Results tagged ‘ Jim Crane ’

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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The Astros will host two tailgating events in 2012. More to come?

The idea of tailgating around Minute Maid Park and the Dynamo’s new stadium has been a hot topic in Houston lately, and on Wednesday, the Astros responded with a plan.

Owner and Chairman Jim Crane announced that the Astros will host two special tailgating events during the club’s 2012 season to enhance the game experience for fans and learn more about the potential of hosting future tailgates around Minute Maid Park.

An event hosted primarily for young adults is planned for Saturday, June 2, and will take place in Parking Lot C on Texas Avenue. The Astros will set up a tented area and provide food and beverage. Fans are also welcome to bring their own food and beverage.

On the previous day, Friday, June 1, a tailgate will be offered for teens (ages 13-18) and will be non-alcoholic. The Astros will again provide food and beverage and the fans are welcome to bring their own, as well.

For both events, the Astros will provide more details to follow.

“We listened to the fans and a majority was in favor of tailgating for Astros games,” said Crane. “However, there are fans who have voiced concerns so we want to learn throughout the process. Following the season, we will make a decision on how tailgating will be handled moving forward.”

The decision to host Astros’ tailgates this season coincides with several fan-friendly initiatives announced by Crane earlier this year including a reduction in ticket pricing at various levels and a new policy allowing fans to bring food and water into Minute Maid Park.

Keep an eye on Kyle Weiland.

Brett Myers’ move to the bullpen opened up a lot of innings, some 200 or more, that need to be accounted for by someone else this season. Livan Hernandez will take care some of that, of course, but opportunity is wide open for another pitcher — presumably, one of the Astros up-and-comers — to grab one of the spots in a rotation that has at least one opening.

Assuming Bud Norris, Wandy Rodriguez, Hernandez and J.A. Happ take up the first four spots, one job remains. Jordan Lyles, who made 15 starts for the Astros in 2011, would have to be considered a front-runner to win the job. But keep an eye on a few others, including Kyle Weiland, who is quietly putting together an impressive Spring Training.

Weiland, who was traded to the Astros from the Red Sox during the offseason, threw four no-hit innings against the Yankees Monday night in Tampa. Add that to the four scoreless innings he combined for in his first two spring appearances, and that equals a nearly perfect spring so far: eight innings, three hits, no runs, two walks, four strikeouts.

Spring Training games should, and will, be viewed with the understanding that while it’s largely the only way by which we can judge players at this point, it’s not the sole indicator of how that might translate to the regular season. That said, Spring Training is also designed to give players a chance to force their way onto a team. Weiland, who is going to continue to be groomed as a starting pitcher as he develops through the Astros’ system, wasn’t labeled as a sure-fire contender to win a big league job when camp began. But he wasn’t definitively ticketed for Triple-A, either.

Rather, Weiland was considered one of those “interesting” types to keep an eye on. If three weeks ago I had to bet large amounts of my salary on where Weiland would end up after Spring Training, I would have said Oklahoma City. Now, I’m not so sure.

If the Astros are looking for someone to pull away from the pack, they may have to look no further than the pitcher who handled the Yankees with a tidy 49 pitches Monday night in Tampa.

Weiland, on his outing:

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Other notes:

* To make up for Sunday’s rainout, Wandy threw four simulated innings in the batting cage as soon as the game was called. The next morning, Norris and Aneury Rodriguez also threw four-inning simulated games. Norris was pitching on his normal four days of rest. The simulated games are in an effort to give “starts” to all potential starting pitchers this spring, and obviously, they have more than five who need innings.

* Brad Mills said he is trying to schedule a “B” game to make up for the innings lost by the rainout Sunday. While Spring Training games look casual and not terribly intense, there is a lot of work being done behind the scenes during the exhibition season. The schedules are mapped out by the coaching staff days in advance, and everyone — especially pitchers — have a regimen they need to stick to. Rainouts are a bummer for the fans, but they create even more headaches for a manager and staff trying to make sure 60-some players are all getting their work in. It looks easy from the outside. It’s not.

