The water's much prettier and greener than that of the Upper Coast, and there's both grit and family-friendly fun in this Coastal Bend town less than four hours down the Southwest Freeway. Fishing charters, dolphin-watching tours, parasailing adventures and ferries to nearly uninhabited Saint Joseph's Island embark from the town's harbor daily, and there's good food to be found if you get away from the tourist traps. (Think Shells, Kody's, Marcel's, La Playa and Roosevelt's; avoid Moby Dick's, Fins, and Virginia's on the Bay, except for cocktails. Also, seek out dockings of the mom-and-pop shrimp boat Pollyanna for home cooking.) Dive-bar connoisseurs will love Port A Harbor's legendary Shorty's Oldest And Friendliest Bar, while those seeking a livelier night out won't be let down by Sharkey's nightclub a little way out of town. (Tip: Avoid that dreaded DWI by hiring a beach bike from one of the rental services.)
Picking a Best Astro was no easy task this year. The team is suffering through a season of legendary ineptitude. Still, Hunter Pence, All-Star and great guy, seemed like a lock. Until he was traded. No worries, we'll just pick Michael Bourn — and then he became an Atlanta Brave. So let's go with Bud Norris. On an awful squad, he's the ace, with a good ERA (in terms of Astros pitchers), he seems unflappable, unlike some others on the staff. He just goes about doing as solid a job as he can. For this year's Astro team, that puts him on top.
With its modern interior and exterior, indoor track and spacious confines, the new YMCA in the heart of downtown Houston breathed new life into fitness in our city. Hell, sometimes we go just to gawk at the view of the skyline from the treadmills, and before we know it three, er, ten miles have passed us by. Replacing the historic building less than two blocks away, this YMCA opened up just last fall, with upgraded equipment, locker rooms and family areas. There's also an indoor playground area that makes even adults jealous. Everything is new and improved, from the saunas and steam rooms to the basketball courts, which are always teeming with the sounds of vigorous games of roundball. The old location isn't all forgotten, with the neon "Y" from that building displayed prominently in the free-weight area of the gym.
Clint Barmes brings more name recognition, but Angel Sanchez is the hoped-for future for the 'stros at shortstop. Raised in Puerto Rico, the six-foot-one-inch, 200-pound utility infielder has, as evident during the latter part of 2010 and during the early stages of the 2011 season, provided as much of a spark as anyone could for the struggling team. It's true that Sanchez, who can also hold his own at the second and third base positions, doesn't pack a lot of punch, but with mini hitting streaks here and there, the 28-year-old may very well be prime for a breakout campaign next season. Now let's see if the rest of these bums, uh, minor-leaguers, um, Astros players can follow suit.

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