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Winston goes yard, Schaub wins title


With a little ego and a lot of charity money on the line Wednesday, Texans tackle Eric Winston found his swing and hit the last two pitches of the Texans' Home Run Derby into the upper deck at Minute Maid Park.

Winston finished with eight home runs, but that wasn't enough to beat quarterback Matt Schaub for the title. Schaub won the trophy by raising the most money of any player with $4,700. Winston, last year's winner, came in second with a total of $3,300.

"We're so competitive in the locker room, and while this is definitely more for the kids, it's still competitive between us," Winston said. "But he raised more money than I did, and that's what it is all about. I'm sure you'll see us at a steakhouse somewhere soon, and I might be getting the bill."

For the fourth consecutive year, the fundraiser at the Houston Astros' ballpark was put on by the Texans and Reliant Energy to raise funds for the Boys and Girls Club of Greater Houston.

Texans wide receiver David Anderson, safety Nick Ferguson, quarterback Dan Orlovsky, quarterback Alex Brink, center Chris Myers, tight end Owen Daniels, wide receiver Andre Johnson, fullback Vonta Leach, Schaub and Winston participated in the derby and raised a grand total of $31,300 with their hits.

{QUOTE}Reliant donated at least $500 for balls hit out of the park and $100 for balls that reached the outfield. They also set up target banners in the outfield and stands worth $1,000-$10,000 in donations each time they were hit.

Despite the players' success at the plate, no Texan was ready to make a career switch.

"We're getting straight, lobbed pitches to us," Schaub said. "I couldn't even imagine standing up there against a 90-mph fastball with a chance of a 80-mph curveball. I would just fall over and walk away. It definitely gives you a better understanding and appreciation of how hard and far you have to hit a ball to hit it out."

Johnson saw that first hand, as he struggled to hit the bleachers. Astros manager Cecil Cooper offered Johnson some pointers, which helped him hit an infield target. But Johnson wasn't short on enthusiasm, jumping on Winston after his upper deck bombs and pumping up Anderson after one of his long balls.

"This is all for fun and a good cause," Johnson said. "I don't really play baseball, but Eric Winston can. After he hit that one in the second deck, I got excited and just ran over and jumped on him."

Schaub may have ended up the derby's champion, but Winston stole the show for the second consecutive year. Using a bat given to him by Brewers left fielder and University of Miami friend Ryan Braun, Wiston hit three home runs in the first round. In the final round, he sent three into the stands.

"I said this year they shouldn't count them unless he gets them in that upper deck," Braun said of Winston. "He needs to get in that second deck for those home runs to count. It's fun to watch, and it's even better that it's for a great cause.

"He doesn't need any pointers - just look at that swing. I say let it fly and have fun."

Once the final round was over, Reliant representatives asked the Texans to pick a player to take two final pitches. The team chose Winston, and he blasted both pitches into the upper deck for $10,000 for apiece, earning $20,000 more for charity.

"I was in the cage a few times before I came out here," Winston said. "I came out here ready to go. I played baseball growing up, and there was a time in my life that I thought it would be my sport. I take it seriously, but it's still a little fun. I didn't want to let the kids down."

The funds raised by the Home Run Derby will benefit the 12 Boy and Girls Clubs in the Greater Houston and Galveston County area, which serve approximately 13,000 children each year.

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