* Owner Jim Crane flew to Tampa with several board members to watch the Astros play the Yankees. It was Crane’s first Spring Training game, but presumably, it won’t be his last. He looked like he was thoroughly enjoying himself:

Other pregame sights from George M. Steinbrenner Field:

Brian Bogusevic

GM Jeff Luhnow and Brad Mills

Hall of Famer Goose Gossage is with the Yankees during Spring Training as a "guest instructor." He signs a lot of autographs in this role.

J.B. Shuck takes a round of BP...

...and chats with radio announcer Dave Raymond.

Hitting coach Mike Barnett and Jimmy Paredes discuss hitting, while Brett Wallace takes a few swings.

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Morning links: Schafer apologizes, Crane tours Kissimmee, and Manny gets yet another chance.

Jordan Schafer did the smart thing by speaking directly with reporters about his offseason troubles immediately upon arriving to Spring Training on Monday.

Schafer was arrested and charged with possession of marijuana and drug paraphernalia during a traffic stop soon after the season ended. He’s currently taking part a court-ordered pretrial intervention in program and if he completes it without incident, his record will be cleared.

In this Brian McTaggart report on MLB.com, Schafer was contrite, apologizing to the Astros for the spot he put them into and thanking them for standing behind him.

“I got caught up in a bad situation, and hopefully I’ve learned from my mistake and moved on and become a better person for it, and hopefully we don’t have any more instances like that,” he said. “Hopefully, I can be a good role model and learn from this.”

Schafer is active on Twitter, and if you follow him, you were able to see first-hand, thanks to the magic of Twitpics, that he was serious when he said he put on 20 pounds of muscle this offseason. You also received this tweet from him as he turned in for the night:

“Goodnight twit fam, busy day n I’m beat. Good to finally get everything off my chest n move on. Thanks 2 all of u 4 the support. Muchluv.”

Other notables:

* George Springer, the Astros’ first-round pick from last year’s Draft, has reported to camp and will be one of a handful of top prospects spending some of the spring with the big league club. Springer won’t make the team this year, but the experience of going through a Major League Spring Training could be valuable for him, as well a few other key figures who could be a big part of the Astros’ future, including Jonathan Singleton, Jonathan Villar and DeLino DeShields, among others.

* For 90 days, Jim Crane, along with his partners, has owned a baseball business. Monday, he finally owned a baseball team, writes the Chronicle’s Zachary Levine. Crane spent the day in Kissimmee on Monday, taking in his first Spring Training. By all accounts, he thoroughly enjoyed himself.

“It’s a lot of fun,” he said. “I hadn’t been in a locker room in a long time, but you never forget what it’s like.”

* When word traveled through the baseball world that Manny Ramirez was looking to make a comeback, I surmised that 30 of 30 teams would pass on him. After all, he’s turning 40 in May, right around the same time that he’d be eligible to play his first game after serving a 50-game suspension for testing positive for performance-enhancing drugs.

I was wrong. Twenty-nine of 30 teams passed on him, leaving just the Oakland A’s ready and willing to take a chance on Manny being Manny. The contract is almost commitment-free: it’s a Minor League deal, which means it’s non-guaranteed, and it’s worth no more than $500,000.

Risk-free, yes. But is it even worth it to take that chance?

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Milo Hamilton declares the 2012 season his last in the broadcast booth.

Jim Crane, left, Milo Hamilton and George Postolos announce that 2012 will be Milo's last season behind the mic.

Milo Hamilton mentioned a couple of times last year to friends and colleagues that the 2012 season would likely be his last as a lead play-by-play announcer on Astros broadcasts.

Milo will turn 85 in September, and, as he said last year, “That’ll be enough.” On Wednesday, he made that official, formally stating that he’ll retire at the end of the season.

Perhaps there’s no “best” time for a beloved figure to step down, but the timing of the announcement will allow the Astros to weave a season-long salute to their long-time broadcaster in with the celebration of the franchise’s 50th anniversary.

Plans to honor Milo this year will be officially announced in full at a later time, but here’s a sneak peek:

* Sept. 2, Milo’s 85th birthday, will be “Milo Hamilton Day” at Minute Maid Park.
* The Astros plan to host a special dinner in Milo’s honor during the season, with proceeds benefiting the Astros In Action Foundation.
* There will be an online vote for fans to select Milo’s greatest calls.
* We’ll start an appreciation Facebook page, dedicated to fans saluting Milo’s great career.
* The Astros plan to create a Milo Hamilton college scholarship for broadcasting students.

