A HOME RUN NIGHT

Astros superstars and social A-listers hit home run for kids and animals

Photo by Jacob Power

This article originally appeared on CultureMap.

June is typically a quiet month for local sports and society happenings, but there was absolutely nothing quiet about the electric Team Up for Kids and K9s soiree. Boasting an all-star lineup of Houston Astros stars present and past, the annual red carpet event is a must-attend merging of the sporting and social scenes in Houston.

Justin Verlander and Kate Upton.

Photo by Daniel Ortiz

The buzz was palpable when supermodel Kate Upton and husband and Astros ace, Justin Verlander, strolled into the gleaming Houston fashion house, Tootsies. Astros fan favorites Lance McCullers Jr. and José Altuve, the event hosts, casually mixed and mingled with a who's-who of Houston scenesters. Blue, the adorable black Labrador retriever and Astros explosives-sniffing service dog, curled up with Upton, McCullers, and curious kids for photos. Adoptable animals from BARC Animal Shelter and Adoptions were paraded between aisles of high couture.

Now in its third year, the feel-good party benefits causes close to McCullers' and Altuve's hearts: homeless animals and children with cancer. This year saw nearly $400,000 raised for the Lance McCullers Jr. Foundation, which advocates for pet rescue, adoption, and no-kill shelters (run by McCullers and his wife, Kara) and the Sunshine Kids, one of Altuve's many chosen kid-specific charities that he donates to via his José Altuve Foundation and Athletes and Causes.

Brittany Perry, Jake Marisnick, Gerrit Cole, and Amy Cole.

Photo by Daniel Ortiz

One by one, Astros stars such as Carlos Correa, George Springer, Tony Kemp, and Gerrit Cole casually crashed the party, as did Hall-of-Famers Craig Biggio and Jeff Bagwell. After gushing guests sipped cocktails and passed the velvet ropes to have their pictures taken with McCullers and Altuve, attention turned to the live auction.

In-demand items included autographed memorabilia and the G.O.A.T., a one-of-a-kind piece sculpture by Scott Joseph Moore and Frankie Gonzalez that pays tribute to the history of the Houston Astros organization and its greatest members. Hands quickly shot up when a VIP dinner with McCullers, wife Kara, and Altuve, hosted by restaurateur Ben Berg at B.B. Butchers, was announced.

Continue reading on CultureMap to learn about the custom portraits of Altuve, McCullers, Verlander, Correa, and Biggio by artist Michael Vahl.


Composite photo by Brandon Strange

After the Astros' offseason of shame and blame and firings and hirings, finally some actual baseball games! Okay, games with meaningless outcomes, but one way to move past almost Astros related conversation revolving around their cheating ways. Things could have been wild this weekend had the Washington Nationals not stormed Minute Maid Park to win the World Series four months ago. The Astros and Nats open the spring training game schedule Saturday and Sunday with a pair at the complex the two share in West Palm Beach.

Counting a couple of days with split squad games, the Astros play 31 practice games in Florida. With the more relaxed atmosphere of fun in the sun and the games not counting, you'd think opposing team fan heckling of the Astros shouldn't be too bad. The Astros' Grapefruit League schedule does not include the Yankees or Dodgers. The Yankees are on the other side of Florida, the Dodgers are in Arizona.

On the field the Astros have fewer concerns than most teams. Behind Justin Verlander and Zack Greinke the starting rotation is all question marks, but the candidate pool is deep enough to yield at least halfway decent answers. At least given all the run support that is likely.

The everyday lineup is essentially set, and still loaded. The only notable spring storyline is whether long heralded prospect Kyle Tucker wins the primary right field job. Tucker turned 23 years old last month. An overwhelmingly high percentage of great hitters in Major League history are established in the bigs no older than 23. Tucker isn't handed the job, because the Astros could not dump the final year and 13 million dollars of Josh Reddick's contract. They would literally have given him away had there been a taker. No taker. Reddick turned 33 on Wednesday. He was a bad player last season, so unless he has a salary drive bounce back of a season, Tucker is a huge disappointment if the primary right field job doesn't wind up his.

Don't be an Astropologist. The Astros blatantly, brazenly, and arrogantly cheated. It impacted games. How often and how substantially, open to debate. But it impacted games. If it had no impact on games, then the Astros and those complicit were the biggest band of morons in baseball history for going on with the scheme as long as they did. Besides, ineffectual cheating is still cheating.

All those whining about NY and LA and national media piling on. Stop. That just makes the whiners, and Houston, look provincially small. As if had the Yankees and/or Dodgers been nailed for cheating at the Astros' expense the same people now saying "Leave the Astros alone!" or "A bunch of other teams were doing it too!" wouldn't be screaming holy hell that "The Astros were robbed!" "Hang the Yankees in the town square!"

If you don't want the time, don't do the crime. The Astros did the crime. It's still their time to deal with the fallout. They and Astros fans, don't enforceably get to say, make it stop! If you're thinking, ok, ok, you're right but enough already! Understood. The furor will subside. But if your kid screws up he or she doesn't get to decide when he or she is no longer grounded.

It's still a fresh story. There have been no games to talk about yet, no player performances to criticize, no manager's decisions to second guess. That time is coming. As will be a bunch of wins for the 2020 Astros.

Huge game for the Rockets Saturday night at Utah. The Rockets running fifth in the Western Conference, behind the fourth place Jazz by two in the loss column. The season series rides on Saturday's outcome. It would be a massive win for the Rockets. With a loss, it's not a stretch to say they'd be unlikely to have home court advantage for even the first round of the playoffs.

Rockets add DeMarre Carroll and Jeff Green

Again this season the Rockets shopped the buyout bargain bin to fill out their roster for the stretch run. Last season they added Iman Shumpert and Kenneth Faried, two guys who gave them next to nothing in the playoffs. This year's contestants are 33 year old DeMarre Carroll and 33 year old Jeff Green. Carroll had fallen out of the rotation of a bad Spurs team, the Jazz released Green before Christmas. The Lakers and Clippers are not quivering.

Buzzer Beaters: 1. Saturday marks the 40th anniversary of the USA "Miracle on Ice" win over the USSR at the Lake Placid Olympics. No sporting event can ever plausibly spark American patriotic fervor the way that game and subsequent winning of the gold medal did. 2. $80 plus taxes and "fees" to watch Fury-Wilder II Saturday night? No thanks. Could be a heckuva fight though. 3. Most memorable fights I watched live: Bronze-Tyson/Holyfield II, the ear bite fight. Silver-Alexis Arguello/Aaron Pryor 1982 Gold-Marvelous Marvin Hagler/Tommy Hearns 1985. If never seen, absolutely watch on YouTube. Eight plus minutes of Oh My Goodness!

SportsMap Emails
Are Awesome