http://www.chron.com/disp/story.mpl/sports/4150809.html

Oswalt receives five-year contract worth $73 million

By JOSE DE JESUS ORTIZ
Copyright 2006 Houston Chronicle

Informed the Astros had just given him a five-year, $73 million contract extension Tuesday night, ace righthander Roy Oswalt immediately placed a call to Weir, Miss., to give his father Billy the news. In the ensuing news conference, Oswalt fought off tears as he acknowledged his father's guidance.

A few minutes later, Oswalt cradled his 1-year-old daughter, Arlee Faith, while his wife, Nicole, cut the cake Astros owner Drayton McLane gave him along with the contract to celebrate the hard-throwing righthander's 29th birthday.

While Roy and Nicole Oswalt cut into the cake, Arlee stuck her fingers in the frosting, proving that once in a while you can have your cake and eat it too if you dream big, work hard and ignore the skeptics.

"I told my dad, 'Well, I think you can find something else to do,' " Oswalt said after the Astros' 10-3 victory over the Milwaukee Brewers at Minute Maid Park. "He didn't know what I was talking about at first. Then I told him I signed. He was proud. Hopefully, I can get him a little bit of an easier job doing something else.

"It's all about family. It's always about family. We play this game, and the reason we play this game is so we can support our family."

Oswalt constantly thought back to those humid evenings working out with his father, who is a logger, and his mother, Jean, in tiny Weir. He thought of all those skeptics from bigger schools and even those neighbors who criticized him for dreaming big.

He thanked McLane, the billionaire businessman from Temple who also has refused to give up his small-town roots.

"A lot of times I think about these guys that doubted me coming up," said Oswalt, who is in the final year of a two-year, $16.9 million contract. "They always told me I was putting my dreams too far out there. I remember some of the guys used to come by and see my dad and me in the yard playing catch and wonder why he spent so much time with me playing baseball.

"To get to do this proves that he wasn't out there just wasting time."

Oswalt's contract is easily the richest multiyear deal ever given to a pitcher by an Astros franchise that has had legendary aces such as Nolan Ryan, Roger Clemens and J.R. Richard.

Oswalt, who could have tested free agency after the 2007 season, will earn $13 million in each of the first two years of the contract. His salary moves up to $14 million in 2009, $15 million in 2010 and $16 million in 2011. He has a complete no-trade clause and a $2 million buyout of a $16 million club option for 2012.

"I think one of the ways a baseball organization can achieve long-term success is to retain their star-quality homegrown players," Astros general manager Tim Purpura said. "And certainly this organization has done that over the years, whether it's Jeff Bagwell, Craig Biggio (or) Lance Berkman. ... We're very pleased tonight to achieve that goal with Roy Oswalt."

McLane opened negotiations with Oswalt's camp on Aug. 9 at Minute Maid Park. McLane and Purpura met with Oswalt's representatives Bob Garber and Barry Meister again early Tuesday morning. After participating in a Major League Baseball conference call and then attending a meeting with Texas Gov. Rick Perry, McLane resumed negotiations in the afternoon.

Oswalt was finally informed of the settlement after he gave up three runs over seven innings against the Brewers. After receiving the no-decision Tuesday, Oswalt remained 10-8 with a 3.23 ERA this season. He is 93-47 with a 3.09 career ERA since reaching the majors in 2001.

The only pitcher in the majors to win 20 games in each of the last two years, Oswalt will donate $100,000 per season to the Astros in Action foundation throughout the life of the deal.

"Roy is one of the elite, elite pitchers in baseball," McLane said. "I'd rate him as one of the top three pitchers in baseball."

McLane and Oswalt have shared a special bond since 2001. Last October, McLane even offered Oswalt a bulldozer if he won Game 6 of the National League Championship Series against the Cardinals in St. Louis. Oswalt responded with seven innings of one-run ball, sealing the Astros' first World Series berth.

McLane delivered the bulldozer as a Christmas present at Minute Maid Park in December. He raised the stakes significantly Tuesday.

"We're extremely excited about this," McLane said. "We went to the World Series with a great opportunity to win. Our goal is to continue to go to the World Series and win. And no one lights up better than Roy."

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Not bad for an ace for the Houston Astros. Since Clemens is very likely gone after this year, I think he deserves the extension for his efforts over the past year.