HOUSTON (AP) — Houston Astros pitcher Brad Lidge didn’t mind this baseball getting blasted into orbit, and he still has the sense of humor to laugh with those who joke that it’s the second-longest shot of his career.
Two years after giving up the most infamous home run in Astros history, Lidge signed a ball for astronaut Tracy Caldwell, who took it into space on the shuttle Endeavour. Now it’s orbiting more than 200 miles above Earth.
“To Tracy,” the dedication read, “hopefully no one ever hits one this far off of me.”
The story was first reported by Houston television station KRIV.
Lidge is still living down the pitch he fed St. Louis Cardinals slugger Albert Pujols in 2005, when the Astros were a strike away from their first World Series.
Pujols slammed Lidge’s slider, forcing Astros fans to wait one more game to celebrate. The World Series didn’t erase the vivid image of Pujols’ homer hitting halfway up the stadium wall towering over left field at Minute Maid Park.
Lidge said he didn’t tell teammates what he wrote on the ball — and perhaps for good reason.
“They’d probably say something like they’ve seen me give up one or two that have gone farther than that one,” he said.
Astronauts are allowed to take a few personal items with them to the space station.
Swedish astronaut Christer Fuglesang, a former Frisbee champion, took aboard one of his favorite flying discs during a mission last year. He joked that he would surely set the record for most time aloft.
Sports discussions are popular in the cosmos, Fuglesang said.
“It’s a very friendly rivalry, we make fun of each other’s teams,” he said.
Two of his crewmates held up competing farewell signs as they prepared to crawl into space shuttle Discovery. Chicago Bears fan Joan Higginbotham, a native of the Windy City, waved a “Da Bears” sign and then shook her head “no” when crew mate Robert Curbeam, a Baltimore native, held up a “Go Colts” sign.
But even those who grew up outside Houston, like Fuglesang, hold the Astros in a unique place. Astronauts have attended games together, thrown out the first pitch and sung the national anthem.
“I think there’s a special connection between them and the astronaut corps,” Fuglesang said. “After all, they’re taking their name, Astros, from astronauts.”