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Astros' title a gift to hospital patients

MLB.com @brianmctaggart

HOUSTON -- Trips to the hospital prevented Astros fan Ed Kascak from going to as many postseason games as he would have liked, so the Astros came to him.

Astros third baseman Alex Bregman, infielder Tyler White and catcher Max Stassi spent an hour visiting with transplant patients, including Kascak, who recently underwent his second liver transplant, at Methodist Hospital on Thursday.

HOUSTON -- Trips to the hospital prevented Astros fan Ed Kascak from going to as many postseason games as he would have liked, so the Astros came to him.

Astros third baseman Alex Bregman, infielder Tyler White and catcher Max Stassi spent an hour visiting with transplant patients, including Kascak, who recently underwent his second liver transplant, at Methodist Hospital on Thursday.

The procedure didn't stop Kascak from sitting on the edge of his seat in his hospital room and telling the players how much the Astros' World Series title meant to him and those around him.

"Everybody was shaking hands, high-fiving," Kascak said.

Tweet from @astros: They stuck around to play some games and take photos with the kids! #AstrosCaravan pic.twitter.com/EcNNpFzkqY

His wife, Anne, could sense her husband's spirits had been raised beyond belief.

"I see him going home tomorrow after this," Anne said.

The visit epitomized the mission of the Astros Caravan, the team's annual fan outreach tour. This year's Caravan is more special than ever, considering the suffering the city endured with the floods in August and the popularity of the Astros following their World Series triumph.

"It's exciting to see the fans connect with our players this offseason and seeing these guys at the hospital today just bring a smile to people that have had transplants and were sick," Astros president Reid Ryan said. "It's an amazing deal."

As Bregman, White and Stassi navigated the sterile halls and hospital rooms, faces lit up with smiles. "How about Game 5!" a hospital staffer yelled to Bregman as he walked past him without breaking stride as if he was too focused on work to stop. Bregman, of course, had the walk-off hit in Game 5 of the World Series.

"This whole run has been crazy, winning the World Series and being able to put smiles on people's faces in Houston, people that have supported us since Day One. It's special to us," Bregman said. "Hopefully it's special to them. Any time you can bring someone joy, you look forward to it. It's great -- this Caravan -- coming out to the hospitals today and seeing patients. It's special."

Almost every patient shared stories of watching the World Series games and how much it meant to them, especially in challenging times.

Tweet from @astros: After this stop, @ABREG_1, @MaxStassi10, @twhite409 and @OrbitAstros went to Shriners Hospital for Children to meet with patients and staff. #AstrosCaravan pic.twitter.com/pHYOevK7Ru

"It's incredible," Stassi said. "It's really great to go out there and see some of the people that have supported us so much through the great times -- like this year -- and through the process that we've been going through the previous years. For all the fans that have stuck with us and shown their loyalty, it's great to show our appreciation."

The Caravan, which this year stretched to Austin, San Antonio, Beaumont and Corpus Christi, will continue around the area on Friday before ending with Saturday's FanFest at Minute Maid Park. American League Most Valuable Player Award winner Jose Altuve, World Series MVP George Springer, All-Star Carlos Correa, former MVP and Cy Young Award winner Justin Verlander and Bregman are among more than 20 players scheduled to attend FanFest, which is sold out.

"The beauty of our business is we play every day, so fans enjoy watching," Ryan said. "The hard part is we don't get an opportunity to do the things we're doing this week during the regular season because of the travel and how hard it is on the players."

Brian McTaggart has covered the Astros since 2004, and for MLB.com since 2009. Follow @brianmctaggart on Twitter.

Houston Astros