Results tagged ‘ Mark Appel ’

Astros’ Appel gets in game for first time

With general manager Jeff Luhnow, several members of the front office and a handful of scouts watching from one of the back fields at Osceola County Stadium, Astros right-hander Mark Appel took the mound in a game for the first time Friday in a game this spring.

Appel, the No. 1 overall pick in last year’s First-Year Player Draft who was slowed by an appendectomy performed in late January, threw 37 pitches in 1 2/3 innings of work while starting a Minor League game for Class A Lancaster. He allowed three doubles, one run, one walk and struck out a pair of batters.

“It was good to get back out there,” said Appel, who was sent to Minor League camp Thursday. “It’s good to face batters. I think it had been close to seven months since I last got to face a hitter in a game situation [last season at Stanford]. I’m just happy to be back and be healthy after the appendectomy and just ready to get going and ready for the season to start.”

Appel started the game by allowing back-to-back doubles and a walk before settling down to strike out two of the next three batters and escape the inning with only one run allowed. He threw 10 pitches in the second inning, getting a pair of groundouts before leaving the game after allowing a double and reaching his pitch limit.

“First time you step on the mound in a couple of months, I felt like my timing was a little bit off and I felt like I was a little bit anxious, maybe rushing a little bit,” he said. “Just kind of the excitement and the nerves of getting to face hitters, no matter if you’re in Little League or the big leagues, you’re going to get excite to do what you love and you just find joy in it. I enjoyed getting to play today.”

Appel admitted he wasn’t in the same physical condition he was in midseason at Stanford, but he still tried to let it fly as much as he could. His fastball was sitting in low 90s according to one scout’s radar gun.

“That’s what the point of Spring Training is and the point of getting to go out over the season,” he said. “That’s why they call it midseason form. I hope to be in the best physical shape of my life by the middle o the season this year, and I’m doing everything each and every day to get to that point.”

Appel, who will pitch again Wednesday, said he threw more curve balls in the second inning. He said the hitters weren’t catching up to his fastball in the first inning.

“I was expecting it, and I left it up and they hit it well,” Appel said. “Besides that, what I could tell they were waiting fouling it off, so I wanted to try to set them up with the fastball and work on a good strikeout curveball.

“I didn’t quite get there today. I was leaving some of my off-speed pitches up. I threw one or two good ones of each, but for the most part it’s still something I need to work on. I’m never done improving, never done getting better. Overall, I’m pleased with being able to go out and compete. I had fun today.”

Appel ready to get on the mound

Astros right-hander Mark Appel, who’s spent most of the spring recovering from an appendectomy performed in January, is scheduled to appear in a game for the first time this spring. That will happen Friday, likely in a Minor League game and not the Grapefruit League game against the Marlins.

Appel, the No. 1 overall pick in last year’s First-Year Player Draft, has been taking it slow since undergoing an appendectomy in Houston, just weeks before the start of camp. He said Wednesday he’ll be prepared to throw an inning or two.

“I’m really excited,” he said. “It’s going to be good to actually toe the rubber in a Spring Training game. It’s been a long time coming, so I’m real excited and grateful to have the opportunity to go out and compete with my teammates.”

Appel was never really considered a candidate to make the big league team to start the season, though he’s about as polished as you get considering he spent four years at Stanford. That being said, he would like to break camp with a team – likely Class A Lancaster – instead of having to stay in Kissimmee for extended Spring Training.

“I want to be ready for Opening Day, wherever I go,” he said. “I believe I can be ready physically, and that’s what my goal is. It hasn’t changed since the beginning of Spring Training. Since I had an appendectomy, I made the goal to be ready for the Opening Day of the season.

“That’s what my plan is. If the trainers and other people involved in making that decision say otherwise, there’s not much I can do about it. I’m going to make the most of it one way or another, but I believe I can and will be there for Opening Day, wherever I go.”

Astros pitchers and catchers report to Kissimmee

Astros pitchers and catchers reported for Spring Training on Saturday. Here are some notes, as well as some photos:

White progressing steadily

Right-hander Alex White continues to progress steadily from the Tommy John surgery he underwent nearly a year ago. White threw batting practice Friday, tossing 23 pitches, including some changeups to a few hitters.

