Results tagged ‘ Jeff Bagwell ’

March 3 notes: Bagwell in camp, intrasquad game, Puma update.

The clubhouse was a little livelier than usual Wednesday morning, probably because it was the last day of workouts before the Grapefruit League games begin. It’s not that players get overly excited about Spring Training games — in fact, after about 15 of those they’ll be itching to get finished with the schedule and start playing some “meaningful” baseball. But after nearly two weeks of throwing side sessions, taking batting practice, practicing pickoffs, rundowns, pop flies, plays at the plate and hitting the cutoff man, it’s probably not a stretch to assume the players are ready to mix things up a bit.

Manager Brad Mills posted his lineup for the Astros-Nationals game on Thursday:

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I’ve already had some questions about the decision to catch J.R. Towles and use Jason Castro as the DH, but I wouldn’t read too much into it. Mills said that most of the DH playing time will go to the catchers, which will allow for Humberto Quintero, Towles and Castro to continue to receive at-bats even when they’re not behind the plate. Considering the starting catcher position is wide open this spring, that’s a sound move.

Lance Berkman’s bruised left knee is feeling better, but the first baseman won’t play in Thursday’s game and his status for Friday is still TBD. Mills said he’s waiting to see if Berkman can DH for that game in Lakeland, or if he can play his position. Mills has Towles on the radar to DH, while Quintero will DH during the “B” game in Lakeland. Felipe Paulino, a sixth candidate for a starting position, is slated to start that game.

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The clubhouse wasn’t the only lively place Wednesday morning. The coaches’ locker room was jumping as well, mainly because of the addition of Jeff Bagwell (along with some interesting story-telling by Enos Cabell, parts of which regrettably filtered into the hallway where I was eaves-dropping).

Bagwell will be with the Astros for three days and will return again at the end of March for about a week. He’s still recovering from shoulder surgery and other than going completely out of his mind not being able to work out, he seems to be doing well. He spent most of the morning shaking hands with people with his left hand, to avoid any unnecessary tugging of his right arm which could irritate the shoulder.

To avoid any mishaps, he held a coffee cup in his right hand for most of the morning. Here he is having a coffee toast with Hunter Pence around 9 a.m.:

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The Astros played an intrasquad game Wednesday as a final tuneup before Thursday’s Grapefruit opener. This was mainly for the pitchers, which is why most of the regular position players didn’t play. Instead, several Minor League players and non-starters comprised the rosters for “Meacham’s Mashers” and “Clark’s Crushers,” named after the two coaches who managed this game — first base coach Bobby Meacham and third base coach Dave Clark.

The wind was blowing out at about a 20 mph clip, which might explain why the final score was 16-13 (in favor of Meacham’s Mashers.)

For a behind-the-scenes peek at the Intrasquad “draft,” click here. You’ll find footage of a lot of banter between coaches as Meacham and Clark picked their teams.

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Thanks to the more than 500 of you who have hopped onto our Astros Witticism Twitter account, aptly named PumaOneLiners. As the season goes on, we hope to use that as a landing spot to showcase the more humorous side of baseball players, even though we also plan to use it as a way to communicate postgame quotes once the regular season begins.

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Images from spring training workouts on a cold, windy Wednesday morning:

 Puma, Blum, Sean Berry.

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Pedro Feliz

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Wandy Rodriguez, Roy Oswalt

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Bagwell

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Bagwell with minor league field coordinator Dick Scott.

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Photo Day…somewhat of a pain, but necessary.

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One of the less popular annual rites of spring is an exercise known as Photo Day. It’s a 90-minute process that starts in the wee hours of the morning, around 7 a.m., involves everyone in uniform, and requires smiling and posing for at least a dozen cameras.

Every team has Photo Day during Spring Training, and the dates are arranged in such a way that allows the photographers to hop from camp to camp without any scheduling conflicts. In attendance of Photo Day in Kissimmee on Thursday were photographers from seven outlets: MLB Photos, Photo File, Getty Images, Baseball Digest, Associated Press, Baseball America and TOPPS. The Astros also hire a local photographer to participate.

Players are given a regular-season cap and directed to the large meeting room on the second floor, above the clubhouse. That’s where half the photographers are set up — the other half are outside on the balcony that overlooks the main field.

