Results tagged ‘ Humberto Quintero ’

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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Is Jeff Bagwell a Hall of Famer? Indeedy.

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Anyone who on a daily basis watched Jeff Bagwell play during his 15-year career has no doubt that he is worthy of a spot in the Hall of Fame.

And I truly believe he’ll get there — eventually. But on the first ballot? Probably not.

Before you fire off angry emails filled with statistical data to back up the argument that he is a first-ballot candidate, let me say that I totally, completely, 100 percent agree with you. He is one of the best first basemen ever to play the game, and he played for a long time, and his numbers are tremendous. That, by definition, merits Hall of Fame election. And if he’s a Hall of Famer, then logically, he would be elected this year by the more than 500 members of the Baseball Writers Association of America who recently received their ballots. But that isn’t how it works.

Most players, save for the ultra elite, have to wait more than one try to be inducted. And I doubt Bags will be the exception to the rule.

It’s too bad, really, because this notion that you’re a Hall of Famer but have to wait a while to be recognized as such is just silliness. Is there a separate category — “Hall of Famer, at some point, when we decide it’s time”? To me, it’s black and white. You are either a Hall of Famer, or you’re not.

And in Bagwell’s case, he most certainly is. I’m going to list some of the stat-based criteria that support this argument. But then, we’ll look at this from the perspective of what Bagwell did other than hit a lot of home runs and pile on the RBIs. More on that later.

First, the bare facts:

*His .948 career OPS ranks 22nd in Major League history and 10th among right-handed hitters. Four of the nine right-handed hitters ranked ahead of him are in the Hall of Fame, while four others are not yet eligible for induction.

*His .408 career on-base percentage ranks 15th all-time among right-handed hitters and ninth all-time among first basemen (third among right-handed first basemen).

*He is the only first baseman in history and one of 12 players all-time to reach 400 home runs and 200 stolen bases.

*He is one of five players in history to collect 30 home runs, 100 RBI and 100 runs scored in six consecutive seasons (1996-2001). Jimmie Foxx, Lou Gehrig, Babe Ruth and Albert Pujols are the others.

*He is the only player in history to record 30 home runs, 100 RBI, 100 runs scored and 100 walks in six consecutive seasons (1996-2001).

Clearly, not only was he the best first baseman of his era, he was one of the best, ever, in history.

But Bagwell wasn’t just a force at the plate. I doubt you could find a smarter all-around ballplayer, one who played his position and ran the bases flawlessly, one who had instincts so keen that it seemed as if he knew what was going to happen 10 seconds before it did. He perfected the 3-6-3 double play, knew exactly when and how quickly to run up on bunters (who would subsequently be nailed at second base after a flawless throw from Bagwell) and rarely received a throw in the dirt from a fellow infielder that he couldn’t pick.

I asked him once why he wasn’t given more credit for his defense. His reasoning: “I’m not left-handed.” So is that to mean that just because left-handed first basemen have an easier time fielding their position, that automatically makes them better? Of course not.

He downplayed his baserunning by stating simply, “I’m not that fast.” He had much better speed than he gave himself credit for, and with over 200 stolen bases, he was clearly doing something right. That’s where the instincts came into play. His timing was flawless. He could read a pitcher better than anyone. Heck, he stole home three times in his career, which is three more times than most players have on their resume. Quite simply, Bagwell was nearly perfect as a ballplayer.

You know a player was good when you can distinctly remember the rare time that he wasn’t. I recall one game in St. Louis in 2004 when, with one out, Bagwell took off from first base on a fly ball. He was halfway to third when the ball was caught by the center fielder and thrown to first for the easy double-up. After the game, I said to him, “I’m so flabbergasted I don’t even know how to phrase the question.” Bags: “I’ll make it easy for you. Obviously, I’m a complete moron.”

I can’t count the number of times I’d watch Bagwell play and think to myself “this is the best baseball player I’ve ever seen.” Over 14 seasons, there were three players who repeatedly floored me with their abilities: Roy Oswalt when he pitched, Adam Everett when he played shortstop, and Bagwell, when he did anything.

