HOUSTON -- Several of Mark Appel's former teammates from his days in the Post Oak Little League in Houston were at Minute Maid Park to greet him Wednesday after he signed a contract with the Astros, who selected him with the first overall pick in the First-Year Player Draft.
"I think he was happy to see all of us as we were to see him," said Jay Magness, who was a pitcher and third baseman on the Post Oak team that lost to eventual Little League World Series participant Richmond Lamar National in the Texas East Little League title game in 2003.
Appel was a 12-year-old pitcher on the team, but moved to California a year later, which cost him a chance to play for Astros manager Bo Porter. The Texas Hawkeyes, a travel team started by Porter following his playing career, featured several players from the Post Oak team.
"What made me start the program was several of the dads, who are good friends of mine, were coaching that team and they wanted them to go another level and play more competitive baseball and travel," Porter said. "I decided I wasn't going to play anymore and I took the year off to figure out exactly what it is I wanted to do, so the timing just happened to be right.
"I went ahead and coached the kids and started the program, and once I got back into coaching [in the Major Leagues] I hired other coaches to run the program."
In addition to Magness, second baseman William Duncan, shortstop/pitcher Matthew Bean, and catcher/pitcher Jimmy Burke greeted Appel, along with the father of left fielder Patrick Atwood. "We had a great Little League team," Appel said. "It means a lot they're actually out there. It's been a few years since we've seen each other with our busy schedules, high school and college and all that stuff. It's exciting that they're here."
Burke said Appel is the same down-to-earth kid he was as a 12-year-old.
"It's not like he's a big shot," he said. "He deserves this."