Houston Fire Department’s Pipe and Drums along with HPD’s mounted horses and motorcylcle brigade.

Nine local heroes were selected to represent their organizations on Heroes Night: Houston firefighter Captain Darin Unruh, Emergency medical technician Captain Tony Riggins, HPD Lieutenant Harry Zamora, United States Army Captain Darla Deauvearo, United States Marines Sergeant Daniel Dimas, United States Navy Petty Officer Boatswain’s Mate First Class Edgar Ponce, United States Air Force Captain Anthony Fore, United States Coast Guard Command Master Chief Eric Gleason and Texas Army National Guard Sergeant First Class Jose Perez.

Presenting the colors were members of the United States Army, and the anthem was performed by Jay Barkdull, a 22-year veteran of the Houston Fire Department and a U.S. Army Veteran.

Images from the ceremony:

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Astros players visit firefighters and borrow their clothes, too.

Fresh off a week-long road trip, several Astros personnel hit the road again to visit Firehouses around Houston in conjunction with the club’s “Adopt-A-Firehouse” program.

For the third year in a row, Astros players “adopted” the firehouse that corresponded with their uniform number. While visiting the fire stations, players presented each firehouse with a framed, autographed jersey as a thank you for the firefighters’ service to the Houston community. Players met both on-duty and off-duty firefighters and their families.

The visits took place prior to Astros Heroes Night, commemorating the 10th anniversary of the fatal attacks on September 11, 2011. Astros Heroes Night honors area first responders and military personnel and provides an opportunity for Astros players and fans to thank the community’s public servants for their dedication to protecting others.

Established in 2009, Astros players have “adopted” 19 total fire stations through the Adopt-A-Firehouse program. Former adopted firehouses include No. 2 – Brad Mills; No. 4 – Jason Michaels; No. 8 – Jeff Keppinger; No. 9 – Hunter Pence; No. 10 – Miguel Tejada; No. 12 – Pudge Rodriguez; No. 15 – Cecil Cooper; No. 20 – Bud Norris; No. 22 – LaTroy Hawkins; No. 23 – Russ Ortiz; No. 26 – Doug Brocail; No. 27 – Geoff Blum and No. 43 – Chris Sampson.

This year, the Astros adopted six more firehouses:

Firehouse No. 11 – Jason Bourgeois


Firehouse No. 12 – Clint Barmes

Barmes with his son Wyatt

Firehouse No. 16 – Matt Downs

Firehouse No. 45 – Carlos Lee


Firehouse No. 49 – Larry Dierker

Firehouse No. 55 – Humberto Quintero

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Astros lineup 9/12 vs. Phillies. First pitch 7:05 p.m. CT

Clubhouse images the morning of Sept. 11 in Washington, D.C.

Players gather around the TV in the lunchroom to watch a replay of the coverage on Sept. 11, 2001.

All of the TVs in the clubhouse were tuned into MSNBC, which replays the TODAY Show telecast from Sept. 11, 2001 every year on the annivesary. The telecast plays n the background as Brad Mills meets with reporters.

Equipment manager Carl Schneider attaches adhesive American flags to each jersey, to be worn during the game on Sept. 11.

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Astros lineup 9/11 at Nationals. (And we shall never forget.)

Beefed up security and a few jitters as Astros prepare to play on 9/11 in Washington.

There were two main topics of conversation floating through the clubhouse Saturday: Football, and playing in front of a packed stadium in the nation’s capital on the 10-year anniversary of Sept. 11. The latter topic, obviously, had a more serious tone. There are a few players — more than a few, to be honest — who aren’t thrilled with the idea of playing in a venue that seats around 40,000 and could actually draw close to that, given who’s pitching for the Nationals (Stephen Strasburg).

Needless to say, this city has beefed up its security efforts this weekend. There are guards and police practically everywhere you turn. I cannot even imagine what Nationals Park will be like on Sunday but I sense it will seem like there’s one uniformed officer for every fan who enters the stadium.

The Nationals put out a media advisory detailing enhanced security procedures, most of which will slow entry into the ballpark both Saturday and Sunday. Limited entry points will be available for fans entering the ballpark, comprehensive security checks will take place at each entrance, vehicle checks will occur in parking areas, bus drop-off and pick-up points will be altered and no outside beverages or liquids of any kind will be permitted into the ballpark.

