Results tagged ‘ Chris Johnson ’

Social Media Night, Blogger Night and the Draft: a busy few days at Minute Maid Park.

It’s not every day that you can have a front row seat to batting practice, meet an Astros player, stuff yourself with baby back ribs and Blue Bell Ice Cream, win a signed baseball AND find new and innovative ways to utilize mini-foam fingers.

But if you were at Social Media Night on the Budweiser Patio Saturday night at Minute Maid Park, it’s likely you participated in at least three of those activities. Maybe more.

Good times were had (I hope) by all during the nearly four-hour contest between the Reds and Astros. Sure, the Astros lost, but we’re confident the loads of goodies handed out throughout the night put everyone in enough of a food coma to forget the Astros came out on the short end of a slugfest.

Twelve baseballs and one glove, all signed and handed out by Chris Johnson, were awarded to the winners of our Twitter Trivia contest. Everyone received a t-shirt, of course, and as a bonus, all patrons were rewarded with a handful of mini foam fingers, courtesy of our friends at MLB Network.

The next event is July 28. We will announce the guest in a couple of weeks. In the meantime, enjoy the photos:

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Foam finger earrings…

…or this.

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We started a new tradition on Friday, hosting several local Astros bloggers at Minute Maid Park for a night of networking and blogging in one of the suites.

General manager Jeff Luhnow stopped by for a 30-minute chat with the group, and judging from the write-ups from the evening, the bloggers appeared to come away very appreciative of Luhnow’s frankness throughout the conversation.

The upcoming draft was obviously a big topic of conversation, and Luhnow acknowledged it was likely that his entire staff would not be in agreement about who they should select with the first pick. He also explained why roster moves can be a lot more complicated than simply sending a player to the Minor Leagues and replacing him with another.

Luhnow, deemed by one as the smartest guy in the room, was asked about Tal’s Hill and his level of autonomy to make deals.

He understandably had to be coy, and vague, at times, but what Luhnow could speak about, he did, at length. Once the first round of the draft is complete tomorrow night, more of the unanswered questions will finally have answers.

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The Draft officially begins on Monday at 6 p.m. (CT) and is scheduled to last three days. Coverage of this year’s draft will begin live on Monday at 5 CT on MLB Network and MLB.com from MLB Network’s Studio 42 in Secaucus, NJ.

All 30 clubs will have representatives in attendance at the Draft. Former Astro Larry Dierker and current Astros scout Ed Fastaia will represent the ballclub at this year’s Draft. MLB Commissioner Bud Selig will announce each club’s first-round selection. The intervals between each first-round selection will be five minutes with one minute intervals during the compensation round.

The Astros have the first and 41st picks on Monday.

The Draft will resume on both Tuesday (rounds 2-15) and Wednesday (rounds 16-40) at 11 CT. The 2012 Draft will have 40 rounds.

Scouting director Bobby Heck, GM Jeff Luhnow

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Hot temps, hot dogs and baseball: Astros welcome the start of summer.

Temperatures start feeling summer-like in Houston in April, so for those of us who live in these parts, it helps to actually look at a calendar when reminding ourselves what season it is.

School being out helps as well, and a combination of that, plus the calendar flipping to June, makes it officially unofficial: it’s summertime in the Bayou City.

Sure, summer doesn’t really start until June 21. But why wait? The Astros will open a homestand on Friday with a host of carefree activities as they “Kick-off to Summer” with a party near the park.

The Astros play NL Central division foe Cincinnati on Friday, but in the hours leading up to game time, the action will be at the Plaza on Crawford St., in front of Minute Maid Park.

Water, soda and $1 hot dogs and popcorn will be available to purchase during the event and several of the Astros partners will be present with giveaways and activities as well.

The Kick-off to Summer Party starts at 4 p.m. CT and will feature interactive activities including:
* A Velcro Wall, Rock Climbing, Bungee Run and more
* Fun Music
* Player Appearances
* Video Games

On Saturday, the Astros will host their very first tailgating event from 3 to 6 p.m. in Parking Lot C.

With a valid pass to that lot, you can bring your grill, food and beverage and hang out in the lot before the game. The Astros will provide a large tent, tables and chairs and several Astros partners will be on hand for the fun. Water, soda and $1 hot dogs and popcorn will also be available for purchase during the event.


You must have an Astros Lot C Parking Pass in order to bring a vehicle and/or food & beverage into the lot. Tailgating is not permitted in any other Astros parking lot or in any privately owned lots around the ballpark.