So yes, if you watched Bagwell play every day, you grew to appreciate just how superior of a ballplayer he was. A Hall of Famer in every way imaginable. But a few elements will work against him this year: His 449 homers falls short of the 500 that usually guarantees first-ballot election; his shoulder injury ended his career prematurely and prevented him from going over the top in some of the offensive categories; and most of the voters did not watch him play on a regular basis and therefore will judge him only on the offensive numbers. He was so much more than a hitter, but, in some cases, that is not a point of interest when it comes to election time.

And, simply, some voters just like to make players wait. First-ballot Hall of Fame election is reserved for those players whose numbers are so gaudy, so off the charts, that you don’t even need to have watched them play a single game to know there were few — if any — who were better.

Bags was great. Really great. Hall-of-Fame great. But in terms of waiting for that call to Cooperstown, we might have to wait a while longer. And I really, really hope I’m wrong on this one.

(I also think there are enough writers out there who would be tickled pink to have Bagwell and Craig Biggio go in together. Biggio will be eligible in two years, which will be Bagwell’s third time on the ballot.)

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Odds and ends as we shift our focus from eating too much pumpkin mousse cheesecake during Thanksgiving to eating too much at the office Christmas party…

Hunter Pence All-Star Camp 2010

Your favorite right fielder is hosting a baseball camp for kids ages 6-18 that will offer one day of training with Pence and other professional ballplayers. Campers can participate on either Dec. 18 or 19 and the cost is $200.

For that cost, you will receive:

HP Play Dri Reebok Camp Tee
HP Reebok Drawstring bag
HP 2010 Camp Bracelet
Instructors and Sponsorship Program
Personalized autograph and picture
Autographs from all instructors

To sign up, visit hunterpencebaseball.com or call 713-254-7520.

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Speaking of Pence, he and several other Astros were in the weight room bright and early Tuesday morning, as they are every Monday through Thursday throughout most of the offseason.

Under the supervision of strength and conditioning coach Gene Coleman, the crew — Pence, Humberto Quintero, Wandy Rodriguez, Brian Bogusevic and Ross Seaton – spent most of the morning hitting the weights, the exercise bikes, and several other pieces of workout equipment that I don’t know the names of. In other words, it might be the offseason, but the players are still working. (And more will join the morning routine in the near future, including Bud Norris, Chris Johnson, Jason Bourgeois and Brett Wallace.)

Here’s proof:

Bogusevic, Coleman, Wandy

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Pence, Seaton

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Wandy, Coleman, Pence

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Quintero, Wandy

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Wandy

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And finally, here’s an updated photo of the big empty hole formerly known as the Astros dearly departed (and outdated) scoreboard. The new version will be delivered later in December and will be installed, hopefully, in January. Stay tuned…

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Dealing with a losing streak, then celebrating a win.

It started with Geoff Blum sprinkling little white pills in the bat bags of his teammates.

“Advil,” he said.

That’s what happens when your team adds another loss to the win column, making it eight straight. You go into the clubhouse, remove your uniform, retreat into the training room and grab a Jumbo-sized bottle of ibuprofen.

A few pills here, another couple there. Sure, it sounds ridiculous, but so was this season-opening team-wide tumble. What cures a headache could very well do the same for a collective .223 batting average, no?

The clubhouse scene the next morning was pretty standard — players milling around, players hitting in the cages, players eating breakfast.

Players grooving out to the musical stylings of boy bands NSYNC and Backstreet Boys.

For the first minute or so, there was a station-to-station denial that anyone dared to like the music or know the lyrics — “Who the heck has Justin Timberlake on their iPod?” Jason Michaels: “Me, dude. Greatest hits. If you’re going to do it, go all out.” But before long, heads were bobbing, toes were tapping and Blum was doing that “running man” dance move that was so popular in the early early ’90s.

“How can you not feel it?” he asked, all the while keeping rhythm during “I Want it That Way.”

Minutes later, Cory Sullivan laid his bat on a towel in the middle of the clubhouse, covered it with another towel and said, “The bats need to rest. They’ll be ready by gametime.” Soon, Sullivan’s bats had company — Blum’s bat, Michaels’ bat, Chris Johnson’s, and on and on. I heard later that Humberto Quintero brought all five of his over to join the slumber party.

