HOUSTON -- Several of Mark Appel's former teammates from his days in the Post Oak Little League in Houston were at Minute Maid Park to greet him Wednesday after he signed a contract with the Astros, who selected him with the first overall pick in the First-Year Player Draft.
"I think he was happy to see all of us as we were to see him," said Jay Magness, who was a pitcher and third baseman on the Post Oak team that lost to eventual Little League World Series participant Richmond Lamar National in the Texas East Little League title game in 2003.
Appel was a 12-year-old pitcher on the team, but moved to California a year later, which cost him a chance to play for Astros manager Bo Porter. The Texas Hawkeyes, a travel team started by Porter following his playing career, featured several players from the Post Oak team.
"What made me start the program was several of the dads, who are good friends of mine, were coaching that team and they wanted them to go another level and play more competitive baseball and travel," Porter said. "I decided I wasn't going to play anymore and I took the year off to figure out exactly what it is I wanted to do, so the timing just happened to be right.
"I went ahead and coached the kids and started the program, and once I got back into coaching [in the Major Leagues] I hired other coaches to run the program."
In addition to Magness, second baseman William Duncan, shortstop/pitcher Matthew Bean, and catcher/pitcher Jimmy Burke greeted Appel, along with the father of left fielder Patrick Atwood. "We had a great Little League team," Appel said. "It means a lot they're actually out there. It's been a few years since we've seen each other with our busy schedules, high school and college and all that stuff. It's exciting that they're here."
Burke said Appel is the same down-to-earth kid he was as a 12-year-old.
"It's not like he's a big shot," he said. "He deserves this."
Astros hope to lock up high school Draft picks
HOUSTON -- The Astros signed top overall pick Mark Appel, a pitcher from Stanford, for about $1.5 million less than the assigned slot value of $7.8 million, which should allow Houston to make a run at some high school players they took later in the Draft who have college commitments.
Also unsigned are 10th-round pick Austin Nicely, a left-handed pitcher from Spotswood High School in Penn Laird, Va., and 11th-round pick Devonte German, a right-handed pitcher from Bishop Manogue High School in Reno, Nev.
Nicely is committed to Virginia and German to Nevada.
The top remaining unsigned picks are third-rounder Kent Emanuel, a left-handed pitcher from North Carolina, and his college teammate, Brian Holbertson, a catcher. The Tar Heels are participating in the College World Series, so the Astros can't sign them until their season is over.
"We're hoping to sign all of our top 10 picks, and we're actually hopeful we can sign some of the high school kids we drafted after the 10th around, potentially, as well," general manager Jeff Luhnow said. "Our plan is to maximize what we get out of the Draft and have the recourse to sign most, if not all, the players we have an interest in signing."