“We’re coming along pretty good,” he said. “My off-speed stuff is really good, and I’m waiting on the fastball to come along. I think it will come. We’re really just at 10 months right now. A couple of more months we should be there.”

Off-season work beneficial to Castro

Considering he had more time to work out this off-season, All-Star catcher Jason Castro is coming to camp with his surgically repaired right knee feeling stronger than it was even a year ago.

“I put in a lot of work this off-season and I feel like I put myself in a good spot coming back, even better than I was last year,” he said.

That’s a tremendous sign for Castro, who a year ago at this time said his knee was feeling 100 percent.

“I was able to work out for a longer period this off-season than I ever had,” said Castro, who earned a degree from Stanford in the off-season. “I was back in school pretty much right after the season ended, and I was recovering and doing some rehab stuff. I started my off-season.”

Appel recovering from appendectomy

Astros pitcher Mark Appel is still a little sore, but otherwise on the road to recovery after having to undergo an appendectomy Jan. 30 in Houston.

Appel, who lived with his parents in Houston in the off-season, woke up in the middle of the night and thought he had indigestion. The pain lingered, and he soon rustled his father in his sleep to tell him to take him to the hospital.

“Usually if I have food poisoning, I’ll just grab some Tums or something like that,” he said. “I did that after the first time I threw up, and I woke up again maybe an hour later and the same thing and the pain’s worse. I knew something was up, and I just said, ‘Hey dad, I think we need to go to the emergency room to be sure.’ Sure enough, I had appendicitis. It was pretty crazy.”

Wallace focusing on making roster

The fact that Brett Wallace is in camp this year as a non-roster invitee after being designed for assignment last week doesn’t change his mindset: he’s coming to camp to try to win the starting job at first base.

“It’s something I’ve never been through,” he said. “I had some friends and people you play with go through it. It’s definitely a new process but something that, honestly, I can’t control. In the same aspect, I’m coming in camp to win a job. I’m going to keep my head down and keep working and then whatever is happening with all that, I just try to put it to the side and keep preparing.”

Here are some photos:

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Jeff Luhnow, Jesse Crain, Peter Moylan

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Doug Brocail, Peter Moylan

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Josh Zeid throws to C.J. Lo

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Astros have names on the backs of spring jerseys this year

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George Springer tries on his new helmet

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Jason Castro hugs Matt Dominguez as Brett Wallace stands near

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Jason Castro talks to reporters

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Jason Castro finding new storage space

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Jerome Williams does jumping jacks

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Paul Clemens throws to Nick Tropeano

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Jonathan Villar

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Matt Albers and Nick Tropeano

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Jarred Cosart tries on new hat with help from Steve Perry

Appel undergoes appendectomy

Astros pitcher Mark Appel, the No. 1 overall pick in last year’s First-Year Player Draft, is recovering after undergoing an emergency appendectomy Thursday.

The Astros, in a release, said Appel’s procedure was standard and “with no complications.” He’s expected to report to Spring Training on time for the Feb. 15 date for Astros pitchers and catchers. Recovery time for an appendectomy for baseball players is typically 2-3 weeks.

“Mark will be fine,” general manager Jeff Luhnow said. “He will report to camp on time. Once he arrives in Spring Training, we’ll see where he is at health-wise and take it from there. We anticipate that he will either be ready to work out at the start of camp or very close to ready.”

After throwing 106 1/3 innings at Stanford, Appel was held to 10 starts in his professional debut last year. He went 3-1 with a 3.79 ERA between Class A Quad Cities (eight games) and short-season Tri-City (two games), and he should get a full load in his first full season in 2014.

Meanwhile, left-handed pitcher Raul Valdes underwent arthroscopic surgery on his left knee Thursday in Houston. Valdes will also report with pitchers and catchers on Feb. 15 and is expected to have a 4-6 weeks recovery. He was claimed off waivers Oct. 2, 2013.

