Sampson, Towles assist in home 'Makeover'
Pitcher, catcher lend a hand in building of Houston house
HOUSTON -- Astros pitcher Chris Sampson and catcher J.R. Towles are used to people standing up and yelling for them, but one day last month the teammates were among hundreds in the waterfront Houston suburb of Kemah yelling for a family in need.
Sampson and Towles were on hand Jan. 14 for the unveiling of a new house during the taping of the ABC television show Extreme Makeover: Home Edition, which builds houses for families in need. The two Astros donated autographed items from the team and their game jerseys to the family of Melissa and Larry Beach.
The show is scheduled to air in March.
The couple, which has been married 23 years and has fostered 85 children, currently has 13 kids -- four of their own and nine adopted children, including several with special needs. The kids range in age from 23 months to 21 years old.
The Beach family had been living in trailers on their property since Hurricane Ike damaged their small home in 2008. With the help of volunteers, a 6,340-square-foot, two-story house with eight bedrooms and 4 1/2 bathrooms was built for the family.
"The Beach family is huge Astros fans, and we gave a bunch of memorabilia to them to put in their rooms," Sampson said. "Lance [Berkman] gave me a ball and one of his bats, and J.R. and I donated our Astros jerseys and signed them. The kids also got bobbleheads and backpacks and stuff like that, as well as autographed baseballs."
Sampson, his wife, Heather, and two young sons attended the taping with Towles and his wife, Brittany, on an unseasonably cold and wet day. Ty Pennington, host of the show, and actress Jessica Alba were also on hand for the revealing of the new home.
Before the family is shown its new house, hundreds of volunteers yell "Move that bus!" as the bus parked between the family and house is driven away. Sampson and Towles were among those yelling.
"For us to be out there with our family and help support them and meeting them at the reveal, we wanted to let them know we support them and appreciate them," Sampson said. "It was a very happy moment for them. They started with nothing."
Sampson first met the family last summer when they came to Minute Maid Park as guests of the Robbie Seay Band, a Christian rock band. The group came to the ballpark at the request of Sampson as a token of thanks for putting on a benefit concert for a Milwaukee toddler with a heart defect. Sampson's wife is from Milwaukee.
The child, Zoe Batiansila, died last month at 22 months old.
"Robbie Seay Band put on a concert for Baby Zoe to raise money, and the father had no way of thanking them," Sampson said. "He contacted us to see if we could leave tickets, and I took it one step further and invited them to the auxiliary room [at Minute Maid Park]. They got to meet with players and get autographs, and one of the families the Robbie Seay Band brought with them was the Beach family."
The Robbie Seay Band nominated the Beach family for the television show.
"It was awesome to be a part of," said Sampson, a Houston-area native who often does charity work around the city.
Brian McTaggart is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.