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Porter relishes chance to connect on CAREavan

HOUSTON -- A chance to give back to the community, the opportunity to show others what is possible when you work hard and do things the right way was something Bo Porter wasn't going to pass up, especially on a day honoring one of his heroes, civil rights activist Dr. Martin Luther King.

The first-year Astros manager joined left-handed pitcher Wesley Wright and former Astros greats J.R. Richard and Jimmy Wynn on the first day of the team's annual winter CAREavan on Monday, which began with a ride in the 19th annual MLK Day Grande Parade in midtown Houston.

For Porter, hired by the Astros on Sept. 27 of last year to become only the second African-American manager in team history, the chance to be front and center in the community was about much more than baseball. There was a definite sense of responsibility.

"I'm a history guy as well," Porter said. "Whenever you look at the history, from Martin Luther King to Jackie Robinson, those are all momentous movements in our country. And yes, being African American it goes back to appreciating those that have come before you and the sacrifice they made to give you the different opportunities you may have today.

"There is a sense of belonging, there is a sense of pride that comes with those opportunities. I'm completely honored to be able to stand here today as the manager of the Houston Astros."

Porter, wearing one of the Astros' new blue and orange jerseys, waved and shook hands with fans along the parade route. He'll be leaving his hometown of Houston in about two weeks to get an early start on Spring Training in Florida with plenty of work on his plate. Spreading some goodwill for an Astros team that has lost 213 games the past two years was a good place to start.

"As we were driving along the parade, you hear fans yelling 'Go Astros!'" he said. "I would like to have more fans out there, but we appreciate the fans that were out there. It allows us to connect with the fans and for them to get the chance to see us up front and in person and realize there is a strategic plan in place, and we're going to implement that plan. We're excited for the city."

The CAREavan, which will make stops all over Houston this week, as well as stretching into Oklahoma City, Okla., and making Texas stops in Corpus Christi, San Antonio, Austin and the Rio Grande Valley, also paid a visit Monday afternoon to the Astros Urban Youth Academy in north Houston.

Porter, Wright, Wynn and Richard spoke to a group of youngsters and held a clinic on the field before sending the kids home with autographs. Wright, the longest current tenured Astros player, said Monday's lessons were important.

"We're teaching baseball, but we're also trying to teach them the important things that Dr. King wrote about -- about being able to stand up for the things you believe in and being non-violent, and just trying to help others when you have the opportunity," he said.

Porter, who grew up in the rough-and-tumble streets of Newark, N.J., before going on to be a two-sport star at the University of Iowa, said he wished he would have had an opportunity play at a facility like the one the Astros, Major League Baseball and the city of Houston opened three years ago.

That's why, Porter said, it was so important to be able to spend time with the kids on Monday and hopefully impact a few lives, just like Dr. King impacted so many during the Civil Rights movement.

"It gives you a sense of pride and appreciation for all the things that happened prior to be being part of the Houston Astros and being a part of this city," he said. "There's a lot of hard work that went into allowing this day to be possible."

The CAREavan continues Tuesday in the Houston suburb of Spring, Tex., where Wright will join teammates Jose Altuve and Tyler Greene and former Astros pitcher Shane Reynolds at a clinic before signing autographs from 7-8 p.m. CT at the Academy Sports + Outdoors at 25010 I-45 North.

Brian McTaggart is a reporter for and writes an MLBlog, Tag's Lines. Follow @brianmctaggart on Twitter.
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