Passes and tickets can be obtained here:

If indoor activity is more your preference, you can join us for our second Social Media Night, featuring Chris Johnson. The event includes batting practice viewing from behind the Astros dugout, a game ticket in the Budweiser Patio, dinner, dessert, a t-shirt and the opportunity to win prizes signed and presented by Chris Johnson (@cjastros23) through Twitter Trivia.

The only stipulation is you must be on Twitter in order to win the prizes. Liking Blue Bell ice cream helps as well.

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Players and their pooches to gather at Minute Maid Park. Life is ruff.

Rollie Castro

If there’s one thing I’ve learned about ballplayers over the years, it’s they’re unwaveringly loyal to two groups: their moms, and their dogs.

Dog Day at Minute Maid Park is this Sunday, May 6, and you can bet you’ll see Bailey Brutus Norris, Rollie Castro, Harley Johnson and Sophia May Buck in attendance. They might linger around the Astros dugout a while, but for good reason: their owners (fathers?) play for your Astros, and they’re more than a little excited for this doggone fun promotion.

Rollie Castro, named after the Hall of Famer Rollie Fingers, is a rambunctious little guy who covered a lot of territory in the outfield at Minute Maid Park once the leash came off. Bailey Norris is still learning how to fetch — he’s got the running-after-the-ball part down pat, but once he gets to the ball, he just keeps running. They’re working on it.

As for Harley Johnson and Sophia May Buck, drooling and snorting appear to be their top two favorite activities, followed by drinking water, finding shade and fighting over a pink frisbee.

What a week.

Dog Day on Sunday will begin with the Pooch Parade around the field, which gives owners and their dogs an opportunity to flaunt their Sunday best while being captured on the giant scoreboard. (Pooch poopie picker-uppers will follow in the back, just in case.)

Dog Day offers two price packages. The $40 Dog Day Bullpen Box Package includes two Bullpen Box tickets — one for the owner, one for the pup, with access into the “Barking ROom Only” section in Conoco Alley. The tickets also include entrance to the Dog Zone at KBR Plaza and the Pooch Parade.

The $20 dog Standing Room Only ticket includes SRO tickets for you and your dog, plus access to the “Barking Room Only” area in Conoco Alley, the Dog Zone in KBR Plaza and the Pooch Parade.

To order tickets, click here. And when you’re parading around the warning track, be sure to look for your Astros players and their pups. Woof!

Jason Castro and his dog, Rollie, during a calm moment (there weren’t a lot of those).

Bailey Brutus Norris and his pal, Bud.

Chris Johnson, Travis Buck and their snortin’ bulldogs.

Ruff! Ruff! Ruff! for your Astros

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Astros Opening Day celebrates the past and looks ahead to the future. The day in pictures.

Owner Jim Crane and general manager Jeff Luhnow

Opening Day is special, and you instantly can feel the vibe. It’s festive, it’s fun and everyone’s in a good mood. And, least importantly, it’s the one game of the year where people get all gussied up.

On Opening Day, just about everyone who covers baseball, or broadcasts baseball, or signs free agents, or helps design bobbleheads, or sits in a suite with other like-minded very important people, is dressed to the nines. The men look a little like secret service agents (without the ear buds and scowls worn by the real secret service agents who are there to protect Minute Maid Park regulars George and Barbara Bush).

Opening Day means something. The ballpark is the place to be. Even if it’s just one game of 162 played every year, what Opening Day symbolizes is recognized, and respected.

That doesn’t mean Opening Day is some stuffy cocktail party. No, quite the contrary. Opening Day is a big party, and that was never more apparent than in the nearly seven hours leading up to first pitch, when the streets surrounding Minute Maid Park were closed off and transformed into the annual rite of passage known as Street Fest.

The festival on the streets by the ballpark (hence the name Street Fest) included a little bit of everything — bands, food, beverages, fans and appearances by significant members of the team, both from the front office and the uniformed staff.

Street Fest started early and ended late and featured visits from some of the most recognizable members of the team. Two groups of Astros dropped by for two separate pep rallies.

Unsurprisingly, the second crowd, on hand for the appearance by Jose Altuve, J.D. Martinez and Bud Norris at 4:30-ish, was slightly more spirited and, shall we say, less inhibited than the fans who moseyed over to the stage for the 12:30 show with Jeff Luhnow, Brad Mills and Larry Dierker. Hey, certain libations just flow more freely in the late afternoon hours.

