Home Sweet Home recognizes active duty service members at every Sunday home game for their recent overseas service. The experience includes a player meet and greet, the group watches the game from a suite, catered with complimentary food and beverages, and is introduced to the crowd prior to the seventh inning singing of "God Bless America." The club welcomed Marines from the 1/23rd "Lone Star" unit on April 22.
Astros shortstop Jed Lowrie and his wife Milessa are sponsoring Jedi Warriors in 2012. One Friday a month, Lowrie is hosting a group of former military members from the Wounded Warrior Project to a unique Astros experience. The 20 attendees receive a ticket to the game, $20 towards ballpark purchases, and they meet Jed while watching batting practice from the field. Lowrie hosted the first of six groups to the Astros-Dodgers game on April 20.
On April 15, 1947, Jackie Robinson broke baseball's color barrier. Sixty-five years to the date, all players wore Jackie's number, No. 42, as Major League Baseball commemorated the milestone on April 15. The Astros' festivities followed MLB's celebration and honored Robinson's legacy with various activities on April 20.
Prior to the Astros-Dodgers game, the club hosted a reception for African-American community leaders. Members of the Texas Southern University Debate Team spoke about Robinson's footprint on America's pastime and special reception guests included current players Justin Maxwell and Wesley Wright, coaches Dave Clark and Bobby Meacham, former Astros player Jimmy Wynn, Baseball Hall of Famer Monte Irvin, along with Jackie Robinson Foundation alumna Nakia Davis.
Astros Urban Youth Academy (UYA) members, selected for their leadership, took the field with Astros players during the national anthem each wearing a t-shirt representing one of Robinson's life principles.
The Houston Astros, Chevrolet and Houston area Chevy dealers are celebrating the Astros 50th anniversary during the 2012 season with several activities that give fans a fun and up-close experience with Astros baseball.
On April 14 and April 15, Chevrolet sponsored two baseball clinics at Minute Maid Park providing area youth the opportunity to learn baseball fundamentals and promote the values of sportsmanship and teamwork.
Baseball instructor Mike Harris and players from the Miracles Baseball Academy provided instruction. After the clinic, lunch was provided for all participants and Larry Dierker (April 14) and Jimmy Wynn (April 15) spoke to the kids and participated in a question and answer session.
Each month, the Astros In Action Foundation, in partnership with Wells Fargo, honors an area citizen with the title of Hometown Hero. Those recognized have gone above and beyond and performed extraordinary acts within their communities. Prior to the Astros-Braves game on April 11, the Astros honored former Houston Area Women's Center Chair Shawn Raymond as April's Hometown Hero.
The Houston Area Women's center has made huge strides in ending sexual and domestic violence in Houston. When it comes to advancing the mission of the Women's Center, Raymond has always demonstrated a willingness to invest it all- his time, his talent, his resources, his heart and soul. He transforms his understanding into action, ensuring that the Women's Center has the leadership and resources needed to provide excellent services that support survivors of domestic and sexual violence in their efforts to move their lives forward.
On April 8, the club welcomed Marines from the 1/23rd "Lone Star" unit, who returned from Afghanistan last fall, to Minute Maid Park as part of the Astros Home Sweet Home program. Home Sweet Home is an important program that recognizes active duty service members at every Sunday home game for their recent overseas service.
The Houston Astros and the City of Houston worked together to host a special parade and ceremony for veterans of the Iraq War on April 7. Iraq War veterans were invited to parade through downtown Houston with the procession concluding inside Minute Maid Park with an on-field pregame ceremony.
In addition, Chase, in partnership with Operation Homefront, presented Iraq War veteran Quentin Muirhead and his wife, Jennifer, with the gift of a mortgage-free home. The Astros donated tickets for the evening's game to all uniformed parade participants and their immediate families. The veterans were served dinner during the game courtesy of Minute Maid, Papa John's and Frost National Bank.
Many activities surrounded the Astros Opening Day on April 6. Hosted by the Astros, ARAMARK and the Gulf Coast Regional Blood Center, the team's annual Opening Day Blood Drive was held in Union Station at Minute Maid Park. Anyone that donated or attempted to donate received a special Astros T-shirt. The drive resulted in 179 units that can be used to save up to 537 lives.
Launched last season, the Astros are pleased to be hosting On The Home Front again in 2012. With the help of USO Houston, the Astros welcomed several military families with a loved one serving away from home to a special Astros experience that included an on-field batting practice visit and tickets to the Astros-Rockies game on April 6. The program happens one Friday a month. Each participant's ticket is loaded with $15 that can be spent at most concession and retail stands at Minute Maid Park. Information about all the Astros military efforts is available at www.astros.com/militaryappreciation.
On February 17-19, Major League Baseball (MLB) and the Houston Astros teamed up to host the Urban Invitational in Houston, Texas for the first time in its five-year history.
Hosted the first four times in Compton, Calif., the site of the first MLB Urban Youth Academy, the round-robin tournament is designed to give Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs) and their baseball programs national exposure.