One major, extremely important, essential part of Photo Day is keeping track of who players are. This sounds simple enough, but when you’ve got 55 players and about a dozen coaches coming through, documenting who’s who is vital. To do this, players are handed an 8×10 sheet of paper with their name on it. When they go station to station, the first picture taken is of them holding up their nametag. These aren’t used for anything except identification.

The importance of this step in the process gets lost among some of the players who don’t quite understand why teams have photo day and where the photos are used. The headshots you see on the JumboTron when the player comes to bat? Taken on Photo Day. Same goes for the head shots you see in newspapers, the poses you see on baseball cards, the mug shots in game programs and in media guides…all taken on Photo Day.

A few years ago, two Marlins players — Reggie Abercrombie and Hanley Ramirez — thought it would be fun to switch name tags during Photo Day. Reggie was Hanley and Hanley was Reggie, and the two got a good laugh from the experience.

Abercrombie probably didn’t find it so funny when a handful of the road ballparks he visited had Ramirez’s picture up on the scoreboard when he came to bat. He also was somewhat perplexed when Ramirez’s photo was placed on his bio in the Astros media guide in 2008, the year the Astros had picked up Abercrombie off waivers from the Marlins.

After it was explained to him, he had a better understanding of what Photo Day is, and why it’s necessary to follow instructions.

Geoff Blum sips coffee and waits for Bud Norris to move on to the next station.  

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Sammy Gervacio.

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Tommy Manzella.

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Chris Johnson.

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On a compeltely unrelated note…mystery solved: Jeff Bagwell indeed made it through his shoulder surgery OK, and yep, his arm is still attached:

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Other than fretting that he can’t work out for at least six weeks, which is driving him completely nuts, he appears to be recovering well. It’ll be a while before he feels normal again, but I think he’s glad he had the procedure.

Bagwell was passing through town briefly on Wednesday. He’ll be back next week for a longer period of time and will work mostly with the Minor League players.

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The ESPN Baseball Tonight “Bus Tour” will be in Astros Spring Training camp Friday (Feb. 26) as part of their Florida Spring Training tour from Feb. 18-March 5. The crew will be doing live shots for SportsCenter, ESPNEWS and Baseball Tonight at the Osceola County Stadium complex throughout the day and features Astros players as guests.

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Let the Castro watch begin.

Jason Castro reported to his first big league Spring Training camp last year relatively unnoticed, all things considered.

The club’s No. 1 Draft pick in ’08, Castro received the big league invite in ’09 not because he had a remote chance to make the club (he didn’t), but because the team told him if he handled his first professional season as well as expected, he would be welcomed to big league camp the following spring. Castro held up his end of the bargain, so the Astros held up theirs.

The stakes are different — higher, even — this year as Castro prepares for his second Major League Spring Training. Castro’s chances to make the club when camp breaks vary, depending on who you talk to. The cautious approach, which obviously protects the player, is to say simply that Castro will have a very real chance to make the club, but it’s more likely he’ll start the season at Triple-A and then work his way onto the big league roster at some point in 2010.

That’s all well and good and I do take that at face value, to a point. But we also see that the projected catchers this season are Humberto Quintero and J.R. Towles, and while they have value and merits in their own right, these are the same two catchers the Astros had last year when they scoured the free agent market for a stop-gap and landed on Pudge Rodriguez.

So, it’s not out of the realm of possibility to speculate that the Astros might outwardly feel that Castro will ease his way into the starting job eventually, but inwardly have every finger and toe crossed that Castro might just hit well, handle the pitching staff with ease and give the Astros no choice but to start him behind the plate on Opening Day.

It’ll be an interesting storyline come Feb. 20, when pitchers and catchers step onto those backfields at Osceola County Stadium for the first time (side note — morning workouts are open to the public and free. Gates will open about five minutes after the players hit the fields for stretching, which Brad Mills says will begin at 9:30 a.m.) I’ve been calling Castro the “future Astro,” but you have to wonder if that future just might arrive sooner than later (like, say, April 5 vs. the Giants).

Castro’s clearly ready for that line of questioning. He wore a hint of a grin when asked about it before the luncheon hosted by the Double-A Corpus Christi Hooks, and it’s nice to see him take the speculation in stride.

