Videos and photo by Craig Hlavaty
The guys who get paid to do it aren't exactly tearing the cover off the ball -- the Astros currently rank 24th in the majors in home runs. So it's nice to see some fresh meat in the oddly-shaped confines of Minute Maid Park, even if it does only benefit charity and doesn't count in the more important world of actual sports.
The Reliant Energy Fourth Annual Home Run Derby featured 10 Texans players swinging to benefit Boys & Girls Clubs of Great Houston. Reliant donated money for each home run, doubling the amount for the last pitch and adding "bull's-eye banners" in the stands and outfield. (A direct hit on such a banner in center field nets $10,000 - no one managed to plunk that.)
The derby, which netted $31,300, surprised in some ways.
For one thing, it turns out receiver Andre Johnson sucks at batting.
Like, confused-American-League-pitcher-during-interleague-play sucks.
Actually, we take that back -- most AL pitchers don't twirl around like
a 40-year-old office manager batting two-thirds of the way through a
beer league softball game. We'll take his wide-out skills, though.
One prediction we made that didn't turn out so well: "(Offensive lineman) Eric Winston will never be able to hit a home run," we said in the car on the way over, stroking our beard and clucking our tongue. "He's way too big to turn on the ball." Well, only one part of Winston is too big. No, we didn't get access to the locker room after the festivities -- we're talking about his heart.
Dude knocked some serious dingers to right in the championship round, raising more than $20,000 for charity. Here he is: