Houston Dynamo legend Brian Ching kicks off hot new EaDo bar

Brian Ching is ready to welcome patrons to Pitch 25. Photo by Eric Sandler

This story originally appeared on CultureMap/Houston.

ne of Houston’s most eagerly-anticipated new bars is ready to kick things off in EaDo. Pitch 25 Beer Park, the beer garden and soccer bar that unites Dynamo legend Brian Ching with The Kirby Group, opens its doors to customers for the first time on Friday, June 8.

Pitch 25 blends the beer garden aspects of Kirby Group concepts Heights Bier Garten and Holman Draft Hall with unique soccer elements to create a space that’s unlike anywhere else in Houston. That starts with the venue’s indoor soccer pitch, which is big enough to hold four-on-four matches. In addition, framed jerseys and artwork pay tribute to Ching’s career; he remains the Dynamo’s all-time leading scorer and led the team to two MLS Cup championships.

Even with 42 TVs, Pitch 25 is more than a sports bar. It has a mix of seating options — everything from couches and high-top tables to swings — a huge patio with a stage, and even a few games like shuffleboard and corn hole that will appeal to people who refer to all professional sports as “sports ball.”

Although the retired player had previously invested in a few bars and restaurants, Ching readily admits he needed assistance in operating the 25,000-square-foot venue. To bring his vision of a soccer bar to fruition, he partnered with his longtime friends Andy Aweida and Jeff Barati, who enlisted Kirby Group food and beverage director Steven Salazar and executive chef Brandon Silva to create the food and beverage options. But this isn’t just some branding agreement where an athlete slaps his name on a business, Ching tells CultureMap that he expects to be a regular presence at Pitch 25.  

“I’ll be here pretty much everyday, to be honest. It’s the first business I’ve helped grow from idea to what it is now, and it’s right across the street [from his office with the Dynamo],” Ching says. “It’s something I want to be a part of, because my name is on it. I feel like my reputation is on it. It’s not something I’m going into with just, here’s my name. I want to grow and learn every aspect of it.”

Like Holman Draft Hall and Heights Bier Garten, Pitch 25 features 100 taps of beer (mostly craft along with some national brands) and wine. Although it doesn’t have a set cocktail menu, the bartenders can make classics like an Old Fashioned, a French 75, or a margarita. Two frozen drinks will also be available.

Silva’s food menu focuses on sandwiches, burgers, salads, and vegetable starters. The Brian Ching burger includes pineapple and fried spam in tribute to his Hawaiian heritage.

All of those food and drinks will be available throughout the World Cup. Pitch 25 will open early for some matches, starting at 9 am on Thursday, June 14 for the opening match between Russia and Saudi Arabia. Reservations are available for groups who want to watch the matches together. 

“I think everybody that walks into this place kind of steps back and goes ‘wow.’” Ching says. “It’s big, it’s unique, it’s different. I think if we can capitalize on that, the World Cup will be a great time for people to come and enjoy.”

Salazar adds that it will be a challenge adapting to the early mornings, but his team is ready. “It’ll be long days, but we’re fully staffed. There’s 40 people ready to work the floor,” he says.

Even when the Cup champion has won the final match — Ching says he's rooting for Messi to lead Argentina to victory — Pitch 25 will be ready to provide EaDo residents and revelers with a new place to party. Salazar and his team certainly aim to achieve a business that's worthy of Ching's reputation. 

“We’re not underachievers here. We open big. We dream big. We serve high-quality products,” Salazar says. “If it’s in the realm of possibility, we aim to please. We’re all about hospitality and delivering for our customers.”


Pitch 25; 2120 Walker St.; Open Monday through Friday from 3 pm to 2 am, Saturday and Sunday from 11 am to 2 am.

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Composite photo by Jack Brame

Former Astros manager Andrew Jay Hinch is on a short list of candidates to become manager of the Detroit Tigers in 2021.