Games were played at Minute Maid Park over the three days. The 2012 tournament featured five HBCUS: Alabama State University, Grambling State University, Prairie View A&M University, Southern University and Texas Southern University along with NCAA Division I school University of California, Irvine.
On February 18, several festivities at Minute Maid Park complemented the weekend event. A college fair, in which over 20 colleges and universities were represented, provided information about college preparation, undergraduate and graduate degree programs, financial aid and scholarship opportunities. Fans enjoyed performances by the Prairie View A&M "Marching Storm" and Texas Southern "Ocean of Soul" marching bands. Jennifer Holliday, Grammy and Tony Award-winning artist and HBCU alumnus of Texas Southern University, performed "America the Beautiful" before the final game that evening. Holliday's performance and games played at Minute Maid Park that day aired live on MLB Network and MLB.com.
Proceeds from the event benefited the Major League Baseball Urban Youth Foundation.
FanFest returned to Minute Maid Park on February 11, allowing fans to enjoy all things Astros. Many popular activities were back including autograph sessions, the garage sale and mystery grab bags along with new experiences, such as kids inflatable games on the field and the opportunity to take batting practice. Fans were also able to paint or sign their name to the Astros 50th Anniversary mural, which will be displayed in the ballpark throughout the 2012 season.
This year's festival included several current and former Astros player autograph sessions. Current players participating were Brian Bogusevic, Jason Bourgeois, Jason Castro, Chris Johnson, J.D. Martinez, Bud Norris, Humberto Quintero, and Brett Wallace along with newcomers Jed Lowrie and Chris Snyder. Manager Brad Mills met with fans as well. The former player group included Kevin Bass, Enos Cabell, Jose Cruz, Larry Dierker, Bob Watson, Jimmy Wynn, Shane Reynolds and J.R. Richard.
"Talkin' Baseball" sessions, which took place in Union Station, gave fans the opportunity to hear from Astros General Manager Jeff Luhnow and President and CEO George Postolos. Other session topics, "2012 Season", "Astros.com Chat Session", "50th Anniversary Plans", "A Look at 50 Years" presented a season outlook, while "Story Time with Milo Hamilton" and "Talkin' Youth Baseball" provided entertainment for kids.
FanFest proceeds benefited the Astros Urban Youth Academy.
On February 10, the Astros In Action Foundation and Minute Maid hosted the 27th Annual Baseball Dinner benefiting the Grand Slam for Youth Baseball scholarship program. This year's event had a celebratory flair highlighting 50 years of Houston baseball. Astros Hall of Fame broadcaster Milo Hamilton served as co-emcee, and was joined by veteran Houston broadcaster Lisa Malosky. Astros President and CEO George Postolos, General Manager Jeff Luhnow and manager Brad Mills also took part.
Past Astros MVP honorees included Bob Aspromonte, Enos Cabell, Jose Cruz, Larry Dierker, Roger Metzger, Bob Watson and Jimmy Wynn. The evening also featured awards given to current Astros and other area baseball standouts by the Houston Chapter of the Baseball Writers Association of American. Astros honored for their 2011 seasons included J.D. Martinez (Rookie of the Year), Wandy Rodriguez (Pitcher of the Year), and Jason Bourgeois (Darryl Kile Award). Former Astro Lance Berkman received the Houston Area Player of the Year Award.
Longtime Astros television broadcaster Bill Brown received the Fred Hartman Award for Long and Meritorious Service to Baseball. The 2011 campaign marked Brown's 25th season as the Astros play-by-play TV voice.
The 2012 Houston Astros CAREavan made 47 stops in 13 cities over eight days, traveling more than 3,500 miles. From February 1-10, over 35 Astros players, alumni, coaches and front office staff participated in CAREavan reaching thousands of fans. Highlights included conducting several youth baseball clinics, visiting with military and pediatric patients at hospitals and serving fans lunch at Chick-fil-A and signing autographs at Academy Sports + Outdoors stores.
The annual winter trip hit the road on February 1, with 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).
On February 1, infielders Jose Altuve and Jimmy Paredes, pitcher Fernando Rodriguez along with former player and current Astros Spanish broadcaster Alex Trevino all headed to south Texas. The tour began with a Chick-fil-A lunch stop in Brownsville, followed by a Fielder's Choice school assembly, a Welcome to Brownsville reception, a youth baseball and softball clinic, and a free autograph session for fans at Academy Sports + Outdoors.
On the second day (February 2), the group headed to Harlingen and McAllen. Players hosted another Fielder's Choices school assembly, attended a reception in McAllen, and gave one-on-one skill instruction to youth baseball and softball players. A free fan autograph session at Academy Sports + Outdoors wrapped up the tour.
Making appearances on the Austin CAREavan tour were Jordan Lyles, J.B. Shuck and Kyle Weiland, along with pitching coach Doug Brocail and radio broadcaster Dave Raymond. On February 1, the tour began with a visit to Cedar Park Middle School followed by a clinic with the RBI Austin program, a Ronald McDonald House visit and a free autograph session at Academy Sports + Outdoors. Astros President and CEO George Postolos also took part in appearances on February 1.