Astros invite players to Spring Training

Here are the bios of the non-roster invitees announced by the Astros on Tuesday:

1B Japhet Amador, 26, was acquired by Houston on Aug. 18, 2013, from Los Diablos Rojos del Mexico of the Mexican League. He was assigned to Triple-A Oklahoma City and went on to hit .302 (13-for-43) in 10 games for the RedHawks. Following the regular season, Amador played for Peoria in the Arizona Fall League and hit .284 (19-for-67) with four homers and 12 RBIs in 18 games. Prior to his acquisition, Amador hit .368 (147-for-400) with 22 doubles, 36 home runs, 121 RBIs and a .419 OBP in 104 games for the Diablos Rojos in 2013. He led the Mexican League in RBIs, while ranking second in homers and third in total bases (277).

RHP Mark Appel, 22, was the No. 1 overall selection in the 2013 MLB Draft out of Stanford University. After his selection, he made 10 starts combined for Class A Quad Cities (8 games) and Class A Tri-City (two games), combining to post a 3-1 record and a 3.79 ERA (16 earned runs/38 innings pitched). This followed his 2013 senior season at Stanford, where he went 10-4 with four complete games and a 2.12 ERA (25 earned runs/1061/3 innings pitched). He recorded 130 strikeouts in his 106 1/3 innings pitched and allowed just a .203 opponent’s batting average in his final season at Stanford.

RHP Jake Buchanan, 24, posted a 12-7 record and a 2.96 ERA (52 earned runs/1581/3 innings pitched) between OKC (12 games) and Double-A Corpus Christi (18 games) in 2013. He began his season with the Hooks, where he was named a Texas League All-Star after putting up a 2.09 ERA (19 earned runs/82 innings pitched) with nine walks in 82 innings. At OKC, he went 5-5 with a 3.89 ERA (33 earned runs/761/3 innings pitched) to go along with 55 strikeouts and 13 walks.

OF Adron Chambers, 27, played in 25 games for the St. Louis Cardinals last season, his third straight year to play in the Majors. He spent the majority of his season at Triple-A Memphis, hitting .252 (84-for-333) with 13 doubles, eight homers, 43 RBIs and 16 stolen bases. He has appeared in 84 Major League games in his career, all coming with the Cardinals from 2011-13.

SS Carlos Correa, 19, who was the first overall selection in the 2012 draft, played his first full professional season at Quad Cities last year, posting a .320 (144-for-450) batting average with 33 doubles, nine home runs and 86 RBIs in 117 games. Defensively, he led all Midwest League shortstops in fielding percentage while playing the entire season at the age of 18. According to MLB.com, Correa is the Astros No. 1 prospect and ranks as the No. 3 shortstop prospect in all of baseball.

RHP Rhiner Cruz, 27, was outrighted off of the Astros’ 40-man roster on Dec. 23, 2013, after having two stints in the Major Leagues with Houston last season. Over those two stints, Cruz posted a 3.38 ERA (eight earned runs/211/3 innings pitched) in 20 appearances. The right-handed reliever has made 72 appearances with the Astros over the last two years after being selected with the first overall pick in the 2011 Rule 5 Major League draft.

RHP Jorge De Leon, 26, posted a 5.40 ERA (six earned runs/10 innings pitched) in 11 games across two stints for the Astros in 2013. He was one of 10 Astros pitchers to make their Major League debut last season, making his on Aug. 9 vs. Texas. The former Minor League infielder converted to the mound in 2010 and has pitched the last four seasons in the Astros system. He was outrighted off the Astros 40-man roster following the season on Oct. 17.

CF Delino DeShields, 21, will be a non-roster invite at Major League Spring Training for his second consecutive season. In 2013 at Lancaster, DeShields hit .317 (143-for-451) with 100 runs scored, 25 doubles, 14 triples, five homers, 51 stolen bases and a .405 on-base percentage. The eighth-overall selection in the 2010 draft will come to Spring Training as an outfielder after playing second base in each of his last three professional seasons.

RHP Bobby Doran, 24, combined to go 11-2 with a 3.51 ERA (54 earned runs/1381/3 innings pitched) in 31 games with OKC  (eight games) and Corpus Christi (23gs) last season. The 6-foot-6 right-handed starter was originally drafted by Houston in the fourth round of the 2010 draft out of Texas Tech. The 2014 season will be his fifth in the Astros; organization.

