A crowd gathered at Minute Maid Park last Friday night, but there was no game to be played.

Instead, the Astros Foundation hosted its third annual Diamond Dreams Gala—the most celebratory yet, given last year's events that placed three new words in front of the franchise: World Series Champions.

Merriment imbued the fête, which benefited the Foundation—the charitable arm of the Astros—and New Hope Housing, a nonprofit dedicated to combating homelessness. Guests of honor included Jim Crane, Astros owner and chairman; Twila Carter, Astros Foundation executive director; Mack Fowler, New Hope Housing board chairman; and the World Series Trophy, which glittered in all its glory at the gala and the subsequent after-party.

And yes, Astros, both past and present, were there, too: Gala guests bumped shoulders with shortstop Alex Bregman, pitcher Lance McCullers Jr., catcher Brian McCann, left-fielder Marwin Gonzalez, and outfielder Josh Reddick, to name a few. Sadly, Justin Verlander and bride Kate Upton were not spotted.

MLB All-Star and former Astro dynamo pitcher Nolan Ryan, aka "The Ryan Express," was on-hand, though, as were prominent elegant Houstonians who donned furs to brave the chill on Minute Maid's field and draped shoulders and legs in a much-appreciated party favor: an ivory blanket.

It was a legendary diva who really brought down the house, though, as the night's featured entertainment: Gladys Knight, the seven-time Grammy winning "Empress of Soul." A spirited performance belied the crooner's age (73) which included a repertoire of hits including "Midnight Train to Georgia" and "Neither One of Us (Wants to Be the First to Say Goodbye)."

"This won us our second Grammy," Knight said by way of introduction to the latter hit, instructing the crowd to "be my Pips!"

As the evening wound down, the celebration did not, and guests trickled off the field to a ticketed after-party in Union Station Lobby featuring DJ Taylor Tran and DJ Mr. Rogers. Also on deck? Houston rapper Slim Thug.

 

Kicking it with the Cranes #BOSSLIFE

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Shrouded in their party swag blankets, guests ascended the Minute Maid steps in what was likely the most glamorous pedestrian traffic the downtown stadium has ever seen.

"Be careful out there, it's a mean old world," Knight bid adieu. "We love you!"

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