Opening Day Flag Holding Sweepstakes

In preparation for Opening Day 2016, the Astros held a competition to give fans the opportunity to hold the American flag during the Opening Day pregame ceremonies.

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The response was tremendous. Check out a few of the hundreds of submissions:

Five people were selected to hold the flag along with a guest. The remainder of the flag was held by Astros special guests and active military members.


Sandy Ballard and her son Brandon were two of the winners and wanted to share their incredible story.

“I saw a Facebook post on the Astros page and I entered a contest. I said I’d love to be a part of this spectacular event and also to be able to say thank you to those who are here who have served their country. Being able to hold the flag would be really cool and I love having the chance to tell those who have served Thank You.” –Elizabeth Smith

Thank you to everybody who submitted an entry and most importantly, thank you to everybody who has served our country!

Orbit’s Recap of Spring Training

Special Guest Post from Orbit!

Spring Training 2016 is officially in the books and we had a BLAST! From meeting celebrities, visiting Mexico City, seeing old friends, and even making a few new ones, this last year in Kissimmee couldn’t have been more fun.

Here are a few of my favorite highlights:

Orbit1

Got to hang out with my pal the Philly Phanatic for the first Spring  Training game in Clearwater, FL. Green guys united!

Orbit2

It was hot that day….

Orbit3

St. Patrick’s Day celebration wins!

Orbit4

Some pretty cool people visited me, including Marc Anthony….

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…and Commissioner of Baseball Rob Manfred. Apparently they’re both big fans!

Orbit5

We were having a handsome contest. I won.

Thanks to everybody who came down for Spring Training. We hope to see you all at the Astros Home Opener on April 11th. GO ASTROS!

WISE (Women in Sports and Events) Kickoff!

Houston, we have liftoff! The official Houston chapter of WISE, Women in Sports and Events, kicked off on February 29th with 175 guests gathering at Minute Maid Park! Among the guests were the Presidents of our founding partners the Houston Astros, Houston Rockets, Houston Texans, Houston Dynamo, and the Harris County – Houston Sports Authority.

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The event featured networking and a live question and answer session with some very special guests. KHOU Meteorologist Chita Johnson emceed the panel of speakers including Astros President of Business Operations Reid Ryan, Texans President Jamey Rootes, Dynamo President Chris Canetti, Rockets CEO Tad Brown, and CEO of the Harris County – Houston Sports Authority, Janis Burke. Attendees even had chance to take photos with their favorite Houston Mascots!

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WISE is the leading voice and resource for professional women in the business of sports. The organization provides information about issues, challenges and opportunities impacting all stages of their careers—from entry level to senior management and those in between.

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“We are thrilled to bring this organization to Houston and provide resources for women in the sports and events industries. Through mentorships and networking, WISE will truly be valuable in providing insights and connections that will help support and enhance career growth.” – Christie Feliz, Director of Promotions and Marketing at the Astros (VP WISE Houston Board)

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WISE Houston provides programming and valuable networking opportunities to help carry out WISE’s mission at a local level, and works with the WISE National Board to deliver initiatives such as the WISE Within Mentor Program.

“I thought this event was a great chance to interact with my colleagues at other teams and meet other sports and event professionals from around the city.” – Adrienne Saxe, Sr. Community Development Manager at the Texans

For more information and to join this fantastic organization, please visit WiseHou.org.

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Highlights from 2016 Astros Caravan and FanFest

Each January, as we come back from the holidays and start to look forward to spring, it’s time to start thinking Astros baseball. And what better way to kick off the excitement of the upcoming season than with the annual Astros Caravan and Astros FanFest? This annual celebration starts with a day of service in the Houston area and concludes with Astros FanFest at Minute Maid Park. During this special week, Astros players and fans gather for a chance to meet their favorite players and participate in Astros fun.

The 2016 Astros Caravan presented by Academy Sports & Outdoors featured Astros players, the Coca-Cola Shooting Stars, Orbit and team staff traveling to interact with our loyal fans throughout the state. This year’s Astros Caravan visited the great cities of Houston, San Antonio, Austin, Corpus Christi, Galveston and areas around Houston including The Woodlands, Pasadena and Katy. Highlights from the week included a special trip to NASA, visits to local schools, serving food at Chick-Fil-A and Whataburger, interacting with fans at autograph sessions at Academy locations, and participating in our brand new Caravan Jams!  To see more photos from the 2016 Astros Caravan, please visit Astros.com/Caravan.