RHP Mike Foltynewicz, 22, went 6-3 with a 3.06 ERA (44 earned runs/129 1/3 innings pitched) in 30 games combined with Corpus Christi (23 games/16 starts) and Lancaster (seven games/five starts) last season. The hard-throwing, right-hander registered 124 strikeouts in his 129 1/3  innings pitched last season, while allowing just a .226 opponent’s batting average, including a .207 mark at the Double-A level. He was originally the 19th overall selection in the 2010 Draft.

C Rene Garcia, 23, will be making his fourth consecutive appearance as a non-roster invite at the Astros Major League Spring Training camp. He spent his 2013 season between Oklahoma City (18 games) and Corpus Christi (73 games), combining to hit .293 (108-for-368) with 20 doubles, five home runs and 42 RBIs. Known as a strong defensive catcher, Garcia caught 29 of 63 attempting basestealers (46 percent) in 2013.

C Tyler Heineman, 22, hit .286 (106-for-370) with 23 doubles, 13 home runs and 71 RBIs in 104 games with Lancaster last season. The switch-hitting catcher is entering his third professional season, and just his second full season, after being selected out of UCLA in the eighth round of the June 2012 Draft.

OF Leo Heras, 23, like Amador, was acquired by Houston on Aug. 18, 2013, from Los Diablos Rojos del Mexico of the Mexican League. After his acquisition, he played in 10 games for Corpus Christi, posting two doubles, one triple, one home run and five RBIs for the Hooks. In 91 games for the Diablos Rojos last season, Heras hit .310 (104-for-335) with 19 doubles, nine triples, 11 homers, 42 RBIs, 14 stolen bases and a .398 OBP.

OF J.D. Martinez, 26, hit .250 (74-for-296) with 17 doubles, seven home runs and 36 RBIs in 86 games for the Astros last season before being outrighted off of the club’s 40-man roster on Nov. 20, 2013. Following the 2013 regular season, Martinez played in 24 games for Caracas in the Venezuelan Winter League, posting a .312 (29-for-93) average with six doubles, six home runs and 18 RBIs. He has appeared in 252 games for Houston over the last three seasons (2011-13).

3B Jonathan Meyer, 23, hit .260 (126-for-484) with 24 doubles, 15 home runs and 68 RBIs en route to being named a Texas League All-Star in 2013. He was the Hooks’ everyday third baseman, making 123 starts at the position. Following the season, Meyer played for Peoria in the Arizona Fall League, hitting .286 (14-for-49) with three doubles, one homer and seven RBIs.

RHP Peter Moylan, 35, made 14 appearances across two Major League stints with the Dodgers last season. He spent the majority of his 2013 campaign at Triple-A Albuquerque, posting a 4-1 record with four saves and a 2.74 ERA (14 earned runs/46 innings pitched) in 38 appearances. Moylan has pitched in the Major Leagues in each of the last eight years with Atlanta (2006-12) and Los Angeles (2013), making 309 career relief appearances and posting a 21-9 record and 2.80 ERA (86 earned runs/276 innings pitched).

C Carlos Perez, 23, will be making his second straight appearance at Astros Major League Spring Training. He split his 2013 season between Oklahoma City (75 games) and Corpus Christi (16), hitting .271 (86-for-317) with 18 doubles and 37 RBIs. The 2014 campaign will be Perez’s second full season in the Astros system after being acquired in Houston’s 10-player trade with Toronto at the 2012 trading deadline.

IF Gregorio Petit, 29, is joining the Astros from the Padres organization, where he hit .292 (147-for-503) with 26 doubles and 61 RBIs in 134 games at Triple-A Tucson last season. He also had a solid winter league season, hitting .312 (48-for-154) with 12 doubles, 10 homers and 27 RBIs with Caracas in the Venezuelan Winter League. Petit has some Major League experience, appearing in 25 games with Oakland in the 2008-09 seasons and hitting .278 (15-for-54) in those contests.

