REMEMBER WHEN...

Academy Sports + Outdoors Texas Bowl Chairman Faust still haunted by awful Little League call years ago

Don Faust is still bitter over a Little League call. Courtesy photo

Don Faust is Chairman of the Board of the Academy Sports + Outdoors Texas Bowl, which will pit Texas vs. Missouri on Dec. 27 in NRG Stadium. It's annually one of the most successful post-season football games, with sold-out crowds and $3 million payout to each team.

As boss of the bowl, Faust will present the trophy to the winning team. That's guaranteed face time on ESPN. Faust is also CEO of Faust Distributing, one of the biggest family-owned beer distributors in Texas.

Don Faust is a big deal. Yet he is haunted by a sports memory that keeps him tossing and turning at night and remains a baseball controversy that may never be solved.

Let's jump in Mr. Peabody's Wayback Machine. The year was 2007. I was the manager of the Biscuits in West University Little League's "Minor A" Division for players age 9 and 10. The league assigned the Biscuits team to me because I may not have the healthiest eating habits. Everybody's a comedian around here, even Little League officials.

The mascot of the Montgomery Biscuits - yes, it's a real team, the Double-A affiliate of the Tampa Bay Rays - is a hot buttered biscuit named Big Mo. Between innings, the mascot throws buttermilk biscuits into the stands. 

Don Faust, sports kingpin and beer giant, was first base coach for the West U. Little League Biscuits that year. His son Jake was my first-round draft pick, starting pitcher and slick-fielding shortstop. 

It was an early-season matchup between the Biscuits and the Ironbirds. Catcher Nicolas Baizan was batting with two runners on, and two outs. Nicolas's father Jordi was our third-base coach. Jordi is a singer and songwriter. His latest CD is titled Like the First Time. 

Nicolas checked his swing and hit a squibber, a foul ball slowly dribbling toward our first-base dugout. Faust reached down and picked up the ball.

The home plate umpire yelled "coach's interference" and called Nicolas out, killing the Biscuits rally. Needless to say, Faust protested and I erupted from the dugout, questioning the umpire's understanding of baseball rules and principles of science.

I explained to him, a checked swing from a righty hitter imparts spin that propels the ball to the right. Nicolas' foul ball couldn't possibly have bounced back into fair territory. The Earth would have to fall off its axis for that to happen. Haven't you been to Astros games? The first base coach always picks up foul balls and throws them into the crowd. The fans love it. 

The umpire wouldn't budge, and insisted that Faust interfered with a live ball - a ball that would have defied science and challenged the Bernoulli Principle - which explains why flushed toilet water spins counter-clockwise in the Northern Hemisphere and clockwise in Australia. Nicolas was out. I could have shown him a frame-by-frame Zapruder film of the play and it wouldn't have mattered. 

Faust was besides himself. He still insists the ball was headed to our dugout and the umpire made a historic bad call. .  

You'd think that Faust would have more on his mind these days, what with the Texas Bowl only weeks away. .  

"Of course I remember that! Stupid call," Faust said this week. 

"I was in the first base coaching box and the foul ball rolled between me and the dugout. I stopped it with my outstretched left hand. It would have been geometrically impossible for that ball to magically become fair. It happens in Major League Baseball every game. The umpire was a dummy."

Then ... "I miss those days." Welcome to the world of Little League dads. 

Meanwhile his son Jake is now a student at the University of Texas and Nicolas is a pro soccer player, a bit of a teen sensation, in Spain. They've clearly moved on. 

Don Faust and I ... still tormented by an umpire's call 10 years ago in Little League. There's an excellent chance that we need professional help. 

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5 questions on the John Wall trade

The Rockets made a big move. Photo by Elsa/Getty Images.

The Houston Rockets point guard carousel continued to spin Wednesday night, as the Woj bomb-iest of Houston-related Woj bombs erupted in the Space City:

For the third year in a row, the Rockets will begin the season with a new point guard, in an attempt to finally find someone that can play alongside James Harden. Let's take a look at how the Rockets got to this point, and what it means moving forward.

What led to the trade?

Russell Westbrook simply wanted out. Westbrook is the type of player that needs to be the number one ball handler and that simply wasn't ever going to happen on a James Harden led team. Other reports cited Westbrook's frustration with the lack of accountability and casual atmosphere within the locker room. Ultimately if anyone was going to be moved between Harden and Westbrook, it was always going to be Westbrook.

Why John Wall?

This one is another fairly straightforward answer: they both have relatively similar contracts. Each is making an absurdly overpriced $40 million this season, and both were disgruntled with their current team. Rockets General Manager Rafael Stone and Wizards GM Tommy Sheppard tossed the idea around a few weeks ago, but couldn't find a deal they liked. It was reported that discussions resumed Wednesday afternoon and within a few hours the deal was done in an almost one-for-one swap.

How does Wall fit?

This is a little more complicated because it's not exactly known what head coach Stephen Silas' game plan is. It's also difficult to predict whether or not Harden will still be on the roster when the season starts. But let's assume that Harden takes the court for the Rockets and that Silas' system resembles something similar to what we've seen in Houston for the past few years. In that case, Wall would be a slight upgrade to Westbrook. Westbrook is more athletic than Wall, but when healthy Wall was no slouch. In addition he's a much better defensive player and has much better court vision than Westbrook. Westbrook's assists were usually a bailout after attacking the lane with his head down, while Wall is more likely to set up a teammate.

This isn't to say that Wall doesn't need the ball though. He's fairly ball dominant, but not nearly as much as Westbrook. Harden proved last season that he's capable of effectively playing off the ball if necessary, so it seems like a better fit from a distribution rate alone. If they can find that sweet spot like they did with Chris Paul and stagger the lineups so that each star gets their own time to create, there's potential for an improved Rockets team more reminiscent of their 2018 run than the past two years.

What are the best and worst case scenarios?

The worst case is that the Rockets were sold a lemon. Wall has potential to be an upgrade, but comes with huge risk. He last took the court in 2018, where he was sidelined with a knee injury. He subsequently ruptured his Achilles in an accident at his home while recovering from the knee injury, forcing Wall off the court for almost two years. It's possible an extremely unfortunate Wall reinjures something and completely derails the machinations of the trade. Even if he's recovered fully, it will take time to get him up to game speed which could frustrate Harden on a team that can't afford a slow start in their stacked conference. Harden has managed to cultivate drama with just about every co-star he's played with, so there's no reason to assume this attempt would go any better. If things turn sour, Harden could be out the door even quicker than expected.

The best case scenario is that Wall arrives ready to play team basketball and resembles the better part of his pre-injury form. Wall and Harden buy into Silas' new system, space the floor, and take turns carving up the lane with dribble drives and kick outs to players who can actually hit from distance. This version of the Rockets could potentially be a 3-seed in this year's Western Conference.

Who won the trade?

At the moment the Rockets. Not only did they remove at least one of their locker room distractions, but they also gain a first round pick. If Wall can stay healthy and Silas can keep both stars happy, this team should be a lot more fun to watch than last season's clunker.

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