Bregman makes pledge for autism awareness

McHugh excited to start home opener; Astros star jokes with Hinch

April 4th, 2019

ARLINGTON -- April is Autism Awareness Month, and Astros third baseman intends to have a sizable donation ready to hand over when the calendar flips to May.

Bregman, through his foundation, AB for Autism, has pledged to donate $1,000 for every Astros win in April. The first installment arrived on Monday, after their 2-1 win over the Rangers in the series opener in Arlington.

"We got off to a little bit of a slow start, but I bet you we pick it up this month, and I bet you we donate a lot of money," Bregman said.

Bregman's affiliation with autism awareness began shortly after he broke into the big leagues. He was inspired by the son of a close friend who was diagnosed with autism several years ago.

After noting how much progress young Brady made after working with iPads as a form of communication therapy, Bregman raised funds to donate iPads to schools that specialize in helping kids with autism. That’s where the proceeds for this current fundraising effort will be directed.

Bregman also has a goal to someday open a school for kids with autism. He cited NBA star LeBron James' I Promise School for at-risk youth as his inspiration.

"That was just incredible, what he's done," Bregman said. "Hopefully, we can do that for kids with autism. That's the end goal. We've been hopefully impacting a lot of lives already by helping them learn and communicate. Brady was pretty much non-verbal before he started using the iPad. Since he's been using the iPad he's been able to communicate a lot better.

"A lot of families with kids with autism can't afford speech therapy for their children and can't afford to get them in the best schools for autism. We're trying to help make a difference in those communities."

Through a partnership with baseball equipment manufacturer Easton Baseball, Bregman's foundation also is offering limited edition AB for Autism batting gloves, which Bregman said have already sold out through Easton's web site.

The gloves, which Bregman wears during games, are designed with a logo of puzzle pieces that is affiliated with autism awareness. His batting practice attire includes a baby blue T-shirt -- a color also associated with autism awareness -- that says "AB for Autism" on the front and contain Bregman's uniform No. 2, designed with the colorful puzzle pieces, on the back.

McHugh excited for home opener
The Astros will be seven games and eight days into the regular season when they host their first home game on Friday against the A's. While it's not technically Opening Day, the atmosphere at Minute Maid Park will undoubtedly reflect the excitement from the fans and teams as a new season is welcomed.

Along those lines, it's somewhat appropriate that one of the longest tenured Astros will take the mound for their second "Opening Day" of the young season.

Collin McHugh, who joined the team at the tail end of its massive rebuild in 2014 and was a key member of both postseason teams in '15 and '17, acknowledged that this start will be a little extra special for him -- especially considering he'll be a free agent after the season and may be pitching elsewhere in '20.

"I don't want to take it for granted," McHugh said. "I want to make sure I soak up every minute of it and every ounce of excitement."

The only current Astros who have put in more years with the team are Jose Altuve, who debuted in 2011, and Brad Peacock, who joined the team in '13. All three were exposed to the lean years, including McHugh, who was acquired soon after the Astros recorded their 111-loss season in '13.

"To see the transformation really in every aspect of the organization ... it turned into a world-class, elite ballclub," McHugh said. "A place where people want to come play, a place that other teams know they're going to have to go through to win a world championship. To me, it's really special."

Sorry, Skip
Through the ups and downs of a long season, it's good to maintain a sense of humor. Count Bregman as one Houston player who can laugh at himself, even when he messes up.

Bregman sent manager AJ Hinch a text after Tuesday's night game with a video attached. It was from one of Bregman's friends, who had recorded his flub at first base that involved too wide of a turn that resulted in him being tagged out.

The Astros ended up losing, 6-4.

In his text to Hinch, Bregman said his friend suggested the manager invoke a punishment of a full day of baserunning drills.

"I'm going to accommodate that," Hinch joked.