“It’s definitely something I’ve thought about, obviously,” he said. “I’m very excited about it. But when I do get there and the time comes, it’s about producing on the field. I’ll get my work in, prepare myself to do that and hopefully I’ll be ready. That’s the main thing I’ll have my mind on — just playing.”

In the meantime, it was nice catching up with Castro on the very last day of the nine-day, 15-city, umpteen-mile caravan jaunt that has now drawn to a close. The traveling party — Larry Dierker, Milo Hamilton, Castro and Hunter Pence – visited southeastern Texas, where they visited Driscoll Children’s Hospital in Corpus Christi, greeted fans associated with the Double-A Hooks and mingled with kids from the Boys & Girls Club in Victoria. 

Enjoy the images, including a few from Wednesday’s trip to the Center for the Intrepid at the Brooke Army Medical Center in San Antonio.

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Driscoll Children’s Hospital

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Castro chats with Milo Hamilton during the Corpus Christi luncheon presentation.

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Castro, Pence sign autographs in Corpus.

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Pence took the young fans a bit off guard with his constant barrage of questions: “Did you have a good day at school today? Did you learn anything? How was recess?” This whole visit was a surprise for the kids at the Boys & Girls Club, so needless to say, most answers were in the form of wide-eyed, gaping nods.  

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Most of the kids loosened up by the end of the visit, however.

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One day earlier, another caravan traveling party wrapped up its three-day jaunt through Central Texas with a visit with soldiers at the Center for the Intrepid in San Antonio. Most of the patients there have lost limbs — mostly legs. Our guys didn’t know what to expect when they entered the facility, but it took no time at all before the conversations flowed freely. It was one of the few stops we made that when it was time to leave, no one wanted to.

Below: Matt Lindstrom 

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Bud Norris

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Lindstrom

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Group shot with Bagwell

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I love this one…Bagwell was asking so many questions that finally the young man just took off the prosthetic leg and handed it to him.

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One last group shot before we left.

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Central Texas Caravan, Day Two.

The Astros are currently in the midst of a nine-day caravan schedule that has them visiting more than a dozen cities, during which they stop by schools, sporting goods stores and other area stopping points.

No visits are more important, however, than the hospital visits, especially when children are involved.

The Astros spent about an hour and a half at the Dell Children’s Medical Center of Central Texas on Tuesday, but everyone agreed that it probably should have lasted longer. It’s heartbreaking to see what these kids are going through, but heartwarming to see their faces light up when ballplayers walk into the room. It’s especially entertaining to watch a youngster as it dawns on him that yes, that was really Jeff Bagwell who shook his hand and introduced himself.  

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Other news and notes in Astroland:

Bud Norris loves the big leagues, but he still reflects fondly upon his Minor League years, especially when one certain special assistant to the general manager would roll through town for a couple of days.

“We’d see Bagwell lurking around, trying not to be noticed,” Norris said. “But as soon as we saw him, we knew: We were going to get a good dinner that night.”
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Speaking of Bagwell, he’s ready to go under the knife for another shoulder surgery, scheduled for Monday in Scottsdale, AZ.

He’s hoping to alleviate a lot of the pain that has not only returned, but appears to be getting worse.

The procedure will involve shaving the ball of his shoulder down to a perfect circle, drilling a hole in the middle and sticking a metal half-ball on top of it.

“They go into my shoulder and open it up — it won’t be arthroscopic, Bagwell said. “It’s actual surgery. They’ll take out all my bone spurs, there’s one big one in there that we’ve known about for a while.”

Read the full story, which includes more Bagwell insight, here.

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Park Patrol tryouts are scheduled for Feb. 5 from 4 to 7 p.m. CT and Feb. 6 from 9 a.m. to noon at Union Station. You might remember that the Park Patrol is an interactive squad that performs various home game duties, including t-shirt launches, prize giveaways and trivia contests while performing dance routines and “skits” with the Team Mascot.

Park Patrol members will perform these tasks LIVE in the stands, on ballpark concourses and will be featured on the stadium videoboard. They will also make appearances at season ticket holder events, Astros in Action Foundation events, and any approved event in connection with the Houston Astros.

To be considered for the Astros Park Patrol, please contact by phone or through e-mail to Dukeman Productions at 713-838-9855 or Kevin@dukemanproductions.com.

For more information, check out the Park Patrol page on Astros.com.