The question is, after being suspended and later fired for his role in the Astros sign-stealing scandal, does A.J. Hinch deserve to manage again in baseball?

It's weird to think because so much has happened in 2020, but Hinch was suspended and fired only nine months ago. His banishment, however, ends in a matter of weeks with the final out of the upcoming World Series. At that point, he will be available to manage the Tigers or any other team. There's a possibility that the Mets are interested. Some were hoping it'd be the Astros, but the Astros are committed to manager Dusty Baker for next year. After that … never say never.

Shortly after getting the Astros ax, Hinch went on MLB TV and apologized for his role in the Astros cheating scandal. Although baseball's investigation said the garbage can banging scheme was "with the exception of (Astros coach Alex) Cora, player-driven and player-executed," Hinch took responsibility as manager and didn't challenge his punishment. No players were punished.

"I still feel responsible and will always feel responsible as the man out front," Hinch said. "As the leader, I was in charge of the team. I put out a statement to apologize. But there is something different to doing it on camera and putting a face to an apology, and saying I'm sorry to the league, to baseball, to fans, to players, to the coaches.

"It happened on my watch. I'm not proud of that. I'll never be proud of it. I didn't like it. But I have to own it. And the commissioner's office made very, very clear that the GM and the manager were in position to make sure that nothing like this happened. And we fell short."

In effect, while Hinch didn't authorize or participate in the sign-stealing scandal, he didn't do enough (really anything) to stop it. He is the rare case of being a guilty bystander.

To be clear, Hinch has not been offered the Detroit manager job. However, he has more experience and more wins under his belt than most of the other candidates being considered.

Hinch's reputation is blemished, but his credentials can't be disputed. During his five years as Astros manager, the team never had a losing season, won 100 or more games three times, including a team record 107 wins last year, made the playoffs three times and won a World Series.

Has baseball forgiven Hinch, and does he deserve another chance to manage in the big leagues? This is America, the land of forgiveness and second chances.

As Mahatma Gandhi said, "The weak can never forgive. Forgiveness is the attribute of the strong."

Hinch knew his team was cheating and didn't do enough to stop it. There's no defense for that. But I think he's paid enough of a price to get back in baseball.

Mike Tyson raped a woman, went to jail, and now he's practically America's sweetheart. Hillary forgave Bill. We not only forgave Confederate leaders, we built schools and statues to honor them. Martha Stewart went to jail for insider trading, now she's back on TV baking crumpets. Ozzy Osbourne was arrested for pee'ing on a monument outside the Alamo, there is no more sacred place in Texas, and now he sells out concerts at the Cynthia Woods Mitchell Pavilion.

Pee-wee Herman, well, let's not say what he was caught doing, but he's planning to tour the U.S. celebrating the 35th anniversary of Pee-wee's Big Adventure movie.

Remember, Hinch was suspended for a year. It could have been worse. Baseball commissioner Rob Manfred has the power to ban people for life. Since becoming the commish, Manfred has permanently banished two people: former St. Louis Cardinals scouting director Chris Correa for hacking into the Astros computer database, and former Atlanta Braves general manager, John Coppolella for signing international players illegally.

Manfred also has temporarily banned Astros assistant general manager Brandon Taubman for shouting inappropriate comments at female reporters last year. Taubman is eligible to apply for reinstatement after this year's World Series. However, if he commits one more violation of baseball rules, he will be banned for life.

Lifetime bans aren't as unusual as you might think. Since baseball's beginnings in the 1800s, dozens of players, managers and team owners have been banned, mostly, like Pete Rose and the Chicago Black Sox, for gambling-related offenses.

A.J. Hinch copped to his crime, suffered the consequences, now it's time for him to manage a baseball team again. It's not like he'd be landing a plum job with Detroit. The Tigers are out of this year's playoff picture. They lost 114 games last season. And were 64-98 the two years prior. Managing the Tigers will be punishment enough.

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