OF George Springer, 24, was named the Astros Minor League Player of the Year after combining to hit .303 (149-for-492) with 106 runs scored, 27 doubles, 37 home runs, 108 RBIs and 45 stolen bases with OKC (62 games) and Corpus Christi (73 games) last season. He became the first Astros Minor Leaguer to ever reach the 30-homer, 30-steal plateau and fell just three home runs shy of reaching the 40-40 mark, which hasn’t been accomplished in Minor League baseball since 1956. He was originally the 11th overall selection in the June 2011 draft.

RHP Jason Stoffel, 25, posted a solid season in 2013 while pitching in relief for Oklahoma City (44 games) and Corpus Christi (seven games). He combined to go 8-1 with five saves and a 3.23 ERA (25 earned runs/692/3 innings pitched) in 51 appearances, while allowing just a .232 opponent’s batting average. A Triple-A All-Star in 2013, Stoffel was one of two players acquired by Houston from San Francisco in exchange for IF Jeff Keppinger on July 19, 2011.

IF Ronald Torreyes, 21, was originally acquired by Houston on July 2, 2013, from Chicago (NL) in exchange for international signing pool space. On the season, Torreyes combined to hit .269 (101-for-375) with 19 doubles and 37 RBIs for Corpus Christi (38 games) and Double-A Tennessee (65 games). Over his four Minor League seasons, the middle infielder has recorded more walks (98) than strikeouts (96) in 376 career games.

RHP Nick Tropeano, 23, spent his third professional season at Corpus Christi and led the Texas League with 130 strikeouts last season. In what was his first taste of the Double-A level, the fifth-round selection in the 2011 Draft posted a 7-10 record with one complete game, five saves and a 4.11 ERA (61 earned runs/133 2/3 innings pitched) in 28 games, including 20 starts. Tropeano has posted 359 strikeouts in 345 innings in his career in the Astros; Minor League system.

OF Preston Tucker, 23, split his first full professional season with Lancaster (75 games) and Corpus Christi (60 games) after getting drafted by the Astros in the seventh round of the 2012 draft. He combined to hit .297 (159-for-535) with 32 doubles, 25 homers, 97 runs scored, 103 RBIs and an .872 OPS in 135 games between the two levels. Tucker finished his season ranking tied for seventh in all of Minor League baseball in RBIs.

Boras in town to wrap up Appel negotiations

Scott Boras, who represents No. 1 overall Draft pick Mark Appel, arrived in Houston on Tuesday afternoon and was scheduled to meet with Astros general manager Jeff Luhnow later in the evening in an effort to wrap up negotiations.

The Astros took Appel, a right-handed pitcher and Houston native who didn’t sign with the Pirates after being taken in the first round last year, with hopes they could sign him quickly. Boras told MLB.com no agreement has been reached, but the agent’s presence in Houston is a clear sign a deal is imminent.

“Jeff and I are going to talk about things tonight and we’ll see,” Boras said. “We’re certainly close enough for me to come here and talk, that’s for sure.”

When asked if a deal could be announced as early as Wednesday, Boras said he didn’t want to put a timetable on negotiations.

“Obviously, we’re in a position we think we can work something out,” he said.

The Astros have signed six of their top 10 picks, including second-round pick Andrew Thurman from UC-Irvine, who officially signed on Monday. The assigned slot value for the No. 1 pick is $7.8 million, but several reports late last week indicated Appel could sign for somewhere around $6.5 million.

Regardless, Boras doesn’t see money as a stumbling block.

“I’m here because I think there’s obviously enough fruit on the tree to think you’re going to get something done,” Boras told MLB.com.

Appel’s decision to return to Stanford after being picked No. 8 overall by Pittsburgh last year, bypassing a $3.8 million bonus, has paid off. He was actually better than he was as a junior at Stanford, finishing 10-4 with a 2.12 ERA, a .203 batting average against, 130 strikeouts and just 23 walks in 106 1/3 innings this year.

And being drafted by the Astros, the team he cheered for as a kid, has been a dream come true, Boras said.

“I don’t think there’s any question from the start that if Houston was an option, he wanted to pursue it, being able to have his family near and being raised an Astros fan,” Boras said. “Mark Appel got to go to a great college and his work ethic and perseverance and confidence in himself says a lot about the character that he takes the path he takes.