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Renew your season tickets, hang out with Brownie and J.D.

The season of gifting and re-gifting is behind us, but apparently, the Astros are still in the mood to give things away.

They’re offering new incentives for you to renew your season tickets sooner than later, and judging from the quality of the items they’re raffling off, they’re ready to pay up in exchange for the simple act of, well, paying up.

All full-season ticket and 27-game mini-plan account holders who renew, or anyone purchasing a full-season ticket package or 27-game mini package will automatically be entered into daily drawings to win one of 20  pretty heavy-duty prizes.

Perusing through the list, here are my personal favorites:

Meet and greet with a player on the field before a game
A clubhouse tour and meet and greet with manager Brad Mills
A Jeff Bagwell autographed bat

And, the best one (in my humble opinion):
Sit for an inning in the TV booth with two of my favorite people, broadcasters Bill Brown and Jim Deshaies.

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The drawing started Monday and runs weekdays through Jan. 29, and if you’ve already renewed (even before the contest started), you’re automatically entered. If you haven’t renewed, you’ll be eligible for all remaining drawings as soon as you do so.

Click here for more details and a full listing of prizes, which includes sitting in the press box for three innings, watching a game with 12 friends and Jimmy Wynn from one of the suites, and sitting on the field for one of the Friday Night Fireworks displays (presumably, you’ll be near the many players who bring their kids onto the field for fireworks nights).

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A fun November day at the ballpark, and more comedic stylings from the Puma.

When Lance Berkman told his wife why he was going to Minute Maid Park Saturday afternoon, Cara Berkman summoned her three oldest kids (above) and said, “We’re going too.”

Berkman (aka Puma) was one of four Astros representatives to participate in an event designed to help 20 families who are transitioning from homelessness to self-sufficiency.”Take A Minute” marked the beginning of national Hunger and Homelessness Awareness week. Families were treated to a Thanksgiving meal, a tour of Minute Maid Park and an autograph session Berkman, Jeff Bagwell, Hunter Pence and manager Brad Mills.

Cara Berkman didn’t hesitate when she heard what the event was about.

“I said to Lance, ‘Homeless children? We’re going,’ Cara said. “I want my kids to see this and be involved. They need to understand there are people that have hard lives and need our help.”

Brian McTaggart gives a full report of the event here.

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Covering offseason activities is fun, mainly because players in general are well-rested and relaxed, and any fatigue and/or bitterness from a down year has pretty much subsided.

I chuckled a bit as I headed to the event, knowing it would take about two minutes for Puma and I to pick up where we left off — I snap pictures, he acts like he’s annoyed and then he spends the next several minutes lamenting the presence of Facebook and Twitter — “two things contributing to the downfall of society,” Berkman grumbles. (He was especially thrilled when I told him about Twit pic).

Bagwell isn’t quite so dramatic, but we did have a good laugh about the fake accounts floating around. To review, the Berkman Twitter account is bogus, and if you’re ever wondering if that is really Bagwell’s Facebook page, the answer is a resounding no. He’s made progress over the years when it comes to logging on but I can assure you he does not now, and never will, be a Facebooker.

Enjoy the pictures.

My attempts to take pictures of the four Astros at the autograph table were intercepted by one Puma, who just cannot help himself.

 

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Another block, this time, with a sweatshirt.

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So I switched my positioning and was a bit more successful. Here’s Pence, displaying his own brand of goofiness:

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Bagwell tapes a PSA for “Take A Minute.”

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Berkman and Pence, catching up after five weeks of no baseball.

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The new guy always gets the most attention. Brad Mills spent as much time granting media interviews as he did signing autographs.

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Autograph session

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Group photo

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And finally, a visit from Junction Jack.

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Try ‘em Before you Buy ‘em

Speaking of offseason fun at Minute Maid Park…

The Astros Ticket Services Department will host a Select-A-Seat event for fans interested in season tickets on Saturday, December 12 from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m.

If you are interested in 2010 full season ticekts or 27-game mini-plans, come out to the ballpark for a one-on-one guided tour to find the perfect set of seats. Ticket sales representatives will offer valuable information on each available seat location to ensure you invest in the perfect plan.