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No one will ever know if wacky clubhouse hijinks played a role in their reversal of fortune, but the Astros won handily that afternoon, beating the Cardinals 5-1. This win was important, obviously, seeing it was the team’s first win of 2010 and Brad Mills’ first win as a big league manager.

Chris Sampson, who contribute two scoreless innings, walked into Mills’ office, offered congratulations and gestured dramatically as he simulated knocking that proverbial gorilla off Mills’ back.

Yesterday, I blogged that the demeanor in the clubhouse is pretty much the same, win or lose, night after night. This is true, but there are exceptions. Thursday was an exception. Mills was hugely relieved, as were the players. The 1983 record is safe, and the burden of a winless season has been lifted.

The music in the clubhouse postgame? “Bye bye bye.”

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The press box at Busch Stadium is way, way up there. It’s ideal if you’re not trying to cover a game or take pictures. But I did want to capture some images of the big win, even if they’re grainy. Enjoy.

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Best seats in the house.

Spring Training is a great time to hang out at the ballpark and catch some rays, but the best part has to be the vantage point the fans have to the players.

Spring ballparks are tiny, seating somewhere in the neighborhood of 6,000 to 10,000 fans. During the regular season, thousands are relegated to the upper decks — nosebleeds, if you will — but during Spring Training, there is not a single bad seat in the house.

My favorite area is located right behind the bullpen. Not only do fans have the opportunity to engage in conversation with the relievers, but they can watch the starting pitcher warm up less from than 10 feet away.

As I watched Wandy Rodriguez warm up today, I was struck by how close he was to the fans seated just behind the ‘pen. That’s a perspective you can’t get at any other time other than Spring Training, and for the fans, that’s a real treat.

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The ESPN Club on Disney’s Boardwalk was hopping Wednesday, and for good reason. Lance Berkman draws a crowd no matter where he goes, and that was definitely the case this time as the fans enjoyed an hour of Puma perspective. We even picked up some fabulous Puma One Liners…even when Lance isn’t trying to be funny, he just is.

He answered a full slate of questions, some of which I’ll post now (in case you missed it):

On his conversations with opponents while manning first base:

Albert Pujols and I talk a little bit over there. Mainly, he’s like, ‘What’s wrong with you? Why aren’t you hitting?’ Albert’s a great guy, that’s how he is.”

On if he’d ever adopt the Hunter Pence high-sock look:

“I’ve done that before, to just mix it up a little bit. Especially if you don’t hit the ball well with the low pants, you go with the high pants. But it takes a lot of effort to wear high pants. You have to have an extra pair of socks. It’s a high maintenance look and I’m pretty low maintenance.”

On Brad Mills:
“Brad’s done a great job, especially for a guy who’s a first year manager. He’s really been impressive. I think all the guys like him and respect him. He brings a winning pedigree to the clubhouse. You can’t find anyone who says anything bad about him. It’s a great hire for the organization. Even if we run into a little adversity this year, I don’t think he’s going to be any different. I have a lot of respect for him and have enjoyed being around him in this camp.”

On young players to look out for:
“You kind of know the guys we have who are knocking on the door. Bud Norris, he’s got to continue in his development as a Major League starter for us to be successful this year. Our two young catchers (Jason Castro, J.R. Towles), I’m impressed with both of them. Chris Johnson, the young third baseman — he’s been put on back burner because we signed Pedro Feliz, but he’s got a lot of ability. He’s a great defender and has been swinging the bat well.”

On Feliz:
“He’s a great guy in the clubhouse, a great defender. He plays third base about as well as anyone in the game. It frees up (Geoff) Blum to move around and play where he needs to play and come off the bench.”

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Not a great outcome score-wise on Wednesday, but it was a bright, sunny, warm day, which makes for great photo opps. Enjoy the sights…

Wandy has one final conversation with pitching coach Brad Arnsberg before taking the mound.

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Mills chats with a couple of players while walking off the field after the game.

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Quintero, Paulino and Norris have a laugh before morning stretching.

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Pence takes some hacks in the cage.

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Pence and Puma.

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Photo albums, videos, and you.

