• Brian L. Barefield

Astros open up Grapefruit League with fans in the stands for the first time in over a year

Photo Credit/Houston Astros

For the Houston Astros, Sunday’s Grapefruit League opener against the Miami Marlins was more than just a spring training game. It was a chance to get back to some sort of normalcy. The team had not played in front of fans since March 11, 2020 in a game against the Washington Nationals.

“It was good to have them,” said Astros manager Dusty Baker. “Last year, we missed them, and then you get used to the surroundings and not having them, but you always wish they were there. It was a sellout of 1,500 I heard. There was more electricity in the stands. It was great having them.”

The actual attendance for the game was 1,569, which was all the tickets that were made available for the game.

On last year, the Astros were like the rest of the major league clubs who did not allow fans in the ballpark due to Health and Safety protocols put in place by the commissioner’s office to help prevent the spread of COVID-19. Although there were fans in attendance on Sunday. Players and coaches were still not allowed to have any interaction with them.

As for the actual game. Houston lost by a score of 6-1 behind a rough start for pitcher Brandon Bielak who is fighting for a spot in the Astros pitching rotation. After allowing the first four batters he faced to score, including giving up two homeruns. Bielak would finally settle down to record six consecutive outs.

“He calmed down in the second inning which is a good sign of maturity,” said Baker who was happy to see Bielak gain some control after the first four batters. “You have to admire someone who can come back from that beginning. It’s just day one so I don’t put too much stock in it early in the season.”

Photo Credit/Houston Astros

One player who is looking for his stock to rise this season is outfielder Myles Straw. The departure of former World Series MVP George Springer this offseason left a hole in center field that Straw is looking to fill. He went 2-for-2 on Sunday, showing the Astros coaching staff that he has put in work in the offseason to become an everyday starter for the club.

“It just felt good,” Straw said of his plate appearances. “After putting the work in the first week and a half or however long it’s been, just seeing a couple of early results from what I’ve been working on swing-wise with Snit (Troy Snitker) and A.C. (Alex Cintron), it just feels good to see positive results out of things early in the spring.”

Houston will take on the Washington Nationals on Monday at 12:05 pm cst.

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