Pep rallies were just one element of the Opening Day celebration. Pregame ceremonies included trotting Budweiser Clydesdales, an anthem-singing country music star (Clay Walker), ceremonial first pitches by those who contributed to the Astros’ storied history (Jimmy Wynn, Dierker and Jose Cruz) and those who are ready to usher in a brand new era of Astros baseball, including owner Jim Crane and his many board members.

Crane’s afternoon began with a lengthy visit to batting practice and brief remarks to the team assembled in the locker room a couple of hours before first pitch.

We have lots of pictures and videos to share from the day. We’ll start with Crane’s remarks to the team:

Highlights:

“Congrats on making the team. I know for a lot of you guys it’s your first time making the team, your first Opening Day. Have some fun.

“There’s a lot of opportunity here. We’re going to try to do things right and try to make this a fun place to be. This should be a fun team to be on so anything we can help you with, you’re part of my family now.

“One thing you’ve got to remember — those people outside (in the stands) pay the bills. We put up the money to buy the team, and we need to engage the fans, stay close to the fans. We need to be nice to the fans. We’ve worked hard at that. I’m going to ask a lot of you throughout the season when you’ve got the time. We won’t take away from your work.”

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The dugout scene before the game always includes plenty of hugs and handshakes among teammates. This is the one game of the year where the sense of brotherhood is front and center. Although the camaraderie doesn’t dim through the season, you don’t see a lot of outward affection between teammates from day to day. That’s mainly saved for the opener.

Enjoy the photos from an eventful day at Minute Maid Park:

Pep rally: Dave Raymond, Bud Norris, Brett Dolan

Pep rally: broadcasters with J.D. Martinez

Batting practice: Brad Mills has his daily meeting with the media. Most days, the contingent is a little smaller.

BP: Strength and conditioning coach Gene Coleman with Jose Altuve.

BP: two great players from our history, Art Howe and Enos Cabell.

BP: the TV gang -- Steve Sparks, Kevin Eschenfelder, Jim Deshaies.

BP: Kyle Weiland.

BP: J.D. Martinez.

Pregame ceremony: Jeff Luhnow and the Clydesdales.

Pregame ceremony: Jimmy Wynn, Larry Dierker, Jose Cruz.

First pitch: Jim Crane and several board members.

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Astros notes: Bud, C.J., Astroline, College Classic and an appearance by the ’86 Astros.

We still have a month or so before Spring Training, but that doesn’t mean your Astros have gone into hibernation until it’s time to head to Florida. In fact, this week will feature two appearances by Astros players, one online and one in person.

Starting pitcher Bud Norris will participate in an online chat with fans on Wednesday, Jan. 11 beginning at 6 p.m. CT. The chat, which will last approximately 30 minutes, can be accessed here. You must be a registered member in order to ask a question.

On Thursday, third baseman Chris Johnson will be Milo Hamilton’s guest on Astroline, beginning at 7 p.m. The show airs live on 740 KTRH and Astros.com and will take place at Buffalo Wild Wings on Gray St. in Midtown. C.J. is planning to bring some autographed items to hand out as well to the folks in attendance at the venue.

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The Houston College Classic will take place at Minute Maid Park March 2-4. Details and ticket information will be released soon, but in the meantime, here is the schedule and participating colleges:

Friday, March 2, 2012
Noon           Texas Tech at Arkansas
3:30 p.m.  Tennessee at Houston
7:00 p.m.  Texas at Rice

Saturday, March 3, 2012
Noon            Arkansas at Houston
3:30 p.m.    Texas at Tennessee
7:00 p.m.    Texas Tech at Rice

Sunday, March 4, 2012
11:00 a.m.    Arkansas at Texas
2:30 p.m.      Houston at Texas Tech
6:00 p.m.      Rice at Tennessee

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Tickets are still available for the 2012 Houston Baseball Dinner Benefiting Grand Slam For Youth Baseball’s Scholarship Program, which will include a special celebration of the Astros’ 50th Anniversary.

2012 will mark the 27th season of the popular dinner, which will take place on Friday, February 10 at 7 p.m. at the Hilton Americas Hotel in downtown Houston.  The event is sponsored by the Astros In Action Foundation and Minute Maid, with proceeds benefiting the Grand Slam For Youth Baseball Scholarship Program.

