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McLane enjoying All-Star festivities
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07/10/2004  6:26 PM ET
McLane enjoying All-Star festivities
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Astros owner Drayton McLane Jr. is amazed at the turnout for this year's festivities. (Tom Hood/AP)

HOUSTON -- Houston Astros owner Drayton McLane Jr., like every other Astros fan, wishes his team were faring better on the field. But McLane and the rest of the Houston faithful can at least take some solace in the way this year's All-Star week is shaping up.

Already there are signs this year's All-Star Game could be one of the best ever, and McLane is happy with what he's witnessed so far.

The festivities haven't hit full swing, but attendance for FanFest at the George R. Brown Convention Center the first two days has been better than organizers predicted.

"It's really been amazing," McLane said Saturday. "At 8:30 in the morning yesterday there were people already lining up (to go to FanFest). The crowds have been good to see and I'm especially pleased to see so many people wearing Astros jerseys and T-shirts."

McLane was on hand at FanFest when Hall of Famer Nolan Ryan made an appearance Friday, and as usual the affable Astros owner spent time mingling with the fans and thanking them for coming. Though the Astros, who began Saturday in fifth place in the National League Central, have not played as well as expected, McLane's efforts to put a championship team on the field by adding Roger Clemens, Andy Pettitte and Carlos Beltran to the club clearly hasn't gone unnoticed by many of the Houston fans.

Many remember McLane's efforts to get a new ballpark built, efforts that paved the way for an All-Star return to Houston for the first time since 1986 -- and insurance that the Astros would remain in Houston for another 30 years.

"I was just one of the people involved. It took the efforts of a lot of very talented and dedicated people to get the referendum to the people that enabled the new stadium to be built," McLane said. "At the time it went through, Commissioner Bud Selig was very supportive of our efforts, and ultimately the new ballpark meant we could have the All-Star Game, FanFest, the Home Run Derby and the Futures Game here (at Minute Maid Park) for the first time. So a lot of people deserve credit for bringing this about."

McLane is especially looking forward to Monday, when Selig will introduce the members of the 500 Home Run Club in a ceremony at Minute Maid Park.

"Everyone's very excited about that," McLane said. "It's going to be an historic event. To have all of them here in Houston ... it really is going to be an exciting day for the city of Houston and the Houston Astros. Just a great day for baseball."

Jim Molony is a writer for based in Houston. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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