Colby

Colby Rasmus ready to take your order!

Following Astros Caravan, Astros fans gathered together for a one-of-a-kind event at Minute Maid Park to meet their favorite players and participate in a fun-filled day at Astros FanFest. This year’s Astros FanFest on January 23 brought a record crowd of over 11,000 fans. Despite the chilly weather (hey it’s Houston, we get cold easily!), fans flocked to Minute Maid Park to support their favorite team and celebrate the upcoming season. Fans took batting practice in the cages with Colby Rasmus, met mini-horses at the petting zoo in the Plaza, threw in the bullpen with Collin McHugh, took selfies with Orbit as part of the Selfie Scavenger Hunt, and even played ping pong with Jose Altuve!

Here’s a review of the highlights of Astros FanFest:

Valbuena

Every twenty minutes, Astros players rotated through the official FanFest photobooth presented by The Smile Generation to take funny photos with fans. Some lucky fans even go their photo with both Luis Valbuena and Lance McCullers!

 

Fans of all ages could create custom Astros Baseball cards in a new feature also presented by The Smile Generation.

PingPong

At the expanded Social Media Zone, a few lucky fans played ping pong against Astros players, including Jose Altuve. Spoiler alert: Jose won.

 

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Several Astros players – including Colby Rasmus – stopped by the Social Media Zone for Twitter Q&A’s throughout the day. We even had custom Fathead emojis for them to sign!

 

The free FanForum sessions throughout the day in the Diamond Club included the highly anticipated reveal of the new 2016 Astros alternate jersey and cap to be worn during Spring Training and Sunday home games.

 

Altuve

Fans with select vouchers were able to meet four of their favorite players and get their autographs. Kids even had their very own free autograph sessions.

 

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Players made surprise appearances throughout the day in different locations around the ballpark including the Astros dugout

 

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FanFest wrapped up with what was surely the most entertaining Fan Forum of all-time when Evan Gattis, George Springer and Colby Rasmus discussed the clubhouse culture for the 2016 team

Thanks to everybody who came out for the 2016 Astros Caravan and Astros FanFest. We can’t wait to see you here at Minute Maid Park for the Astros Home Opener on April 11th against the Royals!

The Annual Sunshine Kids Holiday Party

Astros Hall of Famer Craig Biggio with a Sunshine Kids Family

Astros Hall of Famer Craig Biggio with a Sunshine Kids Family

Craig Biggio’s name will always be linked with two organizations – the Houston Astros and the Sunshine Kids. What’s the Sunshine Kids? It’s a wonderful nonprofit dedicated to helping children with cancer. The organization provides a variety of events and programs across the country, free of charge, to kids who are battling cancer. Biggio has supported The Sunshine Kids since the early days of his Hall of Fame career with the Astros and continues as a spokesman for the organization today.

Biggio and two Sunshine Kids in the holiday spirit!

Biggio and two Sunshine Kids in the holiday spirit!

Throughout the baseball season, the Astros host Sunshine Kids and their families for several meet-and-greets with players, volunteer at hospitals in Houston and after the season, Craig and his wife Patty host an annual baseball party on the field at Minute Maid Park.

Astros volunteers helped with making Santa hats

Astros volunteers helped with making Santa hats

Each year during the holiday season, Sunshine Kids and their families come to the Children’s Museum of Houston for the Annual Sunshine Kids Holiday Party. On December 11, the tradition continued with hundreds of Sunshine Kids joining the Biggios, Astros volunteers, the Astros’ mascot Orbit and Olaf from Frozen for a great night of arts and crafts, visits with Santa and the chance to explore the Children’s Museum.

Astros mascot Orbit and Olaf from Frozen delighted fans1

Astros mascot Orbit and Olaf from Frozen delighted fans1

The night gives the kids a chance to enjoy the holiday season and also provides the Biggio family with another opportunity to give back. Craig’s wife Patty and two of their children, Conor and Quinn, joined the celebration.

Patty Biggio with Sunshine Kid Jay Garza and his mother

Patty Biggio with Sunshine Kid Jay Garza and his mother

“My dad’s been a part of this basically since he started playing,” Conor said. “It’s part of our family. This is such an awesome event seeing all of these kids having fun and loving life.”

Biggio and Sunshine Kids family

Biggio and Sunshine Kids family

Orbit posted with his biggest fans!

Orbit posted with his biggest fans!

Astros Meet & Tweet/Social Media Night Recap

Astros Meet & Tweet

Hi and welcome back to Mission Control! As we get down to the final home games, I wanted to take a few minutes to do a quick recap of our first annual Astros Meet & Tweet/Social Media Night which we hosted last Friday, September 18 before the Astros-A’s game. For the 45 of you who joined us, thank you! And for those who didn’t, we had a blast with our special guests and also gave away some fantastic prizes including a George Springer autographed bat, Dallas Keuchel signed baseball, Orbit-Wan Kenobi Bobblehead, Keuchel’s Korner shirts and more.

A huge thank you to our awesome special guests:

  • Astros broadcaster Bill Brown
  • Root Sports reporter Julia Morales
  • Astros General Manager Jeff Luhnow
  • Astros President of Business Operations Reid Ryan
  • Astros radio broadcaster Steve Sparks
  • Astros mascot Orbit

We started off with an exclusive happy hour Meet & Greet with Astros broadcaster Bill Brown at the Saint Arnold Bar:

Then we moved to the Loft at the FiveSeven Grill for our official Meet & Tweet program, which included:

Selfies with Orbit:

Q&As with Julia Morales, Jeff Luhnow, Reid Ryan and Steve Sparks:

9.18.15 vs. OAK73949 9.18.15 vs. OAK739779.18.15 vs. OAK739919.18.15 vs. OAK74015

More selfies!

9.18.15 vs. OAK74000

More fun with the Twitter Mirror:

9.18.15 vs. OAK73998

An exclusive interview with Orbit by Steve Sparks:

9.18.15 vs. OAK74062

After the pregame event, the fans headed to their bullpen box seats with their exclusive #SocialStros emoji shirts for the game.

We look forward to seeing you next season for #SocialStros. Look for information about it early in the season.

Thanks!

 

Astros Announce 2016 Regular Season Schedule

2016 Astros Schedule Released

2016 Astros Schedule Released

Today the Astros and MLB released the 2016 regular season schedule. The Astros will open the 2016 season at Yankee Stadium on April 4, 2016 and host the Royals for our home opener one week later on April 11. The 2016 schedule features interleague play against the team’s former NL Central rivals including visits to Minute Maid Park by the Cubs and Cardinals. Full press release below:

HOUSTON, TX — The Astros will begin the 2016 season on April 4 vs. the New York Yankees at Yankee Stadium, marking the first time Houston has ever opened a season on the road vs. the Bronx Bombers. Major League Baseball announced the Master schedule for 2016 today.

The 2016 season will mark the second time in three seasons that the Astros have opened a season vs. the Yankees, with the first coming on April 1, 2014 at Minute Maid Park (6-2 Astros win).

The Astros 2016 Home Opener will be on April 11 vs. the Kansas City Royals, who currently have the best record in the American League.

Interleague play will be another highlight from the 2016 schedule as the Astros will take on their former rivals from the N.L. Central Division. The Cincinnati Reds (June 17-19) Chicago Cubs (Sept. 9-11) and St. Louis Cardinals (Aug. 16-17) all will return to Minute Maid Park for the first time since 2013. The Astros will also take on the Milwaukee Brewers and Pittsburgh Pirates on the road in 2016.

As in past years, the Astros will face off vs. their in-state rivals, the Texas Rangers, 19 times in 2016 as the battle for the Silver Boot continues. The first of three home series vs. the Rangers is scheduled for the weekend of May 20-22. The other two three-game sets at Minute Maid Park will be August 5-7 and Sept. 12-14. The Los Angeles Angels will visit Houston three times as well for a total of 10 games (June 20-22, July 22-24 and Sept. 22-25).

Additional highlights from the 2016 schedule include home matchups vs. the Boston Red Sox (April 22-24), Yankees (July 25-27) and Toronto Blue Jays (August 1-4).

