Results tagged ‘ Jose Cruz ’

Social Media Night in Budweiser Patio: food, prizes, baseball, and more food.

Did you know that Bud Norris’s ideal vacation is a Caribbean cruise, and the one road city he prefers over all others is Chicago? Any idea which Astro holds the record for the most career walkoff home runs? Ever heard which Astro in the mid-80s used to stuff fried chicken into his coat pockets before the team boarded charter flights?

Answers to these burning questions, and eight more, were revealed during our first Social Media Night of the 2012 season on Saturday in the Budweiser Patio. Between the appearance by Cudly Studly Budly, the Texas burger topped with brisket and bacon, the pints of Blue Bell ice cream and the major TV time provided by FS Houston’s Patti Smith, this Social Media Night party appeared to be well-received by all in attendance.

We’ll have three more Social Media Nights this year: June 2, July 28 and Sept. 15. Tickets are $45 and include the following: batting practice viewing from just behind the Astros dugout, a ticket to the game in the Budweiser Patio behind center field, an opportunity to win prizes (and meet an Astros player) during Twitter Trivia, dinner, a t-shirt and dessert.

You can purchase tickets to any or all games now.  We will announce the player appearance two weeks in advance of each date. In the meantime, enjoy the photo gallery from a fun night on the Budweiser Patio (P.S.: Charley Kerfeld stuffed fried chicken into his coat, and Jose Cruz owns the career walkoff home run record with six):

Ninth inning rally caps...

...topped only by the ninth inning Rally Baby.

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The stars come out to celebrate the Astros/Colt .45s big birthday.

Two former Colt .45s: Jimmy Wynn and Bob Aspromonte

It’s probably a good thing that the Colt .45s changed their name to the Astros after three years, if only because “Aspro the Colt” just doesn’t have the same cool ring to it as “Aspro the Astro.”

Bob Aspromonte, an original Colt .45 and an original Astro, was in uniform as the starting third baseman 50 years ago when Major League Baseball was born in Houston. It’s only fitting that he was the guest of honor for a slew of activities on Tuesday, the exact 50th anniversary of the first game the Colt .45s played as a National League franchise.

Aspromonte headlined the introduction of the Astros new Walk of Fame, recently installed on the sidewalk of Texas Ave. near Crawford St. The original inductees include Aspromonte, all of the Astros retired numbers (Jim Umbricht, Don Wilson, Jose Cruz, Mike Scott, Nolan Ryan, Larry Dierker, Jimmy Wynn, Jeff Bagwell and Craig Biggio), plus broadcasters Gene Elston and Milo Hamilton.

Aspromonte was voted by a panel of experts as the best Houston player of the 1960s. The Astros will unveil the best player from the 1970s, ’80s and ’90s on a month-by-month basis beginning in May and their names to the Walk of Fame.

Video from the Walk of Fame induction:

Photo album:

Aspromonte, Dierker, Cruuuuuuz

Aspromonte spoke glowingly of the Astrodome, which opened in 1965. It was obviously a gigantic step up from the old Colt Stadium, where Aspro played the first three years of his Houston baseball career.

Cruz next to his Walk of Fame plaque

Group shot: front: Elston, Wynn. Back: Cruz, Aspromonte, Dierker, Hamilton.

Aspromonte's Walk of Fame plaque

To commemorate the 50th anniversary of the Houston franchise, the Astros wore the Colt .45s jerseys during their game with the Braves. The club also honored several living members of that inaugural team that began a new era of baseball on April 10, 1962: Carl Warwick, Hal Smith, Al Spangler, Bob Bruce and Aspromonte. Also introduced: Rick Cagney, one of the original bat boys for the 1962 team; Elston, the first broadcaster for the ’45s, and Rene Cardenas, who broadcast both Colt .45s and Astros games in Spanish.

Warwick, Smith, Spangler, Bruce, Aspromonte, Cagney

Cardenas

Brad Mills greets Aspromonte and the Colt .45s alumni before the ceremonial first pitch.

Aspromonte throws the pitch. It was indeed a strike.

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Upon entering the clubhouse earlier in the day, players were sized for their Colt .45s cap that they were to wear during the game (they’ll wear the same uniforms on April 20 on the first official Flashback Friday). They also were given a sneak peek at the stirrups the Colt .45s wore 50 years ago.

