MLB.com Columnist

Alyson Footer

Past, present celebrated before Astros' home opener

Bagwell, Clemens throw first pitches to Correa, Keuchel

Past, present celebrated before Astros' home opener

HOUSTON -- The Astros melded their past, present and future during their Opening Day pregame ceremony before Monday's night's 8-2 win over the Royals, bringing back two old favorites while honoring players who helped bring the current Astros back to prominence.

Jeff Bagwell, the 1991 National League Rookie of the Year, threw a ceremonial pitch to Carlos Correa, the 2015 American League Rookie of the Year. Roger Clemens, who won one of his seven Cy Young Awards while pitching for the Astros in 2004, threw a pitch to 2015 AL Cy Young Award winner Dallas Keuchel.

The symmetry provided a nostalgic moment for the more than 40,000 orange-clad fans at Minute Maid Park who remember the pennant-chasing days of Bagwell and Clemens, the lean years that followed, and the resurgence of an organization that secured its first playoff berth in a decade when it won the AL Wild Card in 2015 -- largely due to the contributions of the two players honored on Monday.

Correa played in 99 games in 2015, setting a franchise record for home runs hit by a shortstop (22) and home runs hit by a rookie. He led all Major League shortstops in homers, OPS (.857) and slugging (.512).

Keuchel finished the 2015 season 20-8 with a 2.48 ERA and 216 strikeouts. He is the third Cy Young Award winner in club history, joining Clemens and Mike Scott, who won the award in 1986.

Former Astros at home opener

Bagwell and Clemens gushed about their counterparts before taking the mound for their moment on the field.

"It's amazing," Bagwell said of Correa. "What's going to happen tonight? Tomorrow? He's special. If he stays healthy, he's like one in a generation.

"All I want to do is watch."

Clemens, a special assistant for the Astros who spends time with the team during Spring Training, recalled a conversation he had with former catcher Charlie O'Brien, a family friend of Keuchel, when Keuchel had first joined the organization as a prospect.

"He said, 'Hey, throw in some kind words and keep an eye on him, because he's got a chance,'" Clemens recalled. "You can see what's transpired in the last couple years for Dallas. I'm excited for him. I told everyone last year, he's a great home-field weapon for us."

Prior to the first pitches, Keuchel and Correa were showered with gifts from the Astros and club owner Jim Crane, who presented them with keys to brand new 2016 Chevrolet Silverado Texas edition trucks. Sports artist Opie Otterstad then unveiled collage paintings depicting highlights from their award-winning seasons.

Under a closed roof at Minute Maid Park, the pregame ceremony also included introductions of the Astros and the visiting Kansas City Royals, followed by an appearance by country music star and Texas native Clay Walker, who performed the national anthem. As he sang, a giant American flag was unfurled, featuring members of the military, Astros season-ticket holders and social-media contest winners.

Alyson Footer is a national correspondent for MLB.com. Follow her on Twitter @alysonfooter. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.