“Social media” is a relatively new term, but it’s quickly changing the way companies do business. In sports, social media is opening up all kinds of new avenues for teams to directly communicate with their fans. With Spring Training upon us, there is no better time for Major League Baseball — and more specifically, your Houston Astros — to bring you every nugget of what is going on, through articles, pictures, videos, blogs and Twitter updates.

If you haven’t joined the Astros Facebook page, I invite you to do so. We’re posting daily photo albums from camp in an effort to give you the fly-on-the-wall perspective that is now available with a simple click of the mouse. All blogs, as well as Brian McTaggart’s outstanding mlb.com coverage, can be found there.

We’re also posting daily videos, which live on both the homepage of astros.com and a special video section which you can find here. Those videos are also linked to my Footnotes page, which is a landing page that includes blogs, videos and links to my Twitter account.

So far, we’ve posted a Roy Oswalt interview, two workout videos, a Brad Mills segment and footage from Drayton McLane’s announcement of Ed Wade’s contract extension. You’ll also find archived segments from the Astros’ recent offseason caravans.

Our goal is to bring you close to the action, even if you can’t be there in person. We have a ton of new faces in camp this year, so there’s no better time to start getting to know the new Astros, as well as say hello to old friends.

Enjoy!

Tim Byrdak, Jeff Fulchino

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Roy Oswalt

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Oswalt practices fielding grounders back to the mound. That’s Jose Cruuuuz at first base. 

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Bud Norris, Brian Moehler throw bullpens.

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Felipe Paulino throws a bullpen (with the Astros braintrust watching from behind). 

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Catchers Humberto Quintero and Jason Castro.

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What the Astros got for Pudge.

One scouting report describes Matt Nevarez as having a “huge arm” but also as “extremely raw.” The Astros do not see him as raw. They like his plus-plus fastball and see what could be the makings of an average slider. Nevarez is young, only 22, and even though that’s a little old for Class A, where he was at the time of the trade, he missed some time because of an elbow injury. Now seemingly healthy, the Astros envision Nevarez as a possible power arm for the back end of the bullpen.

Reportedly, the Astros also received infielder Jose Vallejo as one of the two players to be named later. According to this report, the Astros will get a second PTBNL if the Rangers reach the playoffs. 

It’s obviously too early to tell if this trade will work in the Astros favor, but that they obtained a young power arm is encouraging. I would have preferred a starting pitcher, but it would have taken more than Pudge Rodriguez to get that.

Ed Wade addressed several topics during his briefing with the media Tuesday. First, he offered a timeline of how the deal was done. Rangers GM Jon Daniels, according to Wade, called him Friday after front-line catcher Jarrod Saltalamacchia was diagnosed with an arm ailment. Daniels expressed interest in Pudge, and after mulling over the Astros asking price, he called Wade again Tuesday morning and said he was prepared to move forward with the trade.

The Rangers, Wade said, did not have interest in Pudge until Saltalamacchia went down.

Pudge has a no-trade clause, and he had to agree before the two sides could make it official. That part is why it took so long between the news breaking that Pudge was headed to the Rangers and the Astros acknowledging that they had indeed completed the trade: Pudge first had to accept a trade that would push him into a backup role with his new team.

Wade also offered this interesting tidbit: during their parting conversation Tuesday morning, Pudge wanted to talk about next year, and his interest in possibly returning to the Astros. Wade told him they were prepared instead to look at some of their young catching prospects. “I advised him to take advantage of going ‘home’ and see what the offseason presents at that time,” Wade said.

Astros owner Drayton McLane was pressed about the public perception that the team was throwing in the proverbial towel by trading away one of their most experienced players, and McLane insisted this was not the beginning of the club going into full tear-down mode.

“If we were interested in changing the total texture of the team, we would have done it at the trade deadline,” McLane said. “We had not had conversations about trading Pudge. This was unusual. We got call after the Rangers No. 1 catcher was injured.”

McLane added that Rangers owner Tom Hicks called him about Pudge. “I was very reluctant,” McLane said. “I said, ‘You need to make a strong offer before we’d even consider this.’”