In addition to honoring the top players from the 2011 ballclub, this year’s dinner will include a special 50th Anniversary tribute featuring Astros Hall of Fame broadcaster Milo Hamilton and a long list of former Astros team MVPs, including Bob Watson, J.R. Richard, Jimmy Wynn, Larry Dierker, Jose Cruz, Enos Cabell, Bob Aspromonte and more.  Phil Garner, manager of the 2005 NL Champion Astros, will also be in attendance. Members of the 2011 Astros scheduled to attend include J.D. Martinez (Rookie of the Year), Wandy Rodriguez (Pitcher of the Year) and Jason Bourgeois (Darryl Kile Award) and manager Brad Mills.  Former Astros Hunter Pence (2011 MVP) and Lance Berkman (Houston Area Player of the Year) will also be recognized at the event, but are unable to attend.

Additionally, longtime Astros television broadcaster Bill Brown will receive the Fred Hartman Award for Long and Meritorious Service to Baseball. 2011 marked Brown’s 25th season as the Astros play-by-play TV voice.

As part of the 50th Anniversary celebration, a special VIP reception will be held prior to the dinner, at 6 p.m., and will feature several of the former MVPs and current Astros players. A limited amount of MVP tables for 10 that will include tickets to the dinner and the VIP reception will be available for purchase for $2,500.

Dinner attendees will also have the opportunity to bid on several attractive items at a silent auction, with those proceeds also going to the GSFYB Scholarship Program.

 Tickets for the dinner are priced at $100 each or at $1,000 for a table of 10, and can be purchased online at www.astros.com/baseballdinner or by calling Jo Russell at 713-789-0626. General information on the dinner is available at www.gsfyb.org, via email at info@gsfyb.org or by calling 713-259-8686.

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Speaking of former Astros stars, a large number of members of the 1986 Astros will be appearing at Reliant Arena for the TRISTAR Houston Collector’s Show Jan. 20-22.

Among the familiar faces slated to appear: Nolan Ryan, Kevin Bass, Alan Ashby, Phil Garner, Jose Cruz, Danny Darwin, Hal Lanier, Mike Scott, Glenn Davis, Billy Hatcher, Bill Doran, Jim Deshaies, Dickie Thon, Terry Puhl and Bob Knepper.

TRISTAR also offers the opportunity to attend a VIP reception for the ’86 Astros reunion.

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Holiday roundup: The Sunshine Kids, Boys and Girls Club, Craig Biggio and a not-so-fat (but still plenty jolly) Santa Claus

The Astros haven’t stepped onto a baseball field in quite some time, but their December has shaped up to be almost as busy as a typical month during the season.

In between welcoming in a new owner and hiring a new general manager, the Astros have also been busy in the community, spreading their usual holiday cheer to kids from all over Houston. Two of their recent ventures include the annual Sunshine Kids Christmas Party, and a new event: the ASTROrdinary Clubhouse Christmas party.

The Sunshine Kids party has been a long-standing tradition for as far back as we can remember, and Craig and Patty Biggio’s presence at the party has been just as constant. Dozens of Astros volunteers helped out with face-painting, photos with Santa and other ho-ho-holiday activities. The venue — the gorgeous Children’s Museum — just added to the festive nature of this Sunshine Kids night out.

Biggio chats with a young party goer.

The Sunshine Kids party is a family affair for Quinn Biggio (back, left) and her parents, Craig and Patty, and friends.

"Head, shoulders, knees and toes" is always a crowd pleaser.

Same goes for Junction Jack.

Next up was the ASTROrdinary Clubhouse Christmas party, a soiree that was fun for the 50 kids from the Boys & Girls Clubs of Greater Houston and for anyone who thinks it’s funny when ballplayers dress up in elf shoes, elf hats and pointy ears (which includes pretty much all of us, no?).

Doug Brocail should be very proud to know that the kids, while appreciative of the effort, didn’t think he was fat enough to really be Santa Claus. Still, the pitching coach was pretty convincing in his red suit, white beard and bushy eyebrows that he needed help sticking on to his face. Lining up behind him with their jingly green slippers were Santa’s elves: Jason Bourgeois, Bobby Meacham, Chris Johnson and Humberto Quintero (or, as Santa referred to him, “Elf Q”).