I’m sure these strirrups were innovative and super-hip in the 1960s, but today, they’re a little funky. Judging from the players’ continued willingness to keep wearing the high socks, though, you have to assume funky can still be a good thing, even today.

Lucas Harrell was digging his stirrups.

Jose Altuve

Junction Jack

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Lions and tigers and bears — oh my! An Astro honeymoons in Africa.

In the early stages of Spring Training every year, you’ll hear the same lines of conversation between players, staff and those who cover the team: how was your offseason? Where are you staying down here? Did you do anything fun over the winter?

Ask Jed Lowrie that last question, and you’re not going to get the typical, “Yea, hung out with the family, went to Cabo over Christmas” response. The new Astros shortstop got married last November and took a honeymoon that some of us could only dream of, and others of us wouldn’t touch with the proverbial 10-foot pole (and by “others,” I mean, me).

Lowrie and his wife, Milessa Muchmore-Lowrie, honeymooned in Tanzania, where they went on a two-week African safari. Lowrie, who took over 7,000 photos, called it the experience of a lifetime.

Brian McTaggart has the complete rundown in a fantastic write up on Astros.com, complete with a slate of breathtaking photos of wild animals living in their natural habitat. Speaking as a less adventurous person, if someone handed me an air horn and said, “Blow this if there’s a lion in your tent,” I’d be on the first flight back to whatever city prefers to keep its animals in zoos (preferably, Houston).

Lowrie is not your garden-variety ballplayer. He’s a graduate of Stanford University and an avid photographer, and his wife a foreign service officer for the U.S. State Department who will soon be relocated to Mexico.

When you have a spare moment, check out the story. The photos are amazing.
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For several years, we’ve been running Spring Training video reports on Astros.com, and we’ll continue to produce the same twice-a-week shows this spring. Our first one is posted now, and it features right-hander Jordan Lyles.

The plan is to run a player feature mid-week every week and one with general manager Jeff Luhnow every Monday.

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Today’s slate of photos captures players not only working out, but seemingly enjoying the process (remember, friends, this is baseball — it’s supposed to be fun). Also in the mix are a couple of photos that harken back to our past, 50th anniversary-style.

Enjoy.

Bud Norris watches with amusement as his pitching mates practice bunting.

Infielder Joe Thurston, a non-roster invitee, and outfielder Jason Bourgeois greet each other during BP.

Pitchers practicing comebackers is always an amusing drill to watch. The premise: Brad Mills hits balls back to the pitchers, at a high speed, one after another after another, with no break. Probably not the most pleasant experience when you're the pitcher fielding those comebackers, but it's fun to watch nonetheless, as you can see in this shot of two Rodriguezes -- Fernando and Aneury.

Chris Snyder watches pitchers throw bullpens and waits for his turn to crouch behind the painted plate.

Are there two more popular outfielders in Astros history than Jose Cruuuuuuz and Cesar Cedeno? Probably not. Here they are together, watching a round of BP on Field 4.

Cedeno watches from behind the cage with another former Astro, Enos Cabell.

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Shooting stars, rainbow sleeves, blue and gold: “Flashback Fridays” will feature slick jerseys from the past.

Jose Cruz, Craig Biggio

History and nostalgia will be front and center for the Houston Astros in 2012, so it’s only fitting that four of their most famous players from yesteryear were on hand Thursday to ring in the club’s 50th anniversary celebration.

A large gathering of Houston media watched and listened as Jimmy Wynn (1963-73), Larry Dierker (1964-76), Jose Cruz (1975-87) and Craig Biggio (1988-2007) shared their memories of their favorite moments during their tenure with the franchise.

Not surprisingly, the 2005 World Series was mentioned more than once. Biggio’s 3,000th hit in June of 2007 ranked high on many lists as well.

“We were the first Texas team to go to the World Series,” Biggio said. “That was something to be proud of. And the 3,000 hit night — it was a magical night.”

Popular television announcers Bill Brown and Jim Deshaies hosted the question and answer session with the Astros icons in the FiveSeven Grille, which was decorated with images of the 50th anniversary logo and the jerseys from the past. Deshaies also interviewed several key Astros figures who were sitting in the crowd, including president of baseball operations Tal Smith, Spanish broadcaster Rene Cardenas, former radio announcer Gene Elston and current radio announcer Milo Hamilton.

