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Astros honor firefighters

MLB.com associate reporter Jason Grodsky filed the following story on the Astros visiting with members of the Houston Fire Department prior to Friday’s game.

HOUSTON — Before the Astros took the field in the second game of Houston’s four-game set with the Nationals on Friday, members of the team made a difference in the community by paying tribute to local firefighters.

Hunter Pence, Miguel Tejada, Ivan Rodriguez, LaTroy Hawkins, Russ Ortiz, Geoff Blum, Chris Sampson, Doug Brocail and manager Cecil Cooper each visited local firehouses that matched their uniform number on Friday morning, paying tribute to Houston firefighters James Harlow and Damion Hobbs, who died on duty this spring.

“It’s nice to spend time with those guys, especially with the dangerous job they do,” Rodriguez said. “In times like that to just sign autograph and be shown around is worth while.”

The families of Harlow and Hobbs were honored during pregame ceremonies and the Astros wore Houston Fire Department caps Friday. After the game, the players signed the hats for auction to benefit the Firefighters Protection Fund.

“That’s pretty special,” Cooper said. “Those guys put a lot of work and a lot of hours. They risk their lives. They’re almost like the servicemen fighting the war. They’re going in these buildings and doing these things. A lot of it is volunteer time, and that’s pretty big. Especially to be able to do something for them to show them how much we appreciate them.”

On Thursday, Rodriguez and first base coach Jose Cruz attended a lunch to support Houston Police officer Henry Canales, who was shot and killed while conducting an undercover investigation into the sale of stolen televisions on June 23.

Rodriguez and Cruz attended the lunch on their own to pay their respects to Canales’ children, Stephanie Canales, 17, and Henry Jr., 13. They signed memorabilia to be auctioned off at a barbecue hosted by two local police unions. The funds from the auction will go to raise money for a scholarship fund for the two children.

“That just tells you that they care,” Cooper said of Cruz and Rodriguez. “They care about people and what happens to people who are in the industry like that, people who protect us.”

Several members of the Houston Police Department’s Organization of Spanish Speaking Officers attended the lunch, as did Homicide Division officer David Vasquez, a former minor-leaguer who freelances as an associate Astros scout for Rusty Pendergrass, who was also present for the event.

“It was great and nice to be able to get out and help the community and meet people,” Rodriguez said. “I’m sure those people enjoy meeting people like Cruz and myself and  it was a good cause and a great time.”

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