Stay tuned for more announcements.

“We will provide a fitting tribute for one of the all-time great broadcasters in our industry,” said Astros President and CEO George Postolos. “The unique bond that Milo has built with our fans is very special. With that in mind, we have created ways for our fans to participate in our tribute to Milo. They will have an opportunity to do that throughout the season.”

Milo’s plan is to only retire from the broadcasting side. He will still be a part of the organization in 2013 and beyond as an emcee for special events and fundraisers, and will take part in the caravan and FanFest. He’ll also appear at events for sponsors and season ticket holders and will be incorporated into the radio broadcasts.

Watch the video from Milo’s announcement

More video: Biggio, talking about Milo and his retirement

Milo, by the numbers:
66 — years as a broadcaster.
58 — years as a baseball broadcaster.
27 — years an Astros broadcaster.
5 — Halls of Fame that have honored Milo, including the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum in 1992.
715 — Hank Aaron’s milestone, record-breaking home run, which Milo called as a Braves announcer in 1974.
4,000 — Nolan Ryan’s milestone strikeout, which Milo called as an Astros announcer in 1985.
3,000 — Craig Biggio’s milestone hit total, which Milo called as an Astros announcer in 2007.

From the photo archives: first, a few good ones from the past…

Jeff Bagwell and Milo in 2006, the day Bagwell announced his retirement.

Milo and former skipper Phil Garner at FanFest a few years back.

Milo celebrated his 84th birthday last year by wearing a gigantic blue bow on his head.

Keeping with the theme of intesting head gear, here's Milo and Brad Lidge a few years ago at Spring Training, reading Dr. Seuss books to kids.

…and finally, images from Wednesday’s press conference…

Craig Biggio, who announced his retirement from this very room a little more than four years ago, attended Milo's press conference.

Later, the two convened for an impromptu photo shoot.

The Houston media contingent surrounded Milo following the formal part of the presser.

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Astros CAREavan wrapup, in pictures.

The Houston Astros 2012 CAREavan wrapped up another successful winter road trip with stops last Friday in Katy, Texas. The Astros CAREavan completed its annual tour making 47 stops in 13 cities over eight days, traveling more than 3,500 miles. More than 35 Astros players, alumni, coaches and front office staff participated in CAREavan.

The Houston Astros 2012 CAREavan hit the road on February 1, with three full days of visits throughout central and south Texas.  The team made two-day trips to Austin (Feb. 1-2), Brownsville, Harlingen and McAllen (Feb. 1-2) and San Antonio (Feb. 2-3), and spent a day in Corpus Christi and Victoria (Feb. 3). Highlights included conducting several youth baseball clinics, visiting with military and pediatric patients at hospitals and serving fans lunch at Chick-fil-A.

During the CAREavan’s second week, the Astros traveled to Oklahoma City (Feb. 6) and visited with military personnel at Tinker Air Force Base, patients at Mercy Hospital and Oklahoma City RedHawks season ticket holders and sponsors.  The week also included five, single-day trips in Houston, Sugar Land, Spring, Cypress and Katy.  The local tours visited numerous schools for reading activities and Fielder’s Choice assemblies, conducted youth baseball clinics and made daily stops at Academy Sports + Outdoors stores for free autograph sessions.

The CAREavan experience, in pictures:

Austin: Dave Raymond, Jordan Lyles, J.B. Shuck, Kyle Weiland, Doug Brocail at Cedar Park Middle School.

Austin: Ronald McDonald House.

Brownsville: Fernando Rodriguez, Jose Altuve, Jimmy Paredes at Lucio Middle School.

Brownsville: Chick-fil-A

San Antonio: Brett Dolan, J.A. Happ, Angel Sanchez, Jarred Cosart, Humberto Quintero, Larry Dierker at RBI San Antonio.

San Antonio Military Medical Center

Corpus Christi: Jim Crane signs an autograph for a young fan at the Hooks' luncheon.

Victoria: Shane Reynolds givis pitching tips at a Baseball and Softball clinic.

Oklahoma City: David Carpenter and Milo Hamilton.

Meeting with the Oklahoma City RedHawks fan base.