“Whenever you’re able to get better and go through the process he went through in the last year, it says a lot about why Houston took him and a lot about why he chose Houston.”

Astros still hopeful to sign Appel soon

Astros general manager Jeff Luhnow said Monday the club is “fully engaged” in contract talks with No. 1 overall pick Mark Appel, the right-handed pitcher from Stanford, and hopes to be able to complete a deal this week.

While it was reported late last week the Astros and Appel had reached a deal, Luhnow said he wanted wait until Appel’s commencement exercises at Stanford on Sunday to ramp up negotiations.

“We’re trying to move it as fast as we can,” he said. “We wanted to give him the weekend to enjoy his commencement. We’re optimistic we can move it pretty quickly.”

Luhnow said the Astros have yet to meet with Appel or his representative, Scott Boras, face-to-face, but there have been solid conversations.

“We feel good about where it’s headed,” Luhnow said.

When asked if Appel could be in the fold this week, Luhnow didn’t hesitate.

“I hope so,” he said.

Appel, a Houston native, went 10-4 with a 2.12 ERA this year as as senior at Stanford. He held opponents to a .203 batting average, had 130 strikeouts and issued just 23 walks in 106 1/3 innings.

Thurman set to sign with Astros, Appel far behind?

Right-handed pitcher Andrew Thurman, taken by the Astros with the first pick of the second round in last week’s First-Year Player Draft out UC-Irvine, told MLB.com on Friday he had agreed to a contract with the Astros and was set to sign early next week.

Thurman, taken with the No. 40 overall pick, is scheduled to fly to Houston on Sunday and take a physical and sign his contract on Monday. He said he plans to report to the Astros’ short-season Tri-City affiliate.

“I’m just very excited,” he said. “I feel honored and very blessed to have this opportunity.”

Meanwhile, the Astros will soon their attention to No. 1 overall pick Mark Appel, a right-handed pitcher from Stanford. A report by Jeff Passan of Yahoo on Friday indicated the Astros and Appel were “nearing a deal” and could have an agreement by next week.

In a text message to MLB.com, Astros general manager Jeff Luhnow wrote the club plans to engage Appel next week. He graduates from Stanford on Sunday. The prescribed slot bonus for the No. 1 pick is $7.8 million.

“I’m hopeful we can move quickly once we start [the] dialogue, but there is no timeframe yet,” Luhnow wrote.

The Astros announced the signing of nine additional draft picks Thursday, bringing the total number signed to 14. That doesn’t include fourth-round pick Conrad Gregor of Vanderbilt, who has signed, or Thurman, who the Astros envision of a middle-of-the-rotation starter.

“It’s what I’ve always been working towards,” Thurman said. “It’s been my dream since I was a little kid to play professional baseball. It’s kind of a surreal feeling, but I still have to work hard. That part of me hasn’t gone anywhere.”

Terms of the Thurman deal aren’t known, but the slot bonus for that pick is $1,397,200.

When asked about Thurman on Friday, Astros scouting director Mike Elias said: “We feel talks are going very smoothly and we expect he will sign at some point, too. Both sides are making progress, everybody’s on the same page. He hasn’t signed a contract yet, so nothing is finalized. We anticipate getting him into an Astros uniform sooner or later.”

Thurman’s fastball could be a plus pitch in the future — he can reach back for a mid-90s heater when he needs to. He throws a curve and a slider, with the former a bit better than the latter, and his changeup is a deceptive offspeed offering.

Thurman’s good command lets his stuff play up and he can move his fastball in and out, going right after hitters with his very strong feel for pitching. That was on full display in the Cape Cod League last summer, when he struck out 49 hitters over 39 innings in seven starts.

“He was somebody we viewed as late first-round talent, and to get him at 40, we were a little surprised he was there,” Elias said when Thurman was drafted. “We’re very comfortable calling him a mid-rotation starter in the future.”

Appel’s homecoming a thrill for Little League coach

No one associated with the Post Oak Little League from a decade ago could have ever imagined any of their young players would ever be the first pick in the Major League Baseball First-Year Player Draft, much less be selected by the hometown Astros. That’s fairytale kind of stuff.

