HOUSTON -- A blend of current players and past fan favorites scattered about Houston on Saturday in a mass autograph signing that took them to many corners of Houston, from Humble to Katy to Sugar Land and all the way down to Minute Maid Park.
Among the A-listers from the alumni side was Jose Cruz (known in these parts as Cheo, or Cruuuuuuuuuz), who signed at the Best Buy in Humble. Former pitcher and manager Larry Dierker set up shop at the Best Buy on FM 1960, while Jimmy "The Toy Cannon" Wynn signed at the Westside Chevrolet on the Katy Freeway.
Justin Maxwell posed for pictures with fans at the grand opening at Best Buy off I-10 near Bunker Hill. Shane Reynolds signed at Finnegan Chevrolet in Rosenberg, and Jose Altuve posed and signed for fans at the Best Buy in Sugar Land.
The autograph trail concluded at Minute Maid Park, where Brian Bogusevic signed for fans for an hour at the Team Store.
Autograph signings are nothing new for the Astros this season. They've had their players out and about town many times, and the Team Store signings take place once a month.
But Saturday's session marked the first time the Astros have had that many signings, all at once. Call it a goodwill gesture as the Astros continue their efforts to engage the fan base during a time of transition.
"We've been doing a lot of free public autograph sessions all year," director of community affairs Shawn Bertani said. "It's important to the Astros' new management team that we maintain and strengthen the connections between the players and the fans. We want to be one of the most accessible franchises, from both the players' standpoint and the front office. We want our fans to get to know our players on a personal level."
They have their work cut out for them. In the last six weeks, the Astros' roster has experienced a dramatic turnover, with many of the team's most recognizable figures going to other clubs in trades. The Astros, building for long-term success, are in the process of stockpiling their farm system with as much young talent as they can obtain in a short amount of time.
In the interim, the Major League roster is in flux. Many new faces and unfamiliar names have joined the Astros in the last several weeks. But that doesn't mean everyone is new, as evidenced by the list of alumni and current players involved in Saturday's autograph bonanza. Maxwell, Bogusevic and Altuve are three of the more recognizable names on the current roster, while Dierker, Cruz, Wynn and Reynolds represented the 50th anniversary the Astros have been celebrating all season.
Plus, this year's schedule has been a little odd. There were very few home games in July, and the Astros are currently in town for just three days before hitting the road again.
In that respect, Saturday's signings could be viewed as a savvy, strategic move.
"Having so many road games during the month of July, coupled with a number of trades, it's important that we continue to get our players out connecting with the fans," Bertani said. "We want fans to know our team well, whether the players are new to the club or have been here a while."