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Texans' Watt joins Astros in batting practice

HOUSTON -- NFL defensive end J.J. Watt of the Houston Texans stepped into the cage for a little batting practice with the Astros before Friday night's exhibition game.

Watt, in only his second year from Wisconsin, turned into one of the best defensive players in the NFL last fall.

The Astros noticed Watt wearing their gear after one of the Texans' playoff games and invited him to take a few swings with the team.

"I played [baseball] until my sophomore year in high school," Watt said. "I played all over."

The Astros gave Watt a custom-made dark blue jersey with No. 99, his number with the Texans, on the back. Watt also wore a Houston Colt .45s cap, orange sneakers and gray baggy shorts.

Watt, batting right-handed, struggled with his first few pitches from bullpen catcher Javier Bracamonte, who was throwing batting practice. Watt swung and missed at six of the first seven pitches he saw, popping up the other one to the top of the cage.

"That was embarrassing," he said.

Gradually, Watt began to make contact and drove one pitch deep into the seats beyond the left-field-fence that brought some "oohs" from players and fans.

But Watt didn't look ready to quit his day job.

Gene Duffey is a contributor to
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