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Crane to be honored by alma mater UCM

Astros owner also throwing out first pitch at HWI's Saturday nightcap

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HOUSTON -- Astros owner Jim Crane will be presented with a gift in a special pregame ceremony Saturday prior to a baseball game between his alma mater, the University of Central Missouri, and St. Mary's (Texas) at Minute Maid Park.

The gift will be presented by Central Missouri athletics director Jerry Hughes and university president Chuck Ambrose. Crane will also throw out a ceremonial first pitch.

Crane was a standout pitcher at what used to be Central Missouri State, graduating with a bachelor of science in industrial safety in 1976. He was an honorable mention Division II All-American as a pitcher, going 21-8 with a 2.42 ERA in his collegiate days.

Crane has been a staunch supporter of his university, donating $1.2 million in 1998 to refurbish the school's stadium, James R. Crane Stadium at Robert N. Tompkins Field.

The second annual Houston Winter Invitational will open baseball season at Minute Maid Park with the seven-team tournament held at the stadium Saturday through Tuesday. The tournament will feature seven NCAA Division-II universities, squaring off in 12 games across the four days.

Central Missouri, which will serve as the co-host of the tournament, is ranked No. 19 nationally after finishing with a 36-13 record last year. The Mules play No. 15 St. Mary's at 6 p.m. CT on Saturday. The other teams in the tournament are Arkansas Monticello, Arkansas Tech, Henderson State, Tarleton State and Winona State.

Tickets, which allow entrance for all games on a given day, are available for sale on Astros.com and can also be purchased in-person at the Astros box office. Tickets are available for $10, while parking in the Astros' lots will be sold for $10 (diamond lot) and $5 (Lot A). Student tickets are available for $6, and youth tickets (ages 4-14) are $5.

Brian McTaggart is a reporter for MLB.com and writes an MLBlog, Tag's Lines. Follow @brianmctaggart on Twitter. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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