Astros players reactions ranged from disappointment to indifference. Some took it hard and feel that taking away someone with Pudge’s history is equal to giving up on the season. Others weren’t terribly surprised — after all, Pudge was pretty much down to catching a few times a week and splitting time with Humberto Quintero.

“Pudge wasn’t catching as much lately,” Lance Berkman said. “That’s what it seemed like. That’s why I thought there might be something going on even before this (trade). It’s one thing if he was the every day catcher. But he was more part-time.”

Roy Oswalt had this to say: “I guess that’s the process of trying to build the club for next year. That’s what I’m hoping they are doing now. There is a time where you have to start rebuilding, and if you wait until the end of the season, you may not get the pieces you need for the next year.”

My take: While I realize Pudge was a popular player in the clubhouse and with the fans, and he’s accomplished a heck of a lot in his career, and he’s probably headed for the Hall of Fame, I’m not understanding why this is viewed as such a huge loss. Pudge was hitting .251, he grounded into 13 double plays and was showing signs of wearing down, hitting just .170 (10-for-59) with one extra base hit over his last 15 games. And his defense, lauded for so many of his 19 years in the big leagues, wasn’t anything great. Five passed balls in 90 games is, in my estimation, too many.

The 37-year-old Rodriguez is going back to the Rangers, where he spent his best years, to be a backup to Taylor Teagarden. The Astros have a farm system with giant holes and a big league team playing poorly. At first glance, this appears to be a win-win for both sides.

The Astros were also negotiating from a position of strength, which doesn’t happen too often. The Rangers needed Pudge and the Astros were in no huge hurry to rid themselves of him. From the reports I’m reading, the Rangers didn’t give up just a bag of beans for Pudge. We’ll see.

As for how the catching situation will shake out…for now, Chris Coste and Quintero will share the time behind the plate. The Astros will strongly consider bringing up J.R. Towles when rosters expand to 40 on Sept. 1, which would give them a true emergency catcher. Jason Castro, who is headed for the World Cup games in September, does not appear to be on the radar this year. I am holding out hope they consider giving him a chance to win the starting catcher job out of Spring Training in 2010.

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Fun at the Puma palace

We’ll never accuse Berkman of forgetting from where he came, especially when it comes to his alma mater.

Puma recently welcomed 25 Rice University students to his home as part of orientation week, during which co-eds are sent on a scavenger hunt with specific items to obtain on their excursion. Apparently, one of those items this year was a picture with Puma. A friend had reached out to Berkman ahead of time, so it was no surprise when the group showed up at his place wanting a quick pose. Berkman readily obliged, remembering his own “O-Week” at Rice nearly 15 years ago.

“I did it when I was a freshman,” he said. “We fit a full soccer goal into the back of a mini pick-up truck.”

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Need to vent? Join Facebook.

Frustrated. Elated. Mad. Sad. Indignant. Excited. Optimistic. Annoyed. Indifferent. Hopeful.

Baseball evokes a wide range of emotions from its fans, and over the course of this season, and seasons past, I’ve heard from fans who have expressed one or two, or all, of the above. Now, thanks to social networking, we can be mad, sad, elated, hopeful and annoyed together.

Some of you post on my blog, some on Twitter, some on Facebook. Your comments (keep them clean, please) are always welcome and I try my best to join in the conversation and address/answer everything I can. If you haven’t already, I would encourage you to join the Astros Facebook page. There are some lively conversations that take place there, and I promise that you’ll find a ton of people who think just like you, and another ton who will think you’re nuts.

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Cheap tickets alert

Two of the more popular summer promotions have been extended to the end of the season…

Price Matters: For $10, you get a View Deck II ticket, a hot dog, soda and chips. The offer is for the following games: Aug. 23 (D-Backs), Sept. 4-7 (Phillies), Sept. 8 (Braves), Sept. 11-13 (Pirates), Sept. 22 (Cardinals), Sept. 25-27 (Reds).

Kids Free All Summer…er, season:
This offer was originally scheduled to end on Sunday, but it’s been extended to include all remaining home games. For every full price adult ticket you purchase in the View Deck I, View Deck II or Mezzanine you can get two free tickets in the same price level for kids 14 & under.

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