Houston: Bud Norris serves drive-thru customers at Chick-Fil-A.

Houston: Astros front office members and players participated in a "Careers in Baseball" seminar at Carver High School.

Sugar Land: Bud Norris, David Carpenter, Chris Johnson, Brett Wallace visit babies and new parents at Methodist Sugar Land Hospital.

Sugar Land: Chris Johnson and Brett Wallace sign autographs at Academy Sports + Outdoors.

Spring: Brad Mills, Jason Bourgeois, J.D. Martinez, Brian Bogusevic, Jose Cruz at AVANCE-Southwest School.

Hanging with the kids at AVANCE.

Cypress: Jed Lowrie at a CAREavan Baseball and Softball Clinic.

Cypress: bilingual storytime with bilingual GM Jeff Luhnow.

Katy: Bill Brown, Jose Cruz and current Astros players participate in an assembly at Brookwood Community.

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Jim Crane: “We will not change the name Astros.”

The idea of changing the Astros name was brought up last week, and that same idea put to rest on Monday.

A name change, owner Jim Crane said in a taped video message to season ticket holders, is not happening.

“You asked for change and we added several fan friendly initiatives last week and we hope you like them,” Crane said. “We will continue to listen, and to look for additional ways to improve on and off the field.

“One thing that we are not going to change is the name. We received strong feedback and consensus among season ticket holders and many fans, and we will not change the name Astros. The Houston Astros are here to stay.”

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Minute Maid Park in 2012: cheaper tickets, cheaper beer, new outside food and beverage policy.

The day that Jim Crane officially became the owner of the Houston Astros, he hinted that several changes were on the way that would benefit fans in 2012.

This wasn’t just window dressing. Asked during the press conference in November if those changes included lowering ticket prices, Crane indicated that was indeed the area that he and President/CEO George Postolos would be focusing their attention on in the immediate future.

Turns out, Crane consulted with the staff on these issues even before he took over as the Astros’ owner. And now, less than three months before Opening Day, a comprehensive plan has been put in place.

Ticket prices for more 5,000 seats have been lowered, and more affordable beer prices will be offered throughout the ballpark. And for the first time since Minute Maid Park opened, fans will be permitted to bring in their own food and beverages.

“We feel this is the right thing to do,” Crane said. “It is a way for us to let our fans know how vital they are to our success, and to let them know we’ve been listening to them.”

From the get-go, Crane has been open-minded about fan ideas and suggestions. He has attended several meet and greets throughout January with season ticket holders, and many of the decisions made to lower prices and allow outside food and drink were made after hearing the feedback from the fans.

Here’s the skinny:

Tickets:

The Astros reduced the price of seats in the Field and Club levels and the Outfield Deck.

Seats in Field Box II (section 132, rows 11-40 and all of sections 133-134) are now priced at $29, down from $41 in 2011. The new Power Club (sections 233-236) in the Club Level offers tickets for $35 that includes a $15 credit for food, beverage and retail items. Those seats were $46 in 2011 with no food credit.

The Outfield Deck tickets are now $5 for adults and $1 for kids ages 3-14 . In 2011, adult tickets were $7. With this reduction, a family of four can attend a game for $12.

As a special thank you for their loyalty and commitment, the Astros will also issue five percent rebates to full-season and 27-game plan season ticket accounts in 2012 to those who have renewed their tickets by the Jan. 31 deadline. Those rebates will be distributed in the form of a gift card that can be used to purchase food, merchandise or individual game tickets at Minute Maid Park.


Beer:

The Astros have expanded their $5 beer special to include every permanent concession stand and permanent bar at Minute Maid Park where domestic beer is sold. This beer in a 14-ounce cup will now be available at 35 locations throughout the ballpark.

Outside Food and Beverages:

Fans are now allowed to bring food and water into Minute Maid Park for games. Food must be transported in a small, clear (see-through) plastic bag, and water must be in a sealed, plastic bottle, being one liter or less in size. One bottle of water per person is allowed.

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The Astros will also continue to offer several of the popular ticket specials that have been available in recent years:

Price Matters Days presented by H-E-B

This offer, which is available for every Monday through Thursday Astros game, includes one View Deck II ticket, one hot dog, a bag of H-E-B chips and one soda for $10, which represents a savings of over 50 percent. Also, for $10 more, fans can purchase a lower level seat in the Bullpen Boxes.