The kids — first, second and third graders — took a behind-the-scenes tour of the entire clubhouse and then gathered in the team dressing area to watch the movie “A Charlie Brown Christmas.” Following the movie, the group moved to the Diamond Club for dinner and a photo session with Santa, who finally let out a big Ho! Ho! Ho! after 15 minutes or so of snuggling with two of his elves.

The kids then received their own special gift, a big box of some seriously cool swag, including an iPod Shuffle and an iTunes gift card.

Taking a tour of the weight room in the home clubhouse at Minute Maid Park.

Brocail -- I mean, Santa -- checking himself out in the mirror.

Chris Johnson, preparing for his debut as the city's tallest elf.

Photo time

Opening presents in the Diamond Club

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Here’s a story that might tug at the heartstrings, regardless of whether you are a Mets fan, or a Jose Reyes fan, or a fan of, well, beer. Foley’s NY Pub & Restaurant in New York City, which doubles as a home away from home of sorts for baseball writers, front office staffers and umpires, came up with a fool-proof promotion that accomplishes two goals. It enables Mets fans to wallow in anger and/or self-pity and/or euphoria, while doing something productive for kids in the community.

According to this New York Daily News report, Foley’s, located in Midtown across from the Empire State Building, is offering free libations in exchange for No. 7 Reyes jerseys. Contributing fans will receive, according to the report, free beer to drown their sorrows that Reyes signed with the Marlins, or champagne to celebrate Reyes signing with the Marlins, or appetizers for those who don’t drink and are depressed — or don’t like the Mets but do like appetizers.

The jerseys will be donated to clothing drives. Fans are also asked to donate their Reyes bobbleheads, which will then go to children’s hospitals.

It’s a genius move, really. It gets people to go to Foley’s with promises of free food and drink, and in the end, everyone has made a charitable contribution. A win-win and not at all surprising that Foley’s owner Shaun Clancy came up with such a great idea.

Cheers!

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All-Star week notes: Operation Veteran Appreciation, Social Media Night and the first half of 2011, in pictures.

Beginning with the upcoming homestand and continuing throughout the rest of the season, the Astros have added another program that honors our military veterans: Operation Veteran Appreciation.

For every home game, one veteran is selected to receive two free Astros tickets pre-loaded with $15 that can be spent at the ballpark. These field level tickets are for distinctively designed patriotic seats that let all fans know those sitting in them have served their country:

The Astros are currently accepting nominations for Operation Veteran Appreciation. If you know a military veteran in our community who’d like to be a part of the program, the Astros and Gallery Furniture want to hear about it. Thank a veteran by nominating him or her at Astros.com/operationvet.

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Our fourth Social Media Night will take place on Saturday, July 16 in the Budweiser Patio, and now, we’re ready to vote on what we serve for dinner.

Here at the choices:

A. Texas Cobb Salad – Crisp Greens, Grilled Chicken, Diced Tomato, Diced Avocado, Diced Hot House Cucumbers, Blue Cheese Crumbles, Fried Tortilla Strips and Buttermilk Ranch Dressing – served with FiveSeven Cheese Bread

B. Ballpark Beef Nachos – Fresh Fried Tortilla Chips with Tender Sofrito Style Braised Beef, Queso Blanco, Jalapenos, Pico De Gallo, Guacamole and Sour Cream

C. Trio of Sliders – Ballpark Beef with Caramelized Onion & Cheddar, Bar-B-Que Pulled Pork with Dill Pickle Chips and Grilled Chicken Breast with Roma Tomato and Herbed Cheese Spread.

You can place your vote in the poll below, and we’ll tally up the numbers through this blog and on Twitter and announce the winner soon. Even if you are not attending Social Media Night, feel free to vote — ideally, of course, you’ll vote AND attend the event.

What is Social Media Night? It’s a fun night in the Budweiser Patio that includes a player appearance at the opportunity to win autographed prizes. Our guest on Saturday will be infielder Matt Downs.

For the price of $45 per ticket, you’ll receive a ballpark tour, batting practice viewing, a ticket to the game, t-shirt, dinner, dessert and an opportunity to win prizes through our Twitter Trivia contests. Downs will hand out prizes to the Twitter Trivia winners. Prizes will include autographed baseballs and a couple of signed bobbleheads.

(If you are a returning patron and wish to skip the tour, I will be on hand to escort you directly to batting practice. The view party takes place behind the home dugout on the first base side.)

Seating for Social Media Night is limited — just 108 seats available. You can reserve your tickets by clicking here. Hope to see you there!

