NEW YORK -- The Astros' first trip to Yankee Stadium in three years meant that most of the players on the roster were making their first trip to the ballpark. A chance to see Monument Park in center field was a must for the players and coaches pregame.
"It's unbelievable," outfielder Brandon Barnes said. "Playing the Yankees is one of those things that's unbelievable. It's a dream come true, and to be in a ballpark like this is unbelievable."
Rookie pitcher Paul Clemens called it an honor to be able to play at Yankee Stadium, which sits next door to the site of the original Yankee Stadium, where the Bronx Bombers played for decades. The Yankees' new park was designed to resemble their old ballpark.
"It's a great facility with great baseball history," Clemens said. "It's going to be a challenge. What more can I ask for?"
Astros manager Bo Porter grew up in nearby Newark, N.J., and had several friends and family members in attendance. He had some fond memories of the old Yankee Stadium from his days as a player with Oakland.
"We played the Yankees here in the postseason in 2000, and I got an RBI single off one of my childhood heroes, Dwight Gooden," Porter said. "That's one of the greatest memories I have here. This is always a special place from my standpoint because this is where my Little League coach used to take us to watch baseball games. I love coming here."
Porter planned on having his wife, aunt and grandmother at the game, but Monday's cold and wet conditions forced an audible.
"They decided they were going to the movies," Porter said. "It's too wet and rainy. My grandmother said, 'Baby, I'm too old to be sitting out in the rain.'"
Astros laud Collins for 'huge step' toward equality
NEW YORK -- Several Astros players threw out their support on Monday for NBA player Jason Collins, who announced he is gay in a Sports Illustrated cover story. He's the first active openly gay athlete in any major U.S. professional sport.
"I think it's a huge step," catcher Jason Castro said. "It takes a pretty brave and courageous person to be the first one. Hopefully, it leads to more guys being comfortable in the fact that once they see that become acceptable by his colleagues and society, it wouldn't be such a bad thing if guys feel comfortable enough to do it. I don't think it should be something they should hide."
Castro believes Major League Baseball players would be accepting of a gay teammate.
"I feel like guys would be comfortable with that," Castro said. "There's no reason why they shouldn't be."
Relief pitcher Travis Blackley went as far as calling Collins a pioneer, comparing him to Jackie Robinson, who broke the color barrier in 1947.
"I think it's impressive that he came out with it, and more power to him for it," Blackley said. "I don't think it's going to be as big of a deal as it might have been 20 years ago. I think he definitely showed guts to come out with that, and I'm sure a weight has been lifted off his shoulders, doing that."
Castro said that baseball players spend so much time with each other on a daily basis, they should be comfortable in their own skin.
"Where we are in societal terms, it's just a matter of time before more and more guys feel comfortable with it, now that Jason came out and revealed his personal life to his teammates and to everybody," Castro said. "I think he's going to be a pioneer in that sense, in that he was the first one to take the step and he might encourage others to be honest and feel comfortable enough to be able to reveal something like that."
Baseball clubhouses are cultural melting pots where men from all over the world spend seven months with each other for several hours a day. Blackley, who's from Australia, said there's no reason gays wouldn't be able to fit in as well.
"There are definitely people who have different stances on that situation, but for me personally, we're here to play baseball," Blackley said. "If the player is supposed to be on this team because he's good enough to play, they can feel safe enough about it all to come out as well."
Astros manager Bo Porter was supportive as well.
"Anybody should be able to live their life in the manner in which they choose to live it," Porter said. "I respect him for his honesty. I don't know Jason Collins, but it wouldn't make me treat him any differently. I believe in fairness and letting people be who they are."
Barnes plans to take full advantage of speed
NEW YORK -- In an effort to take better advantage of his speed, Astros outfielder Brandon Barnes has been asked to show bunt more by manager Bo Porter. Even if Barnes doesn't bunt, Porter says putting the idea into the minds of the defense can be beneficial.
"If you're a guy that can, there's no way you don't at least show bunt a couple of times," Porter said. "Any time you get the fielders to move up and give up a portion of their range, from a hitter's standpoint, that's to their advantage."
Barnes, who's starting in right field against left-handers -- Rick Ankiel starts against right-handers -- has taken the advice to heart and has shown bunt on occasion.
"It's just one of those things to bring the third baseman in, and it opens up some holes," Barnes said. "It's another weapon in my pocket I can use any time that's nice to have."
In Monday's lineup against the Yankees for his ninth start of the season, Barnes entered the game hitting .375 with one homer and two RBIs, and he boosted his stats with a two-run double in the fourth inning and an RBI single the following frame.