Also, new for 2010 is the “Buy Two, Get Two Free” season ticket offer. As part of this package, fans purchasing two season tickets in the View Deck I and View Deck II seating levels or in select Terrace Deck sections will receive two additional season tickets in the same price level for free. These full season packages start at only $415 per season seat — only $5 per game.

The Astros are also offering special “Early Bird” incentives for those who buy their season tickets by Dec. 18. The incentives include a choice of taking batting practice, playing catch in the outfield or a taking clubhouse tour at Minute Maid Park. (At first glance, I’d go with the clubhouse tour. It’s pretty cool, although I would imagine for those of you whose baseball careers petered out in the seventh grade, batting practice might be fun).

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FiveSeven Grille wins an award. Chris Sampson is opening a baseball academy.

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The new FiveSeven Grille in center field at Minute Maid Park is eye-catching with its modern decor and splashy photographs of Jeff Bagwell (Five) and Craig Biggio (Seven), and apparently, these attributes didn’t go unnoticed by the experts.

Earlier this week, the Astros revealed that the Texas Gulf Coast chapter of ASID (American Society of Interior Designers) awarded Houston-based architecture firm Kirksey the First Place Interior Design Award in the hospitality category for the FiveSeven Grille.

The competition was open to licensed interior designers and architects in Houston and the Gulf Coast area, and projects could be located anywhere if they were completed within the last two years. 

“The Astros are thrilled with the work that Kirksey did in bringing FiveSeven Grille to life,” said Astros President of Business Operations Pam Gardner. “The design work captures the feel and excitement of a fun, clubby destination, while showcasing Astros’ icons Jeff Bagwell and Craig Biggio in dynamic fashion. It has been a great gathering place on game days and provides a wonderful location for private parties on non-game days.”

The FiveSeven Grille pays homage to Bagwell and Biggio with various photos taken during their tenure with the club that are displayed throughout the restaurant and bar. It is available year-round for private parties and events. For booking information, please call 713-259-8808.

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Chris Sampson didn’t get the callup when rosters expanded on Sept. 1, but he had plenty of offseason projects to keep him busy when his season in Round Rock concluded a month ago.

Sampson and former Brewers farmhand Kade Johnson are building a baseball academy in Baytown, which, according to their new web site — http://www.lonestarbat.com — will be opening soon.

The academy offers private baseball and softball lessons, clinics and cage rentals for baseball and softball teams or individual players. It also includes five extra wide 70 foot batting tunnels, an Iron Mike pitching machine, baseball and softball pitching machines, indoor pitching mounds and video analysis.

Biggio, a cover model? And happy birthday, Milo.

 

Veteran Houston sportswriter Gene Duffey wrote a nice piece for Health and Fitness Sports Magazine that should pique the interest of Astros fans, as well as Houston sports fans in general. 

The magazine’s 24th anniversary issue features Craig Biggio, Jeff Bagwell, former Houston Oilers quarterback Warren Moon, Hall of Famer Nolan Ryan and former Houston Rockets center Hakeem Olajuwon in a feature titled “Now…And Then.”

The article touches on Biggio’s post-playing career, which includes coaching the St. Thomas High School baseball team and catching up on things he missed during a 20-year career that ended with 3,060 hits, all with the Astros.

“Biggio, a Long Island, NY native, and wife, Patty, took their first summer vacation in 2008, visiting Italy and the Jersey Shore,’” Duffey writes.

‘Retired? I haven’t been there,’ he laughed. “It’s baseball seven days a week.’”

Bagwell talks about his active involvement in Houston charities, including his two years serving as the celebrity spokesperson for Prepared 4 Life’s Lemonade Day, a free community-wide event that offers young people the opportunity to savor the sweet taste of success that comes with owning and operating their own lemonade business.

Biggio appears on the cover of the issue, which is due to hit stands on Sept. 24.

“We were honored to have Craig appear on the cover of this special issue,” Editor-in-Chief Rod Evans said. “The profiles of Biggio and the other sports luminaries should be very enjoyable for any Houston sports fan. We always try to do something extraordinary for our anniversary issue, and I think we’ve hit a home run this year.”

Health and Fitness Sports Magazine is a free publication that can be found at fitness centers, spas, salons, supermarkets, hospitals, clinics and other facilities around Houston. Readers are also invited to view the publication online at Healthandfitnessmag.com. You’ll have to sign up in order to gain access to the article, but it takes only a few seconds (I signed up yesterday).

