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Houston gives a Texas-sized sendoff

Houston sends off Astros at Rally Monday

HOUSTON -- Astros fans showed up to Minute Maid Park on Monday afternoon to take part in Rally Monday and support their team as it heads to Atlanta to begin the National League Divisional Series against the Braves.

The festivities began at 3:30 p.m. CT with Texas music favorites Reckless Kelly performing a live set on top of the visitor's dugout. They were followed by an on-field 45-minute team workout combined with player interviews by Hall of Fame announcer Milo Hamilton, who emceed the afternoon event.

To kick off the Rally Monday presentation, Hamilton introduced each of the Astros to the roaring crowd. Morgan Ensberg spoke and applauded the fans for their energy and enthusiasm at all games during the season.

Brad Lidge and Lance Berkman also spoke to the fans and sent their appreciation to the loyal supporters for showing up all season and being a pivotal part of the team's success.

Berkman jokingly made his own predictions for the playoffs.

"I hope we make quick work of the Braves, and we sweep the Cardinals, and beat the White Sox in the World Series, because I have a flag football team and this is really kind of [getting in the way]," Berkman said.

Berkman was lightheartedly alluding to the injury he suffered after the playoffs last year which cost him the first few months of the 2005 season.

When Hamilton introduced Andy Pettitte, the National League Pitcher of the Month for September, he invited the crowd to help prepare him for his Wednesday matchup with Atlanta and the crowd showered Pettitte with a thunderous ovation.

The team introduction were followed by Houston mayor Bill White. Mayor White said after the strenuous hurricane season he is ready to "relax and enjoy baseball in October."

Later, he added what seemed to be script taken straight from "Field of Dreams," stating that "in this country sometimes there are wars, sometimes prosperity, sometimes there's depression, but every year for over 100 years there has been baseball in America. It is what brings us together and what a great thing we have right now in these Houston Astros."

Astros director of baseball operations Tal Smith, team president Pam Gardner and general manager Tim Purpura were also on hand for the afternoon's festivities.

Purpura continued the strong congratulatory praise of the fans for their assistance and support.

"Back in May, when we were 15-30, you still kept coming out to the ballpark, you still kept supporting us, you still kept being behind us," Purpura said. "This postseason is for you, the fans of Houston. We love you. You are the best fans possible and we're going to take it all the way to the World Series."

Following Purpura, Hamilton introduced manager Phil Garner and his on-field staff, who were warmly welcomed by the crowd. Garner commended the entire organization for working as "a team" and acknowledged the fans as the "secret ingredient" to their success.

The final treat for those on hand was a seven-minute highlight video recapping the 2005 regular season.

Fans in attendance also received a free rally towel as well as discounts on all concessions.

The event, begun by Major League Baseball in 2004, has become an excellent way for the fans to thank the players, but more importantly for the organization to thank the fans.

The players have made it known that they, too, recognize and enjoy the support they have received from their fans throughout the season.

"When we get in the postseason hunt, the energy and the buzz in the crowd increases exponentially as you get closer and closer to the final game of the season," said catcher Brad Ausmus. "The last two years have been unbelievable and the interest in the team has gone up quite a bit."

Nathan Coffey is a contributor to MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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