Astros Fan Fest

Astros Hall of Fame announcement headlines annual Fan Fest

Photo by Paul St. Martin

Astros fans were treated to an oasis of hardball in an otherwise cold winter devoid of any baseball. Minute Maid Park opened its doors to the public for the Astros annual Fan Fest event.

The gates opened at 11 am to the free event filled with autograph sessions, photo ops, and Q&A forums with some of the Astros' most famous players. For those willing to spend the cash, fans were given the opportunity to throw bullpen sessions, play catch in the outfield, or take a swing in the batting cages.

Shortly after opening to the public a press conference was broadcast throughout the park announcing the establishment of the Astros Hall of Fame. The hall will replace the outfield concourse currently referred to as "Home Run Alley," and inductees will receive a bright orange Hall of Fame blazers and plaques.

As the afternoon lingered on, the lines stretched further and further with fans looking to get a piece of Astros history. Out in right field, fans lined up for the annual "garage sale," where excess inventory from the previous season's promotions are laid out on fold out tables with bargain price tags slapped on them. In the team store located at first base, fans were scrambled to lock down their own piece of authentic Astros memorabilia. From game used jerseys to ballpark furniture, and even down to five-gallon buckets of MLB authenticated dirt from Tal's Hill, it was easy to see that there was something for everyone.

While most lines provided Astros fans with an opportunity to own a part of Astros history, one particular line on the third base line concourse provided fans with an opportunity to glimpse into the future. Those in attendance were able to sample the one of the newest beer recipes from Karbach Brewing Company, the Crawford Bock. The new beer represents a unique collaboration between the Astros and Houston's largest brewery. Fans unable to sample the new recipe will have little trouble finding it, as the installation of a field-level Karbach bar behind home plate has already begun.

The bevy of new announcements and additions to the ballpark came as a welcome surprise to all. From the young fans running the basepaths in the infield to the old fans lounging in the Crawford Boxes happily ruminating in the simple fact that they were back at the ballpark, it was apparent the the Astros latest iteration of Fan Fest was one of the most successful implementations in the past several years.

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A WEEKLY REVIEW OF CRENNEL'S COACHING

Now my job: Texans feast on Lions

Photo by Getty Images.

Thanksgiving is full of tradition. There's the typical family gathering, large meal, and of course, football. Sometimes, new traditions are added and old ones are retired. I think the Texans did both in their impressive 41-25 win over the Lions in Detroit. Old traditions were carried on (Lions losing on Thanksgiving), some were put to rest (Texans not being able to get turnovers), and new ones were started (multiple passing touchdowns by Deshaun Watson in six straight games).

The fact that this defense got three turnovers in the game was unbelievable! They got all three in the first quarter within the span of eight plays. JJ Watt's pick-six was insane. He went for a batted ball, ended up catching it, and ran it in. They forced Jonathan Williams to fumble on the Lions' very next play from scrimmage and recovered it. On the Lions' next possession, the Texans recovered yet another fumble after the challenge was reversed. Great call by the coaching staff to challenge and win. The defense looked good. Tyrell Adams stood out because he was in on those two fumbles, made 17 total tackles with 14 of them being solo tackles. They also brought pressure that seemed to make Matthew Stafford very inaccurate and resulted in four sacks. I give defensive coordinator Anthony Weaver credit for knowing he needs to blitz to get pressure, but the run defense has to improve.

The offense kept the tempo up in this game as well. The spread and hurry-up were used to keep the Lions already staggered defense off balance. Knowing the Lions were without a couple defensive backs, I thought it would be the perfect marriage of their defense and the Texans' offense. A buddy asked before the game about the line (Texans -3.5) and the over/under (52.5). I told him bet the Texans and the over because neither team can play defense and both have good quarterbacks. Offensive coordinator Tim Kelly put together another good game plan and Watson executed it flawlessly. One route combo I saw later on in the game I particularly enjoyed. Two receivers were tight to the left side. Cooks ran a hook/curl and settled in the middle of the zone while Fuller ran a vertical route. Duke Johnson ran a swing route to that same side. It left Cooks wide open as the attention went to Johnson in the flat, Fuller deep, and the action to the other play side. Route combos are important because it gives the quarterback different reads as he goes through his progressions and lets him pick apart the defense based on what he sees. Combine that with Watson's play and the way Kelly has changed his play calling now that he's liberated from he who shall not be named, we're seeing a beautiful thing.

As good as things were, there's still room for improvement. The defense gives up way too many easy yards, both run and pass. They can't get pressure bringing only four and will often give up big plays if the blitz is picked up. Plus the run defense is still an issue as evidenced by the Lions' first possession of the second half. The Lions ran the ball 10 plays straight for a total of 58 yards on that drive. Utterly ridiculous! Watson was good (17/25 318 yards and four touchdowns), but he missed two more touchdowns with passes slightly off, and continues to hold onto the ball too long at times. The difference between these two issues I've presented here is the fact that Watson has so played well, his "issues" are minor and very correctable, while the defense is terrible and there's no easy fix in sight. But let Romeo Crennel and Anthony Weaver tell it, they're getting the most out of these guys and they're playing disciplined.

The thought that this team may actually creep into the playoff picture may take shape better after next week if they can beat the Colts. I doubt it, but it is getting interesting. Let's see what else happens around them because they need help getting there.

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