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At 30-62, it goes without saying there weren’t a ton of “highlights” to look back on as the Astros start the proverbial second half of the season. But even in the most disappointing seasons, there are always a few good and/or poignant times to look back on. I sifted through the photos we took in the first half and set aside about a dozen of my favorites, starting with a whole lot of hugging on Opening Day in Philly:

Wandy, Bill Hall

Wandy, Nelson Figueroa (there was definitely a Wandy/man love theme going on Opening Day)

Brothers from different mothers: Matt Downs, Clint Barmes

The Astros clubhouse, on Jackie Robinson Day

I love this picture: a fan favorite from yesteryear, Kevin Bass, and a fan favorite from today, Michael Bourn, gathering for a reception on Jackie Robinson Day

Speaking of yesteryear, we caught up with former catcher Brad Ausmus after he threw a round of BP to Padres hitters in San Diego. Brad was about to leave on a cross-country trip with his family (and Trevor Hoffman's family) to Cape Cod. In an RV. Ah, retirement.

Brrr...Bourn prepares for Opening Day in Philly. It was 80 degrees and sunny with about 20 percent humidity in Houston that day. Just saying.

The beauty part of getting our players on Twitter is now they can take their own pictures and post them, and I can steal them. Which is exactly what I did after Chris Johnson took this Opening Day photo.

When we finally did return from the road to host our 2011 home opener, it was nice to see these two people smiling: Former Prez George Bush, and Astronaut Mark Kelly, husband of Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords.

The Astros were down by about seven runs when this photo was taken. You have to love Mark Melancon for always keeping the faith.

Melancon's first trip to visit the Navy Seals left quite an impression.

If you watch our television broadcasts even semi-regularly, you've probably heard Jim Deshaies talk about a "3-Rod Night." So it should come as no surprise that J.D. staged this photo of the three Rods -- Wandy, Fernando, Aneury.

Fun on the Today Show set: Melancon, J.R. Towles, Brad Mills, Al Roker, Jenna Bush Hager, Junction Jack, Clutch...a Who's Who of "Lend a Hand Today."

A sweet photo from our visit to Texas Children's...

...and we end with one for the ages: elementary school kids absolutely riveted by an Astros school assembly. (Can't reveal who the emcee was at this particular time be he bore a striking resemblance to radio announcer Dave Raymond.)

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Chris Johnson (@cjastros23) is tweeting. Who’s next?

0307_cj_wallace.jpg

It all started last week, when I asked fans to tweet their non-baseball questions for Chris Johnson for our weekly feature, “Focus Friday.”

One of our more loyal followers, @MissSadieK, asked of our third baseman: “Will you ever become a member of our Twitter family?” CJ said he didn’t know much about “The Twitter,” or how to set it up, but he would give a try if someone would show him how to do it.

Done. After batting practice in Viera on Monday, we got him all squared away, first with his Twitter name, @cjastros23, and next with his first tweet: “As promised I am now a member of the twitter family! Spring training game time at Nationals! Let’s get to work!”

As you’ve probably gathered from the stories and blogs you’ve read, Johnson is a lot of fun, a total hoot, and I would imagine he’ll provide a lot of entertainment (and hopefully some baseball insight too) through his tweets. He’s also a die-hard Duke fan and is very happy to have a new communication tool through which to express himself throughout tournament season.

Johnson is the third current Astro to join the Twitterverse. Hunter Pence (@HunterPence9) and Ryan Rowland-Smith (@hyphen18) are the other two. Hopefully you’ll give all three a follow.

Focus Friday: Chris Johnson

0304_cj_flip.jpg

Welcome to FocusFriday, our weekly Spring Training feature that invites fans to tweet non-baseball, human interest questions for various Astros players.

Last week, we featured Hunter Pence, and this week’s subject is Chris Johnson. If you’re curious about his hobbies outside of baseball, favorite place to eat in Houston or who he’s picking to win the NCAA Men’s Basketball tournament, read on. You can also watch the video here.

@finalfour: Do you follow college basketball and who do you think will win the NCAA tournament?

CJ:
Duke will win. I follow college basketball a lot. I love it. Duke’s my favorite team . They had a tough blow with Kyrie Irving going down but I think we’ll be able to hang in there and get to the Final Four and win it again for the repeat. They will win the National Championship.

@FreeDrinkPhx: What were your favorite cartoons/kids shows and do you still watch cartoons/kids shows?