Season Tickets, Group Tickets, and Individual Game Suite Rentals are on-sale now for the 2016 season. The purchase of 2016 Full Season Tickets also guarantees access to 2015 Postseason ticket options. Fans can purchase tickets by calling the Astros ticket sales office at 1-800-Astros2 or by visiting http://www.astros.com.

As always, the Astros 2016 schedule will be filled with several promotional events and popular giveaway items. Please note that information pertaining to the on-sale dates for 2016 Astros individual tickets will be announced at a later time.

2016 Regular Season Schedule

2016 Regular Season Schedule

Guest Post: A Visit To Cooperstown to Celebrate Craig Biggio

Craig Biggio speaks at his Hall of Fame induction

Craig Biggio speaks at his Hall of Fame induction

Last month the Astros, Astros fans and the City of the Houston celebrated the long-awaited official induction of Craig Biggio into the Baseball Hall of Fame. We’re capping off the celebration this weekend with a special pregame ceremony on Saturday featuring Craig Biggio in his first opportunity to address Astros fans since he was inducted into Cooperstown. Details about the pregame ceremony can be found at our Biggio HOF landing page — gates open at 3:30 pm, fans should be in their seats at 5 pm, Biggio’s Hall of Fame plaque will be on display at Union Square Station and we’ll have special postgame fireworks. But we wanted to share a guest post from our MLB.com Real-Time Correspondent, Ryan Gonzalez, who was in Cooperstown last month for the induction.

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By Ryan Gonzalez, Special to Mission Control

Last month, I checked something off the top of my bucket list: go to Cooperstown. My dad always said when either Craig Biggio or Jeff Bagwell were inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame as the first Astros player, we would be there.

Like many kids, my dad is the reason I got into baseball. He took me to my first game at the Astrodome when I was five, and I couldn’t believe there were men playing a game that I had just started playing myself. I remember him saying, “Do you see those guys in the blue and gold? They’re from Houston, they’re who we go for.” I instantly said he was lying as I couldn’t believe there was a team from Houston that I got to cheer for. I wanted to learn everything about the Astros from that day forward, and I did. I grew up cheering on the Killer B’s and seeing the Astros fall just short of winning a World Series with them. We weren’t going to miss it when any of them entered the Hall of Fame.

Ryan Gonzalez and his father at the Hall of Fame

Ryan Gonzalez and his father at the Hall of Fame (photo credit: Ryan Gonzalez)

It seems like many others had the same idea. On our flight to Albany on Thursday, we had to take a stop to Tampa first and 85 people remained on the plane to continue their journey to Cooperstown. The moment we stepped off the plane and walked through the airport, we started hearing “Wow, that’s a lot of Astros fans.” This would continue to be a common occurrence all weekend as that was heard at the Hall of Fame Museum, at the Induction Ceremony, and even the nearby sports bar where all Astros fans congregated for their games against the Red Sox and Royals.

Seeing that many Astros fans make the trip all the way to New York made the experience even better. Biggio’s play in the field made fans love him, and his work off the field made fans respect him. Biggio is the reason I played second base growing up and the reason my uniform was always dirty. He helped turn Houston into a baseball city, and we were out in full force to support him.

On Saturday, we finally made it out to Cooperstown for the Hall of Fame Museum and the 2015 Hall of Fame Parade. Of course, there were many great things to see throughout the exhibit, and right on the first floor with the Plaque Gallery was an area for this years class. Craig Biggio’s section had his hat from the game he got hit 3,000, his bat from that season, his Opening Day 2003 jersey, and even some awards he had received over the years.

Astros fans lined up at Biggio's Hall of Fame display

Astros fans lined up at Biggio’s Hall of Fame display (photo credit: Ryan Gonzalez)

As we moved through the Hall, there were plenty of more items belonging to the Astros that had everybody smiling. In the Astros section on the second floor was Jeff Bagwell’s 2005 World Series jersey, Jose Altuve’s bat from the final game of the 2014 season, and Lance Berkman’s grand slam ball from the 18-inning game in the 2005 NLDS. Chris Burke’s 18-inning home run ball was also on display a little further along the way.