Larry Dierker, Jim Deshaies

In addition to Biggio’s 3,000th hit and the Astros’ World Series, Hamilton cited the 2003 club’s six-pitcher no-hitter at Yankee Stadium as a highlight of his career.

“It had never been done before and I don’t think it will ever happen again,” Hamilton said.

The Astros also outlined their plans for the big golden anniversary celebration in 2012, which we blogged about here earlier in the day. Judging from the response I’ve received, I’d say the one element that has fans excited about the 50th anniversary celebration in 2012 more than any other is the “Flashback Fridays” plan, where every Friday home game, the Astros will wear a throwback jersey that represents a certain era in the Houston franchise.

That includes the 1964 Houston Colt .45s jersey, which, to the best of the club’s knowledge, has never been worn since that season 47 years ago. Also on the docket are the shooting star jersey from the first season in the Astrodome in 1965, the rainbow jersey the teams wore from 1975-86, the rainbow sleeve from 1987-93, the blue and gold jersey from 1994-99 and the current pinstripe jersey the club wears today.


More snippits from Thursday’s presser:

Drayton McLane cited the Astros’ press conference in 1996 announcing that they had a new manager as one of his favorite moments. It wasn’t so much that the Astros had hired a new manager as much as it was who their new manager was — Larry Dierker.

“Everyone was surprised,” McLane said. Turning to Dierker, McLane said, “Larry, did it surprise you?”

“Well,” Dierker deadpanned. “I knew what was going on by then.”

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McLane recalled the night in ’96 that he and several members of his inner circle were waiting to hear if the stadium referendum had passed.

“We were up late at the Westin Hotel in the Galleria,” he said. “At 12 at night, we were losing. At 2:30 in the morning, we won.”
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Brownie asked Biggio how long he thinks his career would have lasted if Biggio had remained at catcher instead of moving to second base.

“How many years did I catch? Four?” Biggio asked rhetorically. “So, maybe five.”
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Cruz was asked about the signature Cruuuuuuuuuuuz moniker given to him by the late J. Fred Duckett, the Astros’ public address announcer back in the day.

“The first time I heard it, I thought they were booing me,” Cruz said. “I was playing well. I thought, ‘What are they doing?’”
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Dierker credited the success the Astros had during his run as skipper from 1997-01 more to the makeup of the team than to his managerial maneuvering.

“We had such great talent on those teams,” Dierker said. “It didn’t matter what moves I made. We were going to win with that talent.”

Dierker offered a bit of advice to today’s Astros fans.

“Don’t judge a manager on his win-loss record. Judge a manager on what he gets out of the talent he has. Is Joe Girardi the best manager in the game? He’s the manager of the Yankees. Anyone can manage the Yankees and win.”

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Deshaies: “What was it like to work in Colt Stadium back in the day?”

Cardenas: “It was hot.”

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More from Cardenas: “I remember when Larry Dierker came to the ball club — he was a wonderful player and a wonderful person. I looked at this kid from California and said, ‘how did the Dodgers not sign him?’ We were lucky to have him.”
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Video corner:

Dierker, on past rebuilding projects and the Astros’ current reloading plan

Biggio, on spending his entire career with the Astros and who was influential on him in the early years
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And finally…the Astros will be previewing their 50th anniversary celebration this weekend with three promotional giveaway items bearing the special logo.

Friday: Commemorative Cap

Saturday: Fleece Blanket

Sunday: T-shirt

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Cruuuuuuuuz checks out his bobblehead.

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Teams have been giving bobbleheads away for the better part of a decade, and while they’re fantastic keepsakes, not all players bear a clear-cut striking resemblance to their bobble likeness. That’s not a knock on the designers. I can’t imagine anything more difficult than trying to match a face with a plastic figurine, especially when the player doesn’t have any unusual or distinctive features, like a goatee (Bagwell), piercing blue eyes (Biggio) or a surfboard (Ausmus).

That said, I was duly impressed with the Jose Cruz bobblehead sample that arrived in Kissimmee a few days ago. It’s one of many items the Astros will be featuring this year as they celebrate their 45th anniversary, and Cheo’s likeness harkens back to the glory days of the mid-1980s when rainbow jerseys weren’t yet retro — they were just simply cool.

