The invitation has been coming to Astros owner Drayton McLane and selected members of the team once a year for the better part of a decade and a half.


At the Houston office of former president George H.W. Bush, with wife Barbara at his side.

Be there.

On Wednesday afternoon, the Astros contingent included manager Brad Mills, first base coach Bobby Meacham, right fielder Hunter Pence, first baseman Brett Wallace, third baseman Chris Johnson and reliever Mark Melancon.

"Awesome," Johnson said. "I was a little star-struck when I saw him. You see athletes all the time. That's totally different. It's totally on another level."

One night earlier, the Bushes had been at Minute Maid Park to see an 11-2 Astros victory against the Chicago Cubs. The Astros peppered the Bushes with questions, listened to stories, marveled at the artifacts and memorabilia.

"I wanted to ask who were mentors in his life," Mills said. "I wanted to listen to who had the influence in his life besides his mother and dad. One person was Ronald Reagan, who he served as vice president. He was very impressed with him."

Mills came way from the lunch with an encased baseball — one of 20 of its kind — bearing the presidential seal and Bush's signature.