Texans, Astros go deep for charity
Footballers pick up bats to help Boys and Girls Club
HOUSTON -- Members of the NFL's Houston Texans got a chance to swing for the fences at Minute Maid Park to raise money for the Boys and Girls Club of Greater Houston on Wednesday afternoon.
For the fourth year in a row, the Astros and Texans teamed up to raise money for Reliant Energy's Power Blast Program to raise funds for after school and summer programs for kids.
The Texans' David Anderson, Nick Ferguson, Dan Orlowsky, Alix Brink, Chris Myers, Owen Daniels, Andre Johnson, Vonta Leach, Matt Schaub, and Eric Winston participated in the derby and helped raised $31,300.
Reliant donated $500 to the Boys and Girls Club of Greater Houston for every ball that cleared the fence and $100 for a ball that reached the outfield. Target banners were also placed in the outfield and in the stands that would add an additional $1,000-$10,000 in donations each time they were hit.
Schaub took home this year's trophy for raising the most money of any player, $4,700, nudging out last year's winner, Winston, who came in second with $3,300 raised this year. Schaub was the benefactor of the short porch in left field, hitting four home runs into the Crawford Boxes, including one that found a $2,500 target.
Despite hitting a few out in a batting-practice atmosphere, Schaub isn't ready to hang up the pads and grab a bat.
"We're getting straight lobbed pitches to us," Schaub said. "I couldn't even imagine standing up there against a 90-mph fastball with a chance of a 80-mph curveball. I would just fall over and walk away. It definitely gives you a better understanding and appreciation of how hard and far you have to hit a ball to hit it out."
Schaub and Winston had a personal competition as well: Whoever raised more money would be treated to dinner by the other.
"We're so competitive in the locker room, and while this is definitely more for the kids, it's still competitive between us. But he raised more money than I did, and that's what it is all about. I'm sure you'll see us at a steakhouse somewhere soon, and I might be getting the bill."
But while Schaub may have taken home the official title of champion of the derby, it was Winston who put on a show for the second year in a row.
With the help of a bat from Brewer's left fielder Ryan Braun, Winston hit three homeruns in the first round and came three rows away from hitting a $2,500 target in the right-field bleachers. He heated up even more in the final round, blasting three more over the fence including one that found its way into the upper deck.
Once the final round was over, Winston and the Reliant representatives upped the ante at the end of the derby to see if they could raise a few more dollars for the kids. Two swings, $10,000 for each if he went yard. Winston sent the first pitch 10 rows into the upper deck and then sent the next into the lower deck for an encore and $20,000 more added to the total to be donated.
"I was in the cage a few times before I came out here," Winston said. "I came out here ready to go. I played baseball growing up, and there was a time in my life that I thought it would be my sport. I take it seriously, but it's still a little fun. I didn't want to let the kids down."
Reliant will also add $500 for every home run hit by an Astros player in Wednesday's game against the Brewers.
Last year's Home Run Derby raised $32,800, and in the three previous years, the Reliant Energy Power Blast Program has raised a total of $129,300. Those funds were spread around to the 12 Boy and Girls Clubs in Greater Houston and Galveston County area, which serve approximately 13,000 youth per year. The money has gone to finance homework help and tutorials, computer learning centers and sports leagues.
"It's just about taking time out of your day, whether it's for something fun like this or going and just doing homework with them." Winston said. "It's all about the kids and helping them get a better chance in life."
Jason Grodsky is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.