The Astros have hosted several throwback days over the years, and the rainbow jerseys have made a handful of random cameo appearances. Every time the team wore them, I could help but notice how silly they looked on everyone — except Cruz. He stood at first base wearing the yellow, orange and red, and it just looked right.

I ran that thought by Cheo: “Everyone else looks dorky, except for you,” I suggested. “I look good in anything,” he answered. (Cheo has a hilarious sense of humor. His initial reaction when he saw his bobblehead? “It looks like chocolate.”)

The Cruz bobblehead will be given out on April 24, the first of four nostalgic figurines saluting 45 years of Astros history. The others include Jimmy Wynn on June 5, Nolan Ryan (June 19) and Mike Scott (July 10).

We staged a photo shoot with Cruz, Lance Berkman and Hunter Pence in order to provide an up-close view of some of the items that will be on display this year. We also shot some video that includes reactions from all three. Trust me, Cruz’s segment alone is worth the click.

Here’s Puma wearing the 45th anniversary cap that will given away on April 9:

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And Pence models the 1965 jersey that will be handed out on April 10. The Astros will also wear that jersey during the game as part of a special “Turn Back the Clock” night. The visiting Phillies will also wear their uniforms from 1965.

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Other anniversary-themed giveaways include schedule magnets (Opening Day), fleece blanket (April 23) and replicas of both the blue and orange caps the Astros wore from 1965-93 (July 9 and July 28).

A complete list of Astros promotional games can be found here. See you at the park!

Celebrating 45 years of Astros memories. On the docket: Mike Scott bobbleheads.

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Being a baseball history fanatic, I’m glad this season will be one of those milestone years for the Astros. Season-long celebrations keep things interesting, and they bring back a lot of the old players, either in person or in the form of cool promotional giveaways.

The Astros are celebrating their 45th birthday this year, and you can expect a lot of fun days at Minute Maid Park that will include a reintroduction of players from the past and a few turn-back-the-clock activities.

I was 11 years away from arriving to my adopted hometown of Houston in ’86 when Mike Scott threw his division-clinching no-hitter, but I’ve heard so many accounts of that game from people who were there — Jim Deshaies, Milo Hamilton, Bill Brown, Larry Dierker, and on and on — that I almost feel like I do remember it, even though I wasn’t there, wasn’t listening on the radio and didn’t even read about it in the paper the next day.

The first (and only) time I met Scott was in ’04 when he flew to Houston from California to participate in some of the All-Star festivities at the convention center and the ballpark. He was exactly how J.D. described him — laid-back, California-cool, wearing flip flops and a Hawaiian shirt and a half-grin that gave the vibe of someone who enjoys the occasional appearance asked of former players by their former teams, but also of someone who’s happily enjoying retirement, away from the game.

(Side note — In the media dining room at Shea Stadium many years ago, Keith Hernandez, now a Mets broadcaster, spotted Alan Ashby, then an Astros broadcaster, and said, “Come on, Ash, just fess up. Scotty was scuffing the ball, wasn’t he?” Ashby chuckled, but said nothing. J.D., sitting nearby, cracked up.)

Scott will be one of several past Astros legends immortalized in Bobbleland when his likeness will be handed out to the first 10,000 lucky fans on July 10. Other nostalgic bobbleheads on the docket: Jose Cruuuuuuuz (April 24), Jimmy Wynn (June 5) and Nolan Ryan (June 19).

On May 22, the Astros will give away a bobblehead featuring modern-day fan favorite and Gold Glover Michael Bourn.

A sampling of this season’s promotional items was revealed on Monday, when the Astros announced that regular-season individual tickets will go on sale Friday, Feb. 19 at 9 a.m. CT. The first of seven giveaways in April arrives on Opening Day (April 5), with a schedule magnet going to the first 40,000 fans.

The 45th Anniversary celebration begins April 9, when a special, 45th Anniversary Astros cap will be handed out to the first 10,000 fans. The next night (April 10), the first 10,000 fans will receive a commemorative 1965 Astros jersey.

In May, the Astros again will be helping to create awareness about Breast Cancer with a week-long ‘Pink In The Park‘ promotion, which will include a pink cap for the first 10,000 fans on May 7 and a Pink Tote Bag for the first 10,000 fans on May 8 (Mother’s Day). A trendy, Astros laptop computer sleeve will be given for the first time to the first 10,000 fans on May 20.