Back then, the top concern of coach Cary Gray was hoping the players would make their high school teams in the following few years. All of the Little Leaguers were able to accomplish that, and one went on to do so much more when it came to baseball.

Right-handed pitcher Mark Appel, who was coached by Gray for 3 1/2 years in the Post Oak Little League on the west side of Houston, was drafted No. 1 overall by the hometown Astros on Thursday following a terrific career Stanford, and now a community is bursting with pride.

“It’s surreal,” said Gray, a Houston lawyer. “I saw something [general manager] Jeff Luhnow said about it had to be every kid’s dream come true. We all follow the Astros, watched them play and suddenly to see that happen, who would have thought it? We used to worry about the kids making their high school teams. We never gave any thought to one of them being the No. 1 pick in the Draft.”

Gray still keeps in touch with Appel and exchanged text messages with him Thursday night after the pick was made. He talks with pride about the man Appel has become and is proud of him for returning to Stanford to get his degree.

“He was a really nice kid [in Little League],” he said. “He was a solid citizen and always has been, and he kind of did everything he did with a little bit of a chip on his shoulder. He was there to prove himself, and that’s why he’s done so well.”

Gray’s father had season tickets to the Astros since they began playing in the Astrodome, and Gray now has season tickets for Minute Maid Park and attends games when he can. But when Appel makes that first start for the Astros, he will clear his schedule to be there.

“I can barely imagine it right now, to be honest,” he said. “I’m sure it will be a thrill for all of us. It’s been a lot of fun watching this.”

Gray said Appel’s grandparents and other relatives still live in Houston, where Appel lived until he was 12 years old before moving to California.

Appel thrilled to be coming home to Houston

Here is the transcript of Mark Appel’s conference call with the Houston media on Thursday:

Q: Looking back a year later, not signing with the Pirates and getting drafted by the Astros, did this turn out about as well as you could have imagined?

A: “I don’t think I necessarily had an end goal in mind when I turned down the Pirates’ offer. My goals were to finish my degree, to become a better baseball player, a better person and better teammate. As far as that goes, I think I accomplished those things. No matter what happened in the Draft, I knew I had done everything that was in my control to put myself in the best situation possible.”

Q: How special is this night for you and your family being chosen the No. 1 pick in the Draft?

A: “It’s incredibly special. We’re a tight family. Both my parents were born there [in Houston] and raised there and I lived there for 12 years before moving to California. All my family lives there. It’s very exciting. It was really exciting to have conversations with Mr. Luhnow. “

Q: How big is the signability issue with Scott [Boras] and your agent?

A: “Yes, Mr. Boras is my agent, and he will handle most of the negotiations. I think obviously I will be very involved, but it will go through… I trust him and he’s done a great job so far.”

Q:  The extra year, what area of your game improved the most by going back to this past season and getting another year under your belt?

A: “I think the biggest area for me was fastball command and commanding it down in the zone. That really made all my other pitches better. I still think I had a better feel for both my off-speed pitches as the season went on, but the big focus was the fastball command for me and I think once I got that, it really helped my overall game.”

Q: What are you memories of being here in Houston, being a baseball fan and maybe going to the Dome and following the Astros?

A: “I have a lot of great memories. I do remember going to a few games in the Astrodome. My dad’s work had season tickets they split up between a number of people and we got to go to a few games every year. I even remember when Minute Maid Park opened and how great of a ballpark that is. I remember playing Little League baseball at Post Oak Little League and the great summers I had with a bunch of great friends. I’ve gotten some calls and texts from those guys and kept in touch. The friendships and memories I created while I was in Houston were great and still even when I’m back to visit family, new memories have been created every single time.”

Q: How about a timetable when you think you will sign?

A: “That is involved in the negotiation process. As for me, I’m just spending time with my family. I know if at all it would be after graduation. I have a few things planned this summer with family. Obviously, graduation is important. I’m not really sure about the timetable and I really don’t know if I could give you an exact answer.”

Q: Do you have your arms around what’s happened here?

A: “It’s definitely been quite the year. It’s been a lot of fun. I’ve had my ups and downs and I’ve become a better person and better ballplayer because of it.”

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