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 K9ssoiree. 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.


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It more of the same from the Houston Texans. Photo by Bob Levey/Getty Images.

Sunday afternoon provided a high-res snapshot of the state of Houston sports. The Astros, already assured of the best record in the American League, played a game they didn’t need to win. The Astros won, ho-hum, their 104th win of the season.

Meanwhile, eight miles away, the Texans, mired in last place with fan support dwindling, played a game they really needed to win. The Texans lost 34-24 to the Los Angeles Chargers in front of (giggle) 69,071 fans at NRG Stadium. The Texans really ought to stop saying the stands are packed. Every time a team punts, and cameras follow the ball skyward, there are thousands of empty seats on display. I know the NFL methodology for determining attendance, (total tickets sold, no-shows don’t count) but it just looks silly when the Texans announce 69,000 fans.

The Texans came close as usual before sputtering to another defeat. The Texans now stand at 0-3-1, the only winless team in the NFL. It’s the second time in three years they’ve started a season without a victory after four games. It’s telling to note that not one of the Texans opponents has a winning record for 2022.

In other words, the Texans have played four games they shoulda/coulda won. Shouda against the Colts, Broncos and Bears, and coulda against the Chargers.

Should/coulda four wins. Instead, none.

That’s the Texans. They’re in every game but can’t close the deal. Yeah, yeah, on Monday we hear, “the Texans are playing hard for coach Lovie Smith” and “they’re competitive” and “they’re a young team.” These are NFL equivalents of a participation trophy.

Sunday’s loss to the Chargers at NRG Stadium was straight out of the Texans playbook. Fall behind, make it interesting, lose. The Texans stuck to their script, timid play calling, momentum-crushing penalties (nine for 67 yards), self-inflicted drops, lackluster quarterbacking and Rex Burkhead on the field for crunch time. After one play where a Texan player was called for holding, the announcer said, “and he did a poor job of holding.”

Statuesque quarterback David Mills keeps saying “we’re in a good spot” and “we’re improving.” Statuesque as in he doesn’t move – or barely moves to avoid sacks. Sunday saw his first touchdown pass to a wide receiver. He’s now thrown four interceptions in the past two games. Let’s go to the tote board: 5 touchdowns, 4 interceptions, 4 fumbles, 11 sacks, qbr rating 28.5 – good for 28th in the league.

A bright spot, sort of. This was the first week the Texans didn’t cover the spread. They’re now 1-2-1 against Vegas oddsmakers, meaning you’ve won money if you took the Texans all four weeks. They head to Jacksonville next as early 6.5-point underdogs.

Meanwhile, Alabama’s brilliant quarterback Bryce Young, who will be available for the Texans when they draft first in 2023 (as Paul Heyman says, that’s not a prediction, that’s a spoiler), suffered a shoulder injury last Saturday. The Texans need to take out a Lloyds of London insurance policy on Young.

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