7/20/2013 7:04 P.M. ET
All-Star Castro starting to step into spotlight
By Chris Abshire / MLB.com
HOUSTON -- Being an All-Star is a whole new world, as Astros catcher Jason Castro continues to find out.
Castro made his first public appearance Saturday morning since the All-Star Game, signing autographs and interacting with fans at the Sony Store in Houston's Galleria Mall.
While the event was low-key by professional athlete standards, it was well attended and another sign that the former first-round pick is becoming a face of the franchise.
"One of the things we enjoy as players is being able to meet fans and get out in the community a little. It's something we embrace," Castro said. "Being right after the All-Star Break, it was nice to see so many people out there in support of not just me, but the team too."
Whether it's starring in "Which Wich" commercials locally, signing autographs or being recognized as one of baseball's elite, Castro is becoming synonymous with the Astros' rebranding and rebuilding effort.
It would seem a strange match, given that Castro is more a quiet leader and low-key personality than a gregarious figure.
But the Stanford product is widely considered among the team's nicest players and he's also shown initiative in the community.
Last month, he and his wife hosted the Castro's Kids Book Drive at Minute Maid Park to help supply the Houston Independent School District with more reading resources.
"I tell you what, if we're going to have a guy represent this team, I want it to be Jason Castro," said manager Bo Porter. "I've said this before; if I'm looking for someone to bat third and marry my daughter, it's him."
As for dealing with some of his new-found fame, the soft-spoken Castro said he's not shy about being a public figure.
"I'm fine with it. It doesn't bother me at all," he said. "It's part of being a good player. Hopefully, the better we play and the more this rebuild goes along, the more attention we will get. That's a fun part of it, not a burden. We need to get used to that."
After historic achievement, Barnes reflects on cycle
HOUSTON -- Somewhere between the horde of media waiting for him in the locker room and seeing "about 60" text messages on his phone last night, it hit Brandon Barnes.
He really had just become the newest member of the Cycle Club, one of baseball's most difficult achievements.
"I got home and saw all the messages and spoke to my family and my wife and got a chance to take it all in," Barnes said. "It's only the 303rd time it's been done, I think. That's like a no-hitter. And I'm a part of that history now. It's pretty special."
Barnes said his whole night at the plate felt like an "out-of-body" experience and he's almost never felt more relaxed while up to bat than he did during his 5-for-5 performance in Houston's 10-7 loss to Seattle.
Barnes acknowledged that he began thinking about possibly getting a cycle after his sixth-inning single.
"After I reached base, [Seattle's] Justin Smoak, the first baseman, he told me all I needed was a double," Barnes said. "I threw it out of my mind and just focused on scoring a run and playing defense.
"When I stepped in there in the eighth, I heard the crowd cheering and that really reminded me. So I just got in the box, took a deep breath and everything after felt kind of surreal."
But Barnes was quick to say that the moment is behind him and there's nothing better than building on the momentum from an auspicious night at the dish.
"Even with that game of his, I talked to him after and he kept saying, 'I wish we would have won.' That's the kind of player you want to keep around." said Houston manager Bo Porter.
"He's definitely opened up a lot of eyes offensively and figuring out some things and that he's making the necessary adjustments to counter what the league is throwing at him. There was no doubting it last night."
Chris Abshire is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.