The Austin tour continued on February 2, and the day started with a patient visit at Dell Children's Medical Center. The team made an afternoon stop at River Oaks Elementary School for a Fielder's Choice assembly.
The San Antonio group - pitching prospect Jarred Cosart, pitcher J.A. Happ, catcher Humberto Quintero, infielder Angel Sanchez, alum Larry Dierker and broadcaster Brett Dolan- spent two days with fans, February 2 - 3. Postolos joined the group for parts of the tour on February 2.
The first San Antonio CAREavan visit was with wounded military members at the San Antonio Medical Center followed by a youth baseball and softball clinic with RBI San Antonio. The last stop on the first day was at Academy Sports + Outdoors for a free, public autograph signing.
The San Antonio tour continued February 3, and the day started at Chick-fil-A where players served fans lunch. Afterwards, players visited Adams Elementary School for a Fielder's Choice assembly and the tour culminated with a youth baseball and softball clinic with RBI San Antonio.
Players making their way to Corpus Christi and Victoria (February 3) were infielder Jose Altuve, outfielders Brian Bogusevic and J.B. Shuck, former player Shane Reynolds, Hall of Fame broadcaster Milo Hamilton, and Astros Owner and Chairman Jim Crane. While in Corpus Christi, the CAREavan visited Four Bluff Primary School and attended the Corpus Christi Hooks luncheon. The Victoria leg of the tour included a youth baseball and softball clinic along with a free, public autograph signing at Academy Sports + Outdoors.
During the CAREavan's second week, the Astros traveled to Oklahoma City (February 6) and visited with military personnel at Tinker Air Force Base, patients at Mercy Hospital, and Oklahoma City RedHawks season ticket holders and sponsors. Players making the Oklahoma City tour included Jose Altuve, David Carpenter, J.D. Martinez along with former player Larry Dierker, Hall of Fame broadcaster Milo Hamilton and Astros Owner and Chairman Jim Crane.
The week also included five, day-long trips in Houston, Sugar Land, Spring, Cypress and Katy. The local tours visited numerous schools for reading activities and Fielder's Choice school assemblies, conducted youth baseball clinics and made daily stops at Academy Sports + Outdoors stores for free autograph sessions.
On February 6, the Houston tour featured outfielder Jason Bourgeois, pitcher Bud Norris, first base coach Bobby Meacham, manager Brad Mills along with former players Bob Watson and Jimmy Wynn and Jim Deshaies, now an Astros broadcaster. Stops included a Chick-fil-A lunch appearance, book readings as part of the Houston Real Men Read MENtoring program at Clemente Martinez Elementary School followed by a "Careers in Baseball" seminar featuring current and former players along with Astros front office staff. The day ended with a free autograph signing for fans at Academy Sports + Outdoors.
The Astros CAREavan made its way to the Sugar Land area on February 7. Players attending included pitchers David Carpenter and Bud Norris, infielders Chris Johnson and Brett Wallace, and broadcaster Brett Dolan. The day's visits included a Fielder's Choice school assembly at Colony Meadows Elementary School, a visit to the Methodist Sugar Land Hospital Birthing Center and a Fort Bend Family YMCA after-school event. The group wrapped up the day with a free autograph session for fans at Academy Sports + Outdoors.
On February 8, the tour rolled into Spring. Players making appearances were Bogusevic, Bourgeois, Martinez, Mills, Jose Cruz and Deshaies. The day began at the AVANCE-Southwest School with a Fielder's Choice school assembly focusing on making good choices. Youth baseball and softball players from the Oak Ridge Woodlands Area Little League and South Montgomery Girls Softball Association received one-on-one skill instruction from the group. Players then met fans during a free autograph session at Academy Sports + Outdoors.
On February 9, another group - Jed Lowrie, Martinez, Mills, Trevino, Bill Brown and Jeff Luhnow- headed out to the Cypress area. The day was filled with youth-centered events, including a bilingual story time for kids at the CyFair College Branch Library, a Fielder's Choice school assembly at Spillane Middle School, and a baseball clinic for CyFair Sports Association members. The tour ended with a free autograph session at Academy Sports + Outdoors.
Visits in Katy wrapped up the annual tour on February 10. Players making visits included Jason Castro, Johnson, Lowrie, Wallace, Cruz, Brown. The day began with a visit to Brookwood Community, followed by a Methodist Hospital West visit and a free autograph session at Academy Sports + Outdoors.
On January 16, America celebrated Martin Luther King, Jr. and his non-violent pursuit of civil rights. The Astros honored his legacy through various activities leading up to the holiday. Serving as co-emcee and presenting awards, Astros outfielder Jason Bourgeois appeared at the MLK Grande Parade Battle of the Bands competition on January 14 at Joe Kelly Butler Stadium. Junction Jack, the Astros mascot, participated in the MLK Grande Parade on January 16 in Midtown. The Astros donated in-kind resources to the Black Heritage Society's parade and the YMCA's MLK Freedom Fund breakfast at Minute Maid Park.