The Nationals are also encouraging fans to arrive earlier than normal and to leave backpacks, bags and extra items at home through the weekend.

________________

Here and there:

The new “Moneyball” movie hasn’t created much of a buzz among Astros types, but there may be a sort-of pseudo cameo “appearance” by someone affiliated with the team.

The movie, based on the Oakland Athletics, their general manager Billy Beane and their statistically-driven sabermetric approach to building baseball teams, is due to hit theaters on Sept. 23. Apparently, one of Ed Wade’s past trades with Beane is mentioned in the movie.

While it’s unlikely Wade’s character actually had a speaking role, the Astros GM did weigh in on the casting.

“I told my wife Brad Pitt wanted to play me,” Wade said. “But he wasn’t good-looking enough. So he had to play Billy.”

* Many Astros players and personnel took advantage of Thursday’s off day to tour D.C. and check out some of the more historical landmarks. Among the popular destinations: The Capitol building, the Washington Monument, the White House, the various War Memorials and the Smithsonian.

Lucas Harrell, a former member of President Obama’s favorite team, the Chicago White Sox, recalled taking a tour of the White House with approximately seven teammates when the Sox were in town in 2010. They didn’t meet the president, but they did get a behind the scenes tour that included a stop in the West Wing.

* I have no idea if the Astros are planning a Rookie Road Trip, but if they do have one before the season’s over, it’ll be a doozy. The Astros currently have 16 rookies on the active roster, including 10 pitchers and six position players: Juan Abreu, Jose Altuve, Brian Bogusevic, David Carpenter, Carlos Corporan, Enerio Del Rosario, Sergio Escalona, Harrell, Jordan Lyles, J.D. Martinez, Jimmy Paredes, Lance Pendleton, J.B. Shuck, Aneury Rodriguez, Fernando Rodriguez and Henry Sosa.

Ambiguous and hilarious: Chris Johnson and Jason Castro on the Rookie Road Trip last year

Generally, rookies have to participate in the Rookie Road Trip — where the veterans make them dress up in varying degrees of crazy and embarrassing outfits on a travel day — if they have never done so in the past. Some of the aforementioned rookies may have already done the rookie roadie, which might make them exempt from doing another one. Bogusevic and Del Rosario, for example, would fit into this category.

Even with that nifty rule, there are probably at least a dozen players due for their first rookie roadie, which gives me something to look forward to when we hit the road again later this week.

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The Minor League affiliates ended their seasons last week. Let’s take a look at some of the highlights:

Triple-A Oklahoma City

Three pitching standouts used the Astros’ Triple-A team as a springboard to the big leagues. Carpenter debuted for the Astros after tossing 19 scoreless innings and logging nine saves for the RedHawks. Harrell was 5-2 with a 1.72 ERA over nine starts after the Astros claimed him off waivers from the White Sox. Lyles was 3-3 with a 3.61 ERA over 12 games (10 starts).

Leaders:
Wins: Andy Van Hekken, 9
Saves: Jose Valdez, Carpenter, 9
ERA: Van Hekken, 3.40
Inning: Van Hekken, 129 2/3

Average: Anderson Hernandez .300
Hits: Hernandez, 153
Homers: Koby Clemens, 16
RBIs: Drew Locke, 58

Double-A Corpus Christi

The Hooks welcomes several additions via trades, most of whom ended up spending at least some time with the Hooks: Sosa (currently in the Astros’ rotation), Jarred Cosart (Pence trade), Paul Clemens (Bourn trade), Josh Zeid (Pence trade) Jason Stoffel (Keppinger trade) and lefty Brett Oberholtzer (Bourn trade).

Clemens had a run of 28 1/3 innings between Double-A Mississippi and Corpus without allowing an earned run.

First baseman Kody Hinze and outfielder Adam Bailey ranked first and second in the Astros’ organization for homers and RBIs. Bailey ranked second in both categories with 24 homers and 95 RBIs, and Hinze led all Houston Minor Leaguers with 29 homers and 98 RBIs.

Leaders:
Wins: Dallas Keuchel, 9
Saves: Daniel Maszaros, Carpenter, 5
ERA: Keuchel, 3.17
Innings: Ross Seaton, 155

Average: J.D. Martinez, .338
Hits: Martinez, 107
Homers: Martinez, 13
RBIs: Martinez, 72

Class A Lancaster:

Acquired from the Phillies in the Pence trade, first baseman Jonathan Singleton belted two homers in his first eight games and posted a .333 average during his 35 games with the JetHawks, with nine doubles and 16 RBIs.

