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Astros' patches to honor Columbia
by Alyson Footer, MLB.com

February 27, 2003 — The Houston Astros uniformed staff will wear a patch on its sleeves throughout the entire 2003 season to honor the crew of the Space Shuttle Columbia.

The patch includes the seven names of the Columbia victims, set on a blue space shuttle design with a gold star at the top.

The club sought permission to wear the patch from the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) and the families of the crew of the Space Shuttle Columbia tragedy, a process that took approximately one week to complete.

"(NASA) made it clear to us that it would require permission from the families because it includes the names on the patch," said Astros senior vice president of operations and communications Rob Matwick. "We were thrilled that they even considered the request."

Immediately following the shuttle explosion, Astros officials expressed their interest in honoring Columbia's seven victims when the 2003 baseball convenes. However, the club chose not to publicly speculate about its ideas out of respect for NASA and the astronauts' families in the intial days following the tragedy.

"We approached them shortly after the disaster but there was so much going on over there, it was difficult to get through," Matwick said. "We wanted to do everything with the utmost respect for the families. We've always worked very closely with NASA and had a good relationship with them and the space program."

In addition to the patch, the Astros will also hold a special Opening Day ceremony to honor the crew and their families on April 1. Plans are still in the preliminary stages.

The news of the loss of the Space Shuttle Columbia and its seven astronauts on Feb. 1 was especially devastating to the city of Houston, home to the Johnson Space Center and NASA's Mission Control Center.

The link between the Astros and the space program dates back to the 1960s when the then-Colt .45s changed their name to the Astros and began play in the "Eighth Wonder of the World," the Astrodome. As part of the opening ceremonies of the Astrodome in 1965, 24 astronauts threw ceremonial first pitches.

In each of the first three seasons since the Astros moved to Minute Maid Park, the club has hosted a "NASA Day."

"The astronauts on this mission are true American heroes, and we are deeply grateful to be afforded the opportunity to pay tribute to these incredible people," said Astros owner Drayton McLane. "The name Astros reflects the courage and determination of those involved with our space program, and we are proud of our association."


The preceding article was originally written for MLB.com. It is reprinted with permission of the author.

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