Chris Burke's 18th inning home run ball

Chris Burke’s 18th inning home run ball (photo credit: Ryan Gonzalez)

After exiting the Hall of Fame, we walked through Cooperstown and went through all the various shops selling many baseball memorabilia and souvenirs. One thing was very common though throughout all the shops selling 2015 Class items: they were sold out of everything related to Craig Biggio.

It was a sea of blue and orange everywhere we went, and there were several “B-G-O” chants that broke out leading up to the parade. Those chants were nothing compared to when Biggio finally came out. We could hear his name all the way up the street. It was surreal to see him in the back of a truck with thousands of Astros packed in just to catch a brief glimpse of him.

Craig and Patty Biggio at Hall of Fame Parade

Craig and Patty Biggio at Hall of Fame Parade

Finally, it was induction day. 50,000 packed the Clark Sports Center for the 2015 Class, and it was an emotional time for many there. Biggio did what he did his entire career, and that was lead things off. The crowd cheered his name non-stop until he started speaking, and we listened to every word. By the time his speech was over, there weren’t very many dry eyes left. His speech ended with a standing ovation and one last “B-G-O” chant.

Craig Biggio delivers Hall of Fame induction speech

Craig Biggio delivers Hall of Fame induction speech

The Astros fans finally had their guy in Cooperstown.

Mission Control Guest Post: Orbit tackles the Cypress Triathlon

Hello Astros fans! Orbit here, back for another guest post here on Mission Control. It’s been a crazy and exciting time here at Minute Maid Park since my last guest post back in April, and while the team’s been doing great, I’ve been keeping busy both on and off the field!

In case you missed it, me and my fur ball buddies, Clutch and Diesel, ventured into our second foray of feats of mascot strength a few short weeks ago. This time, we tackled the Cypress Triathlon to benefit Big Brothers Big Sisters. If you haven’t seen our team page, check it out at https://my.reason2race.com/event/cypresstriathlonbbbstx.Cypress Triathlon Finish 2

For those of who aren’t familiar with a triathlon, it’s a swim, bike ride and run all in succession. You know….because doing them on their own for each of us was just too easy for fat mascots. This triathlon was of the sprint variety, meaning we had to complete a 550 meter swim, 13 mile bike ride, capped off by a 5K run.

While we’re all a little insane, we aren’t completely out of our minds, so we broke it up into a mascot relay of sorts. Since Clutch and I each have ventured into running and biking, respectively, Diesel drew the undoubtedly hardest straw to kick-off our relay with the swim. While we knew we weren’t going to break any records that day, we all had a goal in mind of being competitive. In hind sight, this proved to be a little ambitious.

As I said, Diesel kicked the race off with his open water 550 meter swim. If you guessed that water and mascots mix, you’d be exactly wrong. Poor guy fox paddled the entire way though and managed to make it through in one piece. If you’ve ever seen a meme of a cat after it gets a bath, that’s about the closest thing I can think to compare his exit from the pond. Tired, water logged, but not beaten, Diesel emerged from the water in a much faster time than any of us had thought he might and tagged me in for the bike portion of the race.Cypress Triathlon Diesel

This is the part of the post where I’m suppose to tell you that my 13 miles on a bike was easier than moon walking on ice. After all, I’ve ridden a bike for 180 miles over two days. Two things I forgot to factor in….Texas heat in July and humidity. I’m going on record as saying that I love our roof at Minute Maid Park and that it really would have come in handy that day. Five minutes in I was drenched with sweat and smelled like a teenager’s laundry hamper. None the less, I peddled through and made it the 13 miles, but not without the encouragement from my fellow riders. They kept me going, and I imagine I kept them going as well. I mean, how often do you get passed by a giant green alien on a bicycle?

At my finish, Clutch was ready to tackle the final leg of the triathlon; the daunting 5K run. Now, I didn’t get a chance to see Clutch run since his course took him over several parts of the park, and truthfully, I was using that time to catch my breath from my leg. He’s the runner of the group, and like me, he’s completed more difficult races than this. At this point in the morning though, the weather is starting to warm up like the pot of water at a crawfish boil. Early on it felt nice, but by this point, it was downright balmy.

Cypress Triathlon Diesel 3

After about twenty minutes, Diesel and I make our way to the finish line to meet our favorite running bear. Yes, twenty minutes! Papa Bear Clutch was running as if there was a honey pot at the finish! Like Diesel and I, he crossed the finish line in a heap of exhaustion.

