HOUSTON -- It's fair to say, without argument from even the most accomplished baseball players, that Orbit -- the world's furriest, friendliest, most huggable modern-day space alien -- steals most of the attention when he walks into a room.Such was the case on Thursday when the Astros' caravan visited Texas
HOUSTON -- It's fair to say, without argument from even the most accomplished baseball players, that Orbit -- the world's furriest, friendliest, most huggable modern-day space alien -- steals most of the attention when he walks into a room.
Such was the case on Thursday when the Astros' caravan visited Texas Children's Hospital and Shriner's Hospital for Children. Texas Children's was the site of a Sunshine Kids party, complete with arts and crafts, face painting and a lot of mingling between patients and Astros, including players Tony Kemp and Robinson Chirinos, and broadcaster Steve Sparks.
And there was Orbit, the Astros' green mascot with the largest hat size in club history, who has an even bigger heart. His popularity was evident when he walked into a room filled with kids and parents who every day are faced with unimaginable challenges and heartache. For this hour, however, happy faces were found in every corner of the room.
Orbit, an alien of few words, prefers to let his actions -- hugs, high-fives and dancing -- speak for him. Astros players, fortunately, are more verbal.
"It's great to see the kids, and having that interaction," Kemp said. "Sometimes when it's the offseason, you miss interactions like this. Sometimes you forget that you really can make someone's day. To come out here to the hospital is really special, and I love being a part of it."
Chirinos, a veteran catcher whom the Astros signed this offseason, is still relatively unfamiliar to Houston fans. But he was well-known among fans of his former team, the Rangers, as one of the more community-minded players.
He fit in well during his visit with the kids on Thursday.
"This is what life is about," Chirinos said. "For me, you feel blessed to be able to come and make these kids happy. To come in the community, we show them we care about them. We want to give these kids something different; they're going through a tough time right now."
The second visit was to Shriner's Hospital for Children, where players helped facilitate a tee-ball game with the patients and played some basketball with a select few. A photo session concluded the afternoon.
Carlos Correa, one of the Astros' most popular players, created a stir when he entered the facility and floated from room to room to visit patients. The bilingual shortstop especially bonded with several Spanish-speaking young patients, a gesture appreciated by the parents.
Correa also found a pad of paper and made sure to leave an autograph with every kid he visited.
"It's always a great experience to spend time with the kids and make them smile," Correa said. "Take some pictures, sign some autographs. It's always special.
"When the Astros asked me about the events in the offseason, I told them I wanted to visit kids, put smiles on their faces. That's what really, truly makes me happy."
Alyson Footer is a reporter for MLB.com. Follow her on Twitter @alysonfooter.