HOUSTON -- Thousands of Astros fans, buoyed by seasonal temperatures and a flurry of offseason signings, took a chance to escape Saturday's torrential rain by coming to Minute Maid Park for the team's first Homeplate for the Holidays event, which featured an appearance by "Orbit Claus."
The event, which was free with a voucher, was a huge success, said Astros senior vice president of marketing and communications Anita Sehgal. The 5,000 event vouchers initially made available online were claimed within 24 hours, and the Astros made plans to accommodate more fans.
"We issued 5,000 vouchers in the first 24 hours, so we had to make some adjustments and plan for a bigger crowd," Sehgal said. "We put another 1,000 online, and they were gone in 24 hours. We wanted to make sure people could take advantage of the activities, so we'll probably cap it at 7,000."
Homeplate for the Holidays featured photo opportunities with "Orbit Claus," ornament crafting, holiday story time with the Astros Coca-Cola Shooting Stars, Christmas beers sold at the Saint Arnold Bar, carolers, holiday lights, "snow," and even an appearance from a popular bearded guy -- slugger Evan Gattis.
And, for the first time in several years, fans had the opportunity to purchase single-game tickets for the 2017 season. Commemorative bricks and outfield manual scoreboard holiday photos were also available for purchase.
"Our fans have been phenomenal, especially in the last couple of years, so our opportunity to have them kind of celebrate the holidays with the Astros and really put the Astros under the Christmas tree was a chance to get a little excited about it before we start the new year," Sehgal said.
Next month, fans will have several chances to see the Astros up close during the team's annual caravan, which is scheduled for Jan 16-20. The Astros Foundation will host the second annual Diamond Dreams Gala on Jan. 20 at Minute Maid Park, featuring a performance by Diana Ross.
The week is capped by the team's annual FanFest on Jan. 21 at Minute Maid Park, where many of the players will be available for autographs and pictures.
"We got a lot of that ready to go before the holidays, and then we come back in January and we have a fast four months leading to Opening Day," Sehgal said.
Brian McTaggart has covered the Astros since 2004, and for MLB.com since 2009. Follow @brianmctaggart on Twitter and listen to his podcast. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.