On Father’s Day (June 20), the first 10,000 men age 15 and older will receive an Astros necktie. On July 28, the Astros will continue in the celebration of the 45th Anniversary with an orange retro cap giveaway for the first 10,000 fans. On August 15, the first 10,000 kids aged 14 and under will receive a school backpack designed with the look of a catcher’s chest protector.

Friday Night Fireworks also return in 2010 as each Friday night home game will be followed by a fireworks display (weather permitting). A full listing of the Astros 2010 promotional schedule will be available online at astros.com when regular season tickets go on sale Friday, and, of course, additional promotional items will be added to the schedule throughout the season.

Other stuff:

* On Feb. 16 and 17, the Astros are offering all full-season and 27-game plan ticket holders the opportunity to purchase individual game tickets online as part of their season-ticket benefits.

*On Feb. 18, all registered users of astros.com will have the opportunity to also purchase individual game tickets online. There is still time for fans to purchase season tickets or register on the website to take advantage of this limited opportunity.

* For the past several seasons, Opening Day has been a quick sellout, and this season figures to be no different. To guarantee a seat for Opening Day right now, fans can purchase a full-season ticket package or the Opening Day 14-Game Flex Plan, which includes tickets to the home opener and home finale as well as 12 games of the purchaser’s choosing, plus an additional bonus game for free. Opening Day tickets can also be purchased now through either the Hunter’s Lodge or All You Can Eat 6-Game Flex Plans.

* Every Sunday home game is a Price Matters Day, where fans can purchase a View Deck II ticket, hot dog, chips and soda for just $10. The All You Can Eat promotion, which has been expanded to include all home games, gives fan the opportunity to enjoy all of their favorite ballpark fare for just $25 per ticket. The You Pick’Em 6-Game Plan, which starts as low as $42 and gives the fans their choice of games (excluding Opening Day), is one of several reasonably-priced flex plans available.

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Hanging out with the popular kids (Brownie and J.D.).

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Every time I hop on an Astros message board, I’ll read about some funny one-liner from Jim Deshaies or a Bill Brown witticism or some other cool story emerging from the television booth. Selfishly, I find this to be problematic, because sometimes I feel like someone threw a party and didn’t invite me.

While Brownie and J.D. are yucking it up in the booth, I’m in the press box, with only muted television monitors to keep me entertained (um…other than the play on the field, of course. That’s what I meant to say.)

Anyhoo, I thought I’d mix things up a bit this road trip and blog and Twitter/tweet from the broadcast booths during the Astros’ series in Cincinnati this week. So on Tuesday, I’ll be in the television booth with Brownie and J.D., and on Wednesday I’ll move over to the radio side and hang out with radio announcers Brett Dolan and Dave Raymond.

I hope you’ll join in on the fun. You can follow me on Twitter at @alysonfooter, and I’ll be updating my blog a couple of times during the game as well. See/read you then.

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I’ve known Jose Cruz for the better part of 13 years, and while I’m sure he’s gotten mad at some point during that time, I’ve never actually seen him mad. So I was somewhat startled by how forceful he was with his response to Pirates closer Matt Capps’ accusation that he and Miguel Tejada were stealing signs during Sunday’s game.

“Not in the 13 years I’ve been [first base coach] or the 30 years I’ve been in baseball,” Cruz said. “I’m offended, yes. I don’t know how that guy got the idea that I gave the signs to Tejada.”

Other news and notes from the Astros clubhouse:

Jose Valverde is not in Cincinnati but general manager Ed Wade is hopeful the closer will rejoin the team on Tuesday. After ruling out strep throat, Valverde was simply diagnosed with a “virus.” Sounds like the flu, and I’m glad the team had enough sense not to send him on the charter. Being in such close quarters — the clubhouse, the airplanes, the dugouts — it seems like if one player gets sick, they all do.

Consider, for example, a brief spell back in 2005 when it seemed like the entire team had come down with the flu. I recall Lance Berkman walking around the clubhouse wearing a surgical mask and rubber gloves, which really should come as no surprise to anyone who knows the Puma.

Roy Oswalt underwent an MRI on his lower back on Friday, which came back negative. Wade blamed Oswalt’s problems simply on having a “veterans pitcher’s back,” which means when you pitch long enough in the Major Leagues, you’re going to suffer from some wear and tear.

