HOUSTON -- It was on the same City Hall steps where nine years earlier the Astros held a massive pep rally for their fans after winning their only National League pennant and falling short in the World Series to the Chicago White Sox.
The crowd was smaller on Tuesday for the Astros Winter Caravan stop, but that's why the Astros are here and at several other points around Texas. The team is reaching out to its fan base like never before during the annual fan outreach tour with a busy schedule that includes most of the players on the 25-man roster as well as manager Bo Porter and other staff.
Astros owner Jim Crane talked about the fan support in front of City Hall on Tuesday before raising an Astros flag in a ceremony that included pitchers Brett Oberholtzer and Anthony Bass, former pitcher Doug Brocail and Hall of Fame announcer Milo Hamilton.
"There's probably twice as many [Caravan stops] as we did last year and it should get our fans excited for the improvements we've made this year to the team and the new players we signed and the new guys we brought in and the guys coming up," Crane said. "We think it should have a good impact on getting some people in the ballpark and seeing the product."
The Astros, coming off three seasons of more than 100 losses, believe they'll be improved this year as several of their top prospects hit Houston. They've also spent money in free agency for the first time in a couple of years, and Crane wants the fans to know the team is on the right track.
"We're just getting the fans knowledgeable about what we've done and how we've improved the team and make sure we communicate with them and let them know we appreciate their support," he said. "It's a great baseball town, and we need them to get to the ballpark and cheer us on."