The Astros’ 2009 first-rounder, Jio Mier, was promoted to Lancaster after playing 57 games with Class A Lexington. Mier posted a .333 average with four doubles and five RBIs in his last 10 games of the season.

Right-hander Jose Cisnero made a team-high 27 starts and recorded a team-best 152 strikeouts over 123 1/3 innings pitched.

Leaders:
Wins: Andrew Robinson, 8
Saves: Kirk Clark, 19
ERA: Jake Buchanan, 3.91
Innings: Buchanan, 158 2/3

Average: Austin Wates .300
Hits: Wates, 158
Homers: Hinze, 22
RBIs: Wates, 75

Class A Lexington:

Outfielder Domingo Santana, the player to be named in the Pence trade, made an immediate impact for the Legends, posting a .382 average and a .662 slugging percentage with five homers and 21 RBIs over 17 games.

Outfielder Emilio King jumped from Rookie League Greeneville to Lexington and earned multiple player of the month honors. In the first half, King hit .346 with nine doubles and 18 RBIs. In his last 10 games, King hit .410 with four doubles and eight RBIs.

Leaders:
Wins: Carlos Quevedo, 8
Saves: Jorge De Leon, 16
ERA: Jason Chowning, 2.45
Inning: Quevedo, 151

Average: Daniel Adamson, .295
Hits: Mike Kvasnicka, 128
Homers: Adam Bailey, 16
RBIs: Kvasnicka, 59

Short Season A Tri-City:

2011 first-round pick George Springer, who signed two minutes before the deadline, homered in his first at-bat in his first home game for Tri-City. In his first five games, he hit .278 (5-for-18) with three doubles, three RBIs and four stolen bases.

Leaders:
Wins: Dayan Diaz, 7
Saves: Ryan Cole, 10
ERA: Diaz, 1.98
Innings: Juri Perez, 67 1/3

Average: Matthew Duffy, .298
Hits: Zachary Johnson, 71
Homers: Bubba Williams, 6
RBIs: Johnson, 40

Rookie League Greeneville

Despite being promoted to Tri-City on Aug. 11, first baseman Chase Davidson was named to the Appalachian League All-Star Game. He led the club in multiple offensive categories, including homers (11), RBIs (44), doubles (13), total bases (104), walks (24), OBP (.426) and slugging (.646)

Infielder Joshua Magee hits safely in 12 consecutive at-bats. His 12-for-12 streak is the longest in Minor League Baseball since consecutive hits started being recorded in 2005.

Leaders:
Jamaine Cotton, 4
Saves: Matison Smith, Zachary Dando, Paris Shewey, 3
ERA: Smith, 2.65
Innings: Tyson Perez, 55

Average: Jordan Scott, .337
Hits: Scott, 83
Homers: Davidson, 11
RBIs: Davidson, 44

Gulf Coast League Astros

Leaders:
Wins: Blake Ford, Pedro Gomez, 4
Saves: Ford, 8
ERA: Juan Mojica, 1.42
Innings: Frederick Tiburcio, 54 1/3

Average: Yonathan Mejia, .329
Hits: Mejia, 48
Homers: Justin Shults, 5
RBIs: Shults, 29

Dominican Summer League

Leaders:
Wins: Manuel Sanchez, 4
Saves: Kelvin Santana, 5
ERA: Santana, 0.00
Innings: Agapito Barrios, 58 2/3

Average: Franny Polanco, .292
Hits: Juan Santana, 68
Home runs: Teoscar Hernandez, 7
RBIs: Hernandez, Mesac Lagua, 35

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Astros lineup 9/10 at Nationals. First pitch 6:05 p.m. CT

Celebrating great Americans while touring around D.C.

The 10-year anniversary of the horrible events of Sept. 11, 2001 is almost upon us, and I have to admit that it feels really strange to be in Washington D.C. as the country prepares for what will surely be a day of remembrance, reflection and multiple tributes. (I also expect the ramped-up security around this city to be off the charts for the next two days.)

I spent quite a bit of time roaming around D.C. in the last two days and occupied much of my time at the Newseum, a six-story building that details the history of media and delves into how major stories were covered over the last several hundred years. (That’s not an exaggeration. There are archived articles from the 1600s available for perusal.) Everything from the Lindbergh baby kidnapping to Watergate to the J.F.K assassination to Katrina to 9/11…if it happened, it’s represented in the Newseum.

