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Super Astros Crawfish Boil: January 25, 2015

Astros news and notes from the past week.

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Timothy Hiatt/Getty Images

Good morning, boys and girls. Baseball lost a truly great ambassador for the game on Friday, Ernie Banks. Banks was born in Dallas, Tx, and played for the semi-pro baseball team Amarillo Colts. He would later play for the Kansas City Monarchs, and be drafted into the army before joining the Cubs. I admit I've never been fond of any player that wears Cubbie blue. Banks was the exception, at every turn he showed an overwhelming joy for the game. You will be missed Mr. Cub.

Astros remember ‘Mr. Cub’ Ernie Banks - Ultimate Astros
Following the Friday death of Hall of Famer and two-time National League MVP Ernie Banks, Astros broadcaster Milo Hamilton shared his thoughts on the man who was affectionately referred to as "Mr. Cub" during and after a stellar 19-year career.

An Appreciation Of Luis Valbuena - Bleed Cubbie Blue
The infielder just traded to the Astros was one of Theo & Jed's best acquisitions.

Astros will be surprise team of 2015 - SweetSpot Blog - ESPN
Every year, there's a team that finished under .500 the year before that makes the playoffs. You may not classify all these teams as surprise teams bu

Astros’ Jed Lowrie participates in Diamond Diplomacy program in South America - Ultimate Astros
Astros shortstop Jed Lowrie recently traveled to Colombia as a part of a revamped effort by the State’s Department and Major League Baseball to reconnect with Latin America.

Matt Albers working way back to majors; Jesse Crain signs with White Sox - Ultimate Astros
Two former Astros pitchers who had as frustrating a season as anyone in 2014 are nearing better times.

Altuve: Astros setting sights on playoffs |
GALVESTON, Texas -- Perhaps no one is more encouraged to see the additions the Astros made this winter than All-Star second baseman Jose Altuve, who at 24 years old suddenly finds himself as one of the longest current tenured members of the club. Altuve made his Major League debut midway through the 2011 season and quickly became a fixture in the lineup, as well as a fan favorite. He was one of the few shining stars during some rough times for the Astros, who have gone 186-328 in the 514 games in which Altuve has played.

Offseason saw a busy retooling of the Astros - Houston Chronicle
There also is an almost entirely new coaching staff, plus a host of player additions - catcher Hank Conger, shortstop Jed Lowrie, slugger Evan Gattis, outfielder Colby Rasmus, relievers Luke Gregerson and Pat Neshek, potential starter Dan Straily and infielder Luis Valbuena.

Ryan Vogelsong says he 'wasn't comfortable' during Astros visit | Big League Stew - Yahoo Sports
From Yahoo Sports: Vogelsong was reportedly near a deal with Houston, but changed course and re-signed with San Francisco.

Carter's acceptance of leadership role with Astros comes gradually - Houston Chronicle
With children from St. Martha's Catholic School cheering as he entered the gym Friday morning, Astros designated hitter Chris Carter smiled as he was introduced as a veteran leader. [...] Carter, 28, is ready to lead after solidifying his place in the majors with a career-high 37 home runs in 2014 and 29 in 2013.

Appel hopes to make MLB debut for Astros in 2015
Mark Appel struggled in a forgettable 2014.As this season approaches, the Houston Astros believe the right-hander has grown because of that adversity, and general manager Jeff Luhnow says the top pick in the 2013 amateur draft could make his major league debut this year