Oswalt added swimming to his workout routine to strengthen his core and will cut down on the running.

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Capps takes issue with Miggy and Cheo.

Until Pirates closer Matt Capps revealed exactly why he was barking at Miguel Tejada during the ninth inning Sunday, what sparked the exchange of words was anyone’s guess. And a lot of us guessed (wrong).

Some thought maybe Capps was yelling at Tejada to run out the ball after he launched a high pop fly that eventually landed in shortstop Ronny Cedeno’s glove. Tejada’s journey toward first was little more than a casual jog, so a few of us thought maybe Capps took issue with Miggy’s stroll down the line.

(As most of you know, I detest players not running hard down to first. I absolutely hate it. But I didn’t take issue with this one because I thought the infield fly rule was in effect. Turns out, it wasn’t. There was a runner on first, but not second, which meant no infield fly. Miggy thought the infield fly rule was in effect as well, as did others. Thankfully, Jim Deshaies sat next to me on the bus on the way to the airport and set me straight.)

Another philosophy floating around was that Capps took issue with Tejada yelling at himself when he popped up Capps’ 95 mph fastball. It wasn’t that Capps thought Miggy was yelling at him, but when a player yells at himself, it indicates he felt he should have made good contact with that particular pitch. Pitchers often take that as an insult.

That theory made the most sense to me. It was also incorrect.

Capps suspected Miggy and first base coach Jose Cruz of stealing signs, and the closer minced no words when approached by reporters after the game.

“Just compete,” Capps said. “You don’t need to do any of that stuff. Those two have a thing going out there. I’m set, and he’s not even looking at me. That tells me all I need to know.”

Miggy fired back when Chronicle reporter Zachary Levine got a hold of him after the game.

“I’ve never gotten signs,” Tejada said. “If he wants to disrespect me, that’s fine. He shouldn’t disrespect any coach.”

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A couple of days ago we revealed who Lance Berkman stuck his tongue out at after his home run was upheld following an instant replay review by the umpires. Puma confirmed it was first baseman Adam LaRoche, who had been teasing his first-base counterpart during the waiting period, mouthing “It’s going to be a double” and holding up two fingers.

Astros team photographer Stephen O’Brien captured LaRoche’s antics (all in good fun), and I wanted to share that with you:

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The view from the press box at Wrigley Field, and other leftover odds and ends.

 

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If you took a survey of 100 Major League players and asked them to name their favorite road city, it’s highly likely no fewer than 95 would answer, “Chicago.”

The people. The restaurants. The nightlife. And the ballpark.

Yes, the ballpark. For the most part, ballplayers love Wrigley Field. They love the tradition, the heckling fans, the packed houses every night, the rickety old infrastructure and the elaborate singing of “Take Me Out to the Ballgame” that has continued as a tradition since Harry Caray’s passing 11 years ago.

The clubhouse is cramped, the tunnels smell funny and the dugouts are tiny, but for some reason, none of that matters. Because it’s Chicago, it’s Wrigley Field, and it’s fun. And the showdowns between the Astros and Cubs over the years have been, for the most part, fantastic.

Above is a shot of my view of Wrigley Field from way up in the press box. Day games at Wrigley are preferred, but there’s nothing like the view on a clear, rain-free night.

Cleaning out the photo file…

It was Family Day at Minute Maid Park on Sunday, the one day players are invited to bring their kids on the field for a free-for-all run around the bases (and the outfield and the dugouts and the mound…must be a fun day for the grounds crew).

I’ve been to a dozen family days but for some reason this one seemed more well-attended than those in the past. Check out this photo…and that’s only part of the group.

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Darin Erstad and family…

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Sean Berry and family…

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On Saturday, I attended the annual Texas Italian American Sports Foundation Scholarship Awards luncheon, a yearly ritual that involves Astros players, great food and a terrific cause.

The event is held at Damian’s Cucina Italiana every year and provides scholarships for student-athletes headed for college in the fall.

Representing the Astros were Jeff Fulchino, Mike Hampton, Jose Cruz, Hunter Pence and emcee Milo Hamilton. And the bread pudding was to die for.

Milo, with a young fan…

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Pence, Fulchino.

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Jose Cruuuuuuuuuuuz

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Hampton.

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