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Astros to televise 15 games in Spanish

Astros to televise 15 games in Spanish

PHOENIX -- For the first time in club history, the Astros will televise several Astros games in Spanish in 2008, in an effort to appeal to the growing and established Hispanic markets in Houston and South Texas.

FSN Houston will televise 15 games in Spanish this year. The first are scheduled for May 7-8 against the Washington Nationals, with four more slated to run in May. Four more are scheduled to run in June, two in July, two in August and one in September.

The Spanish-language broadcasts will be original productions separate from FSN Houston's telecasts and will be carried on secondary FSN Plus channels on cable systems in Houston and South Texas markets. They also will be made available to DirecTV and Dish Network.

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In Houston, the games will be carried on Comcast Cable channel 76, which is available to digital cable customers.

Veteran announcer Rene Cardenas, who pioneered Astros Spanish-language radio broadcasts when the team debuted in 1962 and is considered the dean of Major League Baseball Spanish announcers, will team with Raul Saenz to call the games. Spanish graphics will supplement the broadcasts.

"The Houston Astros are thrilled at the opportunity to provide Spanish-language broadcasts to markets all across Texas," Astros senior vice president of communications Jay Lucas said. "We will provide an excellent product to our Spanish-speaking fans by combining an outstanding broadcast team in Rene Cardenas and Raul Saenz with FSN Houston's high-caliber production quality. We're happy to be able to offer this product to fans that have been among the most passionate and devoted to our team throughout the history of our franchise."

According to the most current U.S. Census figures, Houston is the fourth-largest Hispanic market in the country, with a population of 730,865. Hispanics make up 37.4 percent of the Houston market, while 1.1 million Hispanics live in surrounding Harris County.

In the Astros' extended fan base outside of Houston, Hispanics are the majority of the population in six markets, led by Laredo (94.1 percent), Brownsville (91.3), McAllen (80.3), El Paso (76.6) San Antonio (58.7) and Corpus Christi (54.3). With a Hispanic population of 671,394, San Antonio ranks as the nation's fifth-largest Hispanic market.

Cardenas, a native of Nicaragua, began his Major League Baseball career in 1958, when the Los Angeles Dodgers named him their first Spanish radio announcer after the team moved from Brooklyn to Los Angeles. Recognizing the success Cardenas achieved connecting with Spanish-speaking fans in Los Angeles, the Astros hired him in 1962 to direct their Spanish broadcasts when Houston was awarded a Major League franchise.

Cardenas spent 15 years with the Astros and eventually moved to Arlington in 1981 to become the Texas Rangers' first Spanish broadcaster, before returning to Los Angeles in 1982 to call Dodgers games in Spanish until 1998. In 2000, Cardenas was inducted into the Nicaraguan Baseball Hall of Fame. He currently writes a popular sports column for La Prensa and the Astros Spanish-language Web site and Astros magazine.

Cardenas will work with Saenz, a well-known Texas broadcaster who also serves as analyst on University of Texas football Spanish-radio broadcasts and the Dallas Mavericks Spanish radio network. Since 2004, he has anchored sportscasts for Dallas-Fort Worth Univision affiliate KUVN, where he won a Lone Star Emmy award for Best Sports Story in 2005.

Saenz started the first Spanish play-by-play radio broadcasts for the San Antonio Missions Double-A Minor League baseball team in 2002, and has been sports director at Telemundo affiliates in Houston and San Antonio.

Alyson Footer is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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