CJ: I’m going to have to say Saved by the Bell was my favorite kids show growing up. I don’t know anybody who doesn’t like the show Saved by the Bell. And what kid when he was younger didn’t want to be like Zack Morris? I know I did.

@zackmaddox21: What’s your favorite thing to do outside of baseball?

CJ: I’m kind of a movie guy. I like going to see movies. Anything relaxing, anything indoors, just because we’re outside so much.

(What was the last movie you saw?)

Last movie I saw…I just rented Due Date. It was OK, pretty good.

@allphilla Are you a video-gamer, and if so, what do you play?

CJ: I play video games a little bit. I like Call of Duty. It’s the only game I play — Call of Duty or Madden. I’m not very good because I don’t really play a lot but I’m a pretty good gamer.

@EckmanBrandon: What is your favorite place to eat in the Houston area?

CJ: Vic and Anthony’s. It was the first place I ever went to when I got called up to Houston and the crab cakes are outstanding.

@MissSadieK: Will you ever become a member of the Twitter family?

CJ: I don’t really know much about the Twitter or how to set it up. I’m not a big-time computer guy but I do have an iPhone, so I guess that could make it easy. If I can get somebody to show me how to do it. I’m kind of nervous that I won’t get a lot of friends on there. I could probably give it a shot.

(I think the Social Media Director for the Astros could probably help you set it up…)

CJ:
OK, then, I will get a Twitter account. I will tweet.

@Evie: We know you like Entourage, but what is your guilty pop culture pleasure?

CJ: I’m a pretty big Justin Bieber fan. I’ve got the fever. His songs are great. I listen to them on my iPod before the games, try to get pumped up. I haven’t been to his concerts yet. He hasn’t come through Houston yet, I don’t think, but when he does, I’m going to jump all over it. I just hope we don’t have a game, because then I’d miss the game.

Wednesday roundup: running, running and more running.

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Wednesday’s workouts were slightly shorter than normal because the pitchers, who have been either throwing bullpens or live batting practice every day, were given a day of rest. Instead, manager Brad Mills went heavy on the conditioning drills at the end of the session, which mixed up the routine a little bit and kept things interesting.

I’ll say this about Carlos Lee: he provides plenty of comic relief during these workouts. The conditioning drills were pretty rigorous on Wednesday and involved a lot more than simply jogging from point A to point B. In the middle of outfield sprints, Carlos dropped to the ground, laid on his back, legs and arms spread, and feigned passing out. I think I heard him yell “Trainer!” more than once. The best part was watching everyone ignore him, followed by his teammates simply jumping over him as they finished their sprints. Funny stuff.

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Pitchers will resume throwing live BP on Thursday, and the Astros will play an Intrasquad game Sunday on Field 1 at 11 a.m. The game will be open to the public.

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Quotable:

Mills, on if the rotation order is set:

“No, no, not at all yet. We come up and read in the paper some clubs are already announcing their rotation for the season. This is just our club I’m talking about, but if we start to make those plans now, we don’t know what’s going to happen as far as injuries, how guys throw the ball, how guys do things.

“We’re going to utilize this time to the best of our ability to kind of let guys get in shape and do the things they need to do to be ready. There’s enough first time through that we can kind of map things through later.”

Infielder Bill Hall (who arrived to camp Wednesday after the birth of his daughter Sydni):

“As expected, I’ve been anticipating this for a long time. Once that new year turns over, everybody starts thinking baseball. Watching Baseball Network for the past month and a half, I’ve been mentally ready with anticipation. I’m excited. Obviously, being around a group of guys with so much talent, a lot of youth. I kind of had this kind clubhouse in Milwaukee, so I feel like I’ll fit in just fine. And I’m excited about what this team can do.”

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Throughout the spring season, we’ll be posting one-on-one, getting-to-know you interviews (hosted by yours truly) on Astros.com. Our first one, with third baseman Chris Johnson, is up and running, and you can find it here.

Next up: Bud Norris.

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Today’s photo gallery:

Bunting practice: Jason Bourgeois…

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…and Michael Bourn…

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…and J.B. Shuck.

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Chris Johnson, all smiles while warming up.

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Bill Hall

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J.A. Happ, Brett Myers

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Jason Michaels, Hunter Pence, Carlos Lee during batting practice.

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Pence and Lee in the cages earlier in the morning.

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Ed Wade, Brad Mills

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