We’d officially done it! This group of tons of mascot fun managed to do what several had doubted, and we finished a triathlon in right at two hours! We couldn’t have done it without the help of each of our respective teams, race organizers, support staffs, but most of all, the fans. You guys who were out there with us pushing us forward made a difference in keeping us going, one stroke, pedal or stride at a time.Cypress Triathlon Diesel 2

As I mentioned earlier, if you haven’t had a chance to visit our team page, please go to https://my.reason2race.com/event/cypresstriathlonbbbstx. If you have the means to donate, please do. However, if you don’t, I would encourage you to consider becoming a Big Brother or Big Sister. It’s a great organization that does a lot of good work.

Until next time, I’ll see you at the ballpark cheering on our Astros!

Cypress Triathlon Finish 3

Meet the Bergs, Carlos Correa’s Honorary “Aunt and Uncle”

Jeff and Suzie Berg proudly watch Carlos Correa in Anaheim

Jeff and Suzie Berg proudly watch Carlos Correa in Anaheim

By Maren Angus, special to Mission Control

Anaheim, CA – In a sea of red on Monday night in Anaheim, fans could see a spot of orange behind the Houston dugout. The spot couldn’t be missed, not just because of the two people wearing bright orange Correa shirts, but the huge smiles on their faces.

Jeff and Suzie Berg are members of the Lancaster JetHawks Booster Club and sponsor players on the team, the Astros’ Advanced-A affiliate in Lancaster, California. The first player they sponsored? A young baseball player named Carlos Correa.

The Bergs met Correa at a team dinner hosted by the Booster Club before the start of the 2014 season, when Correa was 19 years old.

“We were having a team dinner and everybody was picking players,” said Correa. “I crossed paths with them and they asked if they could be my sponsors and I told them yes, of course.”

Carlos Correa starred for the Lancaster JetHawks in 2014.

Carlos Correa starred for the Lancaster JetHawks in 2014.

The Bergs sponsored Correa for the duration of his time in Lancaster and became what they call his “aunt and uncle.”

“We run errands for them and are there for support,” said Suzie. “We cheer them on and have them over for holidays because they are alone.”

After the Bergs began sponsoring Correa, they got in touch with his family in Puerto Rico. They wanted to tell them who they were and that they would be looking out for Carlos.

“They helped me a lot when I was there. There’s not much to do in Lancaster, so it was nice having a house to go to and eat or just talk,” said Correa. “It’s a long season and that year I got hurt. They took care of me and I will always be thankful for that.”

This time last year, the Correas and Bergs met for the first time.

“Carlos’ mom, dad, brother, little sister and grandmother came to visit. They had traveled all day to get there (Lancaster) and we took them out to dinner,” said Suzie. “By the time dinner was over, it was signed, sealed and delivered that we were doing our 30th anniversary in Puerto Rico. In January and February, we stayed with his family in Puerto Rico.”

Carlos Correa's family

Carlos Correa’s family

When the Bergs arrived in Puerto Rico, they really didn’t know what to expect. All they knew of Correa was that he played Advanced-A ball in Lancaster. Imagine the shock on their faces when they saw Correa’s face on a billboard on the side of the freeway.

“We’re looking at them from the single A level going up and for us it’s hard to see how important they are to people coming from the top,” said Suzie.

Correa and the Bergs stay in touch via texts or phone calls about twice a week. Jeff always makes sure he has enough suits and that he is staying healthy.

“They came to watch me play in Fresno and it was really great to see them there,” said Correa, who played with the Astros’ AAA affiliate Fresno Grizzlies from May 12-June 7 before his promotion to the Astros. “They are really great people and it’s always great to be around them.”

On June 8, everything Jeff and Suzie hoped would happen with Correa came true. He made his Major League debut and on Monday they watched the 20-year-old run out of the Astros’ dugout onto a Major League field.

The Bergs are all smiles as they watch Correa on the field

The Bergs are all smiles as they watch Correa on the field

“It’s exciting, when he came out of the dugout and looked and saw us, he had a big smile on his face,” said Jeff. “It was worth everything just to see the huge smile on his face.”

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