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It could be said that baseball is Milo Hamilton’s first love, but fine dining has to be a close second. During his multiple decades as a baseball broadcaster, Milo has compiled an extensive and impressive list of restaurants he likes to frequent on the road, as well as his favorite eateries right here in Houston.

One of his favorite in-town stops is Truluck’s on Westheimer, near the Galleria. On Thursday, he reserved the party room at the upscale restaurant and invited 21 friends from the Astros family to join him in celebrating his 82nd birthday.

Happy birthday, Milo!

Milo and his son, Mark.

Jamie Hildreth, Astros Sr. Vice President of Sponsorships, gives a birthday toast to the man of the hour.

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100,000 strong

As of the wee hours on Friday, the Astros Facebook page reached the 100,000 member mark. I’d like to send a quick thank you to all of the fans who have joined and an extra shout out to those who have kept the page lively by engaging in enlightened conversations regarding the 2009 Astros. I know this has been a difficult and frustrating season, but we really are interested in hearing any and all comments regarding the team, good and bad. On Facebook, everyone has a voice.

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Apparently, the first wives gala involved dancing.

 

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In 1990, two young wives of two budding superstar Astros players put together a modest fundraiser titled “An Evening of Stars” and hand-picked the organization to where the funds would be donated.

The gala was the first of its kind in the Astros organization, and it’s unlikely Patty Biggio and Nancy Caminiti could have imagined that a night of dinner and dancing for approximately 400 guests would snowball into the most lucrative single fundraising event the Astros host in every calendar year.

At some point in the early to mid-1990s, “An Evening of Stars” turned into “Black Ties and Baseball Caps.” Although the title changed, the recipient of the proceeds has remained the same. The Houston Area Women’s Center — a safe haven for women and children affected by domestic and sexual violence — started as a modest eight-bed facility in 1977 and has grown to a 125-bed shelter, the largest in the country for woman and child survivors of domestic and sexual assault. The Astros Wives have played a part in that; two decades worth of galas have raised over $3 million for the HAWC.

This year’s soiree will be held on Aug. 6 on the field at Minute Maid Park and will be co-chaired by Pamela Michaels and Michelle Quintero. Tickets to the gala begin at $400, and as an added benefit, All-Star, Diamond, Gold Glove and Silver Slugger tables have the opportunity to select a player and his wife or guest to be seated at their table. Player requests are granted first by level of sponsorship and in the order received.

For more information or to purchase tickets call 713-781-0053.

As I was looking through pictures from past events in preparation to blog about this year’s milestone gala — the big 2-0 — I couldn’t help but notice the ones in the early years involved not only dinner and schmoozing with baseball players, but also dancing, and, during the Casey Candaele years, break dancing. These days, the gala is a bit more subdued, but still a lot of fun. And the silent and live auction items have undoubtedly improved.

Judging from the picture at the top of this blog, it’s clear Craig and Patty Biggio felt comfortable on the dance floor. They’re not the only ones…

This is the most normal pose I found of Candaele, circa 1990.

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Those who know Casey, however, would probably say this one is the more normal of the two.

 

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Many people danced that night, but from what I can tell from the pictures, Casey was the only one who took it to the floor, literally.

Hey, look, it’s Jim Deshaies…with hair!

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Fast foward 10 years…the team in 2000 wasn’t very good, but there were a lot of fan favorites on the club. Left to right: Jose Lima Time, Scott Elarton, Jeff Bagwell, Billy Wagner, Jay Powell and Lance Berkman (pre-Puma.)

 

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2003: Bagwell, Milo Hamilton, Berkman.

 

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While perusing the 1990 scrap book I found this letter written by Ellen Cohen, who had just taken over as President and CEO of the HAWC. I was struck by Cohen’s description of exactly how the funds from the gala were spent, and how much Cohen was hoping the wives would again pick the HAWC as their charity of choice (obviously, they did).

(Point of interest: Cohen left the HAWC in 2006 when she was elected to the Texas House of Representatives from Houston District 134.)

 

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Friendly reminder that the Kids Free All Summer will continue through Aug. 23. A friend of mine tried it out couple of weeks ago — he and his wife each bought a $20 ticket and their four kids got in for free. That six people for 40 bucks. Check it out…

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