One of the most meaningful sections of the Newseum, for me, was the room dedicated to Tim Russert, NBC News’ Washington bureau chief and host of Meet the Press until his untimely death in 2008. The room is an authentic depiction of Russert’s office, and the walls are covered with pictures and video tributes to the longtime television journalist.

Tim Russert was a huge baseball fan. He kept this collection of baseballs in a drawer in his office and would have politicians sign them after he interviewed them.

One wall is dedicated to photos and video tributes detailing some of Russert's more famous interviews. One of the more well-known quotes was from Sen. John McCain, after finishing an interview with the hard-hitting and relentless Russert: "I haven't had so much fun since my last interrogation."

Russert's desk, exactly how he left it.

Other Newseum notables:

An actual mangled radio tower that stood atop one of the Twin Towers.

This sits in the very front of the FBI section of the Newseum.

It was nice to see the Newseum acknowledged what has always been a very true statement since the very beginning, but even moreso now with the advent of the Internet. In the last few years, sports media particularly has become more about being first than being right, which can be infuriating when trying to decipher what's true and what's bogus. Unfortunately, in today's age, there's plenty of bogus. Too much.

After finishing up the Newseum tour, I strolled down to the National Mall and Memorial Parks with the intent to check out the new Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial.

The Memorial is brand new — so new that it’s not depicted on any city maps and there are no signs to direct tourists to the area. Finding it is a bit of a challenge, even for those who aren’t as directionally challenged as myself.

Needless to say, it was worth the trip. The statue is amazing. It truly takes your breath away.

Other cool city sights:

Capitol building, from a balcony at the Newseum.

White House

Washington Monument

Korean War Memorial

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Next week, the Astros will celebrate the life, leadership and service of Hall of Famer Roberto Clemente with two community projects aimed at serving others.

In the spirit of Clemente’s community service, the Astros are hosting a food drive Monday through Wednesday for the Houston Food Bank. Fans can participate by bringing canned goods or other non-perishable food items with them to the games and they will be collected at the entrance gates.

Anyone donating to the food drive will receive a special discount ticket offer for the final home games of the season, September 22-25 vs. Colorado Rockies and September 26-28 vs. St. Louis Cardinals.

The following is a list of food items most needed by the programs served by the Houston Food Bank:

• Protein items
• Canned tuna or chicken, packed in water
• Canned stews and pasta/meat, easy on salt and fat
• Peanut butter
• Canned fruits in light syrup, natural applesauce
• 100% juice cans or boxes
• Canned vegetables, tomatoes, tomato sauce
• Soups with meat and/or beans, meal-in-a-can, easy on salt and fat
• Cereals and cereal bars, easy on sugar and fat
• Pasta, spaghetti, macaroni, noodles
• Packages of dry beans

For the safety of those they serve, the Houston Food Bank is unable to accept:
• Open packages
• Homemade food items
• Perishable foods
• Baby food
• Items with ‘expired’ dates

On Thursday, Sept. 15, Astros front office staff along with Spanish radio broadcasters Alex Trevino and Francisco Romero, working with the Tejano Center for Community Concerns, will provide and serve lunch to a group of approximately 50 elderly residents of the Nueva Vida senior citizen apartment community.  The Tejano Center for Community Concerns was established in 1992 in response to social, economic, education, and housing
concerns identified by neighborhood residents of the predominately Hispanic East End.  Many living at Nueva Vida make ends meet with the help of the Tejano Center for Community Concerns.
_____________

In addition to the food drive Sept. 12-14, benefiting the Montgomery County Food Bank and area wildfire victims, the Astros will activate additional relief efforts for fire victims throughout central Texas during the team’s final homestand.  Initial plans include:

* Online auction benefitting the Montgomery County United Way fund established for area fire victims, Sept. 19-28.
* Food, supplies and cash collection for the Montgomery County Food Bank, Sept. 23-25.
* Text-to-donate campaign to benefit the United Way Capital Area Texas Wildlife Relief Fund serving a 10-county area comprised of Bastrop, Blanco, Burnet, Caldwell, Fayette, Hays, Lee, Llano, Travis, and Williamson counties.

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Astros lineup 9/9 at Nationals. First pitch 6:05 p.m. CT

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