added 1/21/2006 by
Chad Qualls and Adam Everett considered their 2005 World Series experience far too abbreviated for their memories. Hundreds of autograph-seeking Astros fans share their sentiments exactly.
Those hundreds poured into Port Arthur's Academy Sports and Outdoors store during the late-afternoon hours Thursday to greet Qualls, Everett, former outfielder Jim Wynn and Hall of Fame broadcaster Milo Hamilton as the Astros winter caravan completed its annual Golden Triangle visit. The same group stopped at Beaumont's Christus St. Elizabeth Hospital earlier in the afternoon.
The 28-year-old Everett and the 27-year-old Qualls voiced a similar dissatisfaction with Houston's first-ever trip to the World Series last October, although each admitted the accomplishment remained quite special.
"Once we got to Chicago and I saw that World Series logo, it certainly contained a special meaning for all of us," Qualls said. "After all, it's what you dream of as a kid. I certainly wasn't that scared of being there.
"I would say that I was more nervous in the Atlanta series (National League Divisional Series) and the St. Louis series (National League Championship Series), because once we got to the World Series, we were either going to win or lose that series and that would be it. I felt really comfortable there (in the World Series) and I can't wait to get back and win it."
How did it feel for Everett to be the starting shortstop in his initial World Series visit?
"It was an indescribable feeling," Everett said. "Ever since you're a little kid and you think about playing professional baseball, it's one thing you want to do -- to go and win the World Series.
"We got the first half of that and now we're going to get the second half."
Two young rising stars on Houston's first-ever National League Champions squad, Everett and Qualls both voiced individual areas where they hoped to improve in 2006 from 2005.
Everett smashed a career-high 11 home runs last year. That's fine for a young slap hitter but Adam believed that he possessed the ability to increase that total.
"I think I can hit 15 (in 2006)," Everett said. "I would love to improve every number that I had last year -- my on-base percentage, my slugging percentage and my batting average. I feel especially on offense that I have a long ways to go."
Qualls has the unique distinction of participating in each post-season during his two-year major-league career. That would hardly suggest that the 6-5 setup reliever felt as if he were a finished product.
"I'm going to have to keep my slider down and throw more fastballs. I think I got hurt a lot last year when I left my slider up. I've got to make sure to relax and spin the ball and not overthrow my slider.
"Once I became a reliever, my velocity jumped up and I tried to throw the ball a little bit harder, including the slider. When I don't stay within myself as a reliever, I tend to throw it too hard."
Oh yes, and one last thing on which Everett and Qualls agreed totally with Port Arthur's Astros fans. Both hoped that ace starting righthander Roger Clemens decided to return with the Astros for a third season.
Clemens has been required to be a free agent because the Astros declined to offer him arbitration after the 2005 season. It remained a complete mystery with each Astros player whether Clemens would rejoin the team.
"It's up to him," Qualls said. "He's had a tremendous career. I can only wish to have a third of his career. Definitely he would help the team out tremendously. I honestly think if he does decide to come back, he will be back with us in May."
Everett sounded a bit more in the cheerleading category regarding his Astros feelings for Roger.
"I would love to see him come back but I'm selfish. To have that guy means a lot to the organization."
The Astros report to their spring training camp in mid-February at Kissimmee, Fl. After a month of exhibition games, Houston's 45th National League baseball season begins in Minute Maid Park on Apr. 3 against the Florida Marlins.