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New number honors old friend

Hampton's number honors old friend

HOUSTON -- Once Mike Hampton had arrived at Houston's Bush Intercontinental Airport on Tuesday, he called his good friend Brad Ausmus to ask for a favor.

Hampton, in town to take a physical before finalizing a one-year deal with the Astros, wanted to wear Ausmus' No. 11, but he first wanted to check with his friend to make sure that was OK. Ausmus wore No. 11 for 10 years during two tours with the Astros, and Hampton, whose regular No. 10 is currently taken by shortstop Miguel Tejada, thought it was only right to run his idea by the longtime Houston catcher first.

"I called Brad and said, 'What do you think?'" Hampton said. "He said, 'Well, just make sure you give me some props.'"

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Ausmus, who will either play for a southern California team in '09 or retire, gave his blessing to his friend and former teammate. Hampton and Ausmus played together for the Astros in 1997 and '98.

"I thought it was a nice gesture," Ausmus said via cell phone from San Diego. "He didn't have to do that. It's not like it was heading to the wall at Minute Maid Park. Somebody was eventually going to wear it. Might as well be worn by a good friend of mine."

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Ausmus also told Hampton he'd "feel a little embarrassed if he hit better than I did." That may be a problem, considering Hampton's career batting average -- .241 -- is only 10 points lower than Ausmus'.

Hampton joked that he wanted to take Ausmus' number "while it was hot."

"He was one of the hottest hitters in the league during that last game of the season," Hampton laughed, referring to the home run he gave up to Ausmus during the Astros' Sept. 28 meeting with the Braves.

That home run lives in infamy between the two friends, thanks to Ausmus, who regularly reminds him about it.

"Text messages," Ausmus said. "Like, 'Knock, knock. Who's there? I took you deep.'"

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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