All You Can Eat

For $30, this deal includes a Mezzanine game ticket and unlimited hot dogs, popcorn, peanuts, nachos, soda and water and is available for every home game. Groups of 20 or more are eligible to purchase this package for $25.

Coca-Cola Value Zone

This offer, which is available for every Friday, Saturday and Sunday game, includes a Mezzanine ticket and Astros cap, as well as a hot dog and Coke product beverage for $20.

POWERADE Double Play Tuesdays

This offer, which is available every Tuesday, features two Outfield Deck tickets for $2. Additionally, fans can now also purchase two Field Box II tickets for $40, which is new in 2012.

9-Inning Lunch Break

This package is offered for weekday, 1:05 p.m. games and includes a Field Box ticket and $20 in Minute Maid Park food and beverage vouchers, which is a $61 value, for $45, a savings of $16 per ticket.

Dynamic Pricing

This offer is available for every Astros home game for select seats. Prices, which fluctuate based on demand, can represent up to 50% in savings per ticket.

Special Fundraising Pricing

Charities and community organizations can earn up to $10 per ticket by selling discounted Astros tickets.

Group Ticket Specials

With the Astros Group Ticket Program, groups of 20 or more can purchase discounted tickets. Group discounts can be as high as 50% per ticket, depending on the size of the group.

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McLane, Crane release joint statement

Astros owner Drayton McLane and Houston businessman Jim Crane released the following statement on Saturday:

 

We had many conversations and meetings working toward a deal for the Astros through October 2008.  Jim offered a fair price, but we were unable to reach agreement on other terms.

 

While we were both disappointed at the time, we have since moved forward.

 

Jim appreciates and respects Drayton’s commitment to Major League Baseball, and wishes Drayton continued success with the Astros.

 

Jim has been a highly successful businessman in Houston for many years, and Drayton appreciates and respects Jim’s interest in Major League Baseball.

 

Drayton supports Jim in his continuing pursuit of a Major League franchise.

 

A full story in the Houston Chronicle regarding the joint statement can be found here.

Drayton acknowledges near-deal. But are the Astros for sale?

I spent most of the day sifting through various media reports detailing Drayton McLane’s near-sale of the Astros after the 2008 season.

McLane acknowledged the handshake deal between him and Houston-based businessman Jim Crane that occurred after a price was negotiated, but apparently the deal was not put into writing and never got to the stage where MLB’s owners and the Commissioner have to give their stamp of approval.

That handshake deal was made public on Tuesday through reports coming out of Dallas, where Crane was attempting to be the next owner of the Rangers. And then, it became a story in Houston.

So, here’s what we know:

1) In 2008, McLane agreed to a deal in principle sell majority ownership to Crane. The deal was later pulled off the table after Crane, according to McLane, cited his concern with the economic downturn.

2) McLane is not actively shopping the Astros, but he listens when a suitor comes calling. (I’m guessing it goes something like this: McLane: “Sure, show me what you’ve got.” Suitor: “Well, I don’t have much.” McLane: “Thanks for stopping by.”)

A couple of McLane quotes in this story by MLB.com’s Brian McTaggart stood out to me:

1) “In the last five or six years, a lot of people and talked [to me about buying the team] and 99 percent of the time it never amounts to more than one conversation.”

2) “If somebody comes to me or one of my sons and was a highly credible person or organization and had the financial wherewithal, we’d talk to them. If you ask me, ‘Are the Astros for sale?’ No.”

So, it appears McLane is not actively shopping the Astros. But if someone ponied up, say, $450 million, I’m guessing it would pique McLane’s interest. Can’t say I blame him — he bought the team for $117 million in 1992, so an offer of four times that amount would be tempting, especially if he doesn’t envision ownership of the Astros to stay within the family.

I love my house, but if someone offered me four times what I paid for it…well, you do the math.

This has been a strange story. I imagine if this had all come out a year ago, when the handshake deal took place, it would have some legs. Instead, everyone missed the story, and now, I just feel like I’m late to the party and someone has already eaten all of the guacamole dip.

What say you?

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