10 QUESTIONS FOR CLINT

Ken Hoffman throws 10 questions to Houston's 'most successful baseball manager'

Photo courtesy of Clint Sauls

This article originally appeared on CultureMap.

Not to take anything away from Houston Astros manager A.J. Hinch, but he's won how many World Series championships? One? That's so cute. (We kid, A.J.)

Meet Clint Sauls, the most successful baseball manager in Houston history. In 10 years as manager of the West University Seniors team (ages 15 to 16, the oldest division in Little League), Sauls has won eight state titles, six regional titles, and two World Series crowns.

And we're talking an actual global World Series, including eight international teams from places like Africa, the Middle East, Europe, Asia, and Australia. West U is going for another title this week in Easley, South Carolina (Full disclosure: the first base coach for West U sleeps down the hall from me).

West U, representing the U.S. Southwest, won its opening round game on July 28, beating Wilmington, Delaware (representing U.S. East), 4-2. The team plays again 3 pm Tuesday, July 30, against undefeated Hawaii.

It's a hot ticket. Every game of the tournament is streaming live on ESPN Plus. The final game of the World Series, pitting the U.S. champs vs. the international winners, airs Saturday, August 3, on ESPN 2.

I caught up with Sauls as he was figuring out his pitching rotation for this week.

CultureMap: Why did you start coaching Little League?

Sauls: After graduating from Georgia Southern University, I got into coaching. I coached two years of high school ball as an assistant, and 2001-02 at Furman University, where I was the pitching coach and recruiting guy. I made $5,000 dollars and lived on a friend's couch.

That's when I realized I needed to make a better living, so I got into sales. I met my wife, and we came to Houston. I always missed coaching. I told her I wanted to make Houston our home and get involved in the community. What better way then Little League baseball?

CM:  People may not know, but there are six different age divisions in Little League. Why did you pick the Seniors (ages 15-16) to coach?

CS: It was the most similar to the ages I had coached prior, and West U had a rule that no parents could coach after 12-year-old division. It made sense, and I love it.

CM: When you manage a team of 15- and 16-year-old boys, are you more a baseball strategist or child psychologist?

CS: Both, I think. We only get these kids for about two months so we don't ever mess with mechanical things like swings or pitching motions. It's all strategy and learning what to do in certain situation. The other part is child psychologist.

Kids at this age can still be very emotional. I try to get to know each personality and coach to that as best we can. No one gets special treatment. It just helps to know who each kid is and how to get the most out of them.

Continue on CultureMap to read about parents brawling in the stands at Little League games.

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Houston drops the opener

Angels use big sixth inning to take opener from Astros

Houston's offense started hot, then went cold Monday. Photo by Elsa/Getty Images.

With a 2-1 series win under their belt to start this ten-game homestand, the Astros turned the page to a three-game set with the Angels on Monday night. Things started strong for Houston, building an early lead, but it would erode in the middle innings as the Angels would respond with a big sixth inning to take the opener.

Final Score: Angels 5, Astros 4

Astros' Record: 18-17, tied for second in the AL West

Winning Pitcher: Jose Suarez (1-0)

Losing Pitcher: Brandon Bielak (1-2)

Houston Builds an early lead

After a 1-2-3 top of the first by Luis Garcia, Houston would start the scoring in the bottom of the inning. Back-to-back walks set things off, setting up an RBI ground-rule double by Alex Bregman, giving them the 1-0 lead. Kyle Tucker lead the bottom of the second off with a double, then came around to score on an RBI single by Myles Straw, then Michael Brantley made it 3-0 with an RBI double later in the inning.

Los Angeles roars back to take the lead

Los Angeles trimmed the lead to two runs in the top of the fourth with an RBI double, but Houston was able to get that run back on another RBI by Straw in the bottom of the fifth. Things fell apart for Garcia in the top of the sixth, with back-to-back one-out solo homers trimming the lead to one run and ending his night there: 5.1 IP, 5 H, 3 ER, 2 BB, 7 K, 2 HR, 92 P.

The Angels didn't stop there, getting two more runs to take the lead off of Brandon Bielak, who managed just one out while blowing the lead. Brooks Raley would enter to get the final out of the inning, then tried to keep the deficit at one run when he returned in the top of the seventh. It looked like things might unravel for him, allowing the first two batters to reach base on a walk and single, but he would battle back to strike out the next three straight to strand both.

Angels take the opener

Joe Smith took over in the top of the eighth, still 5-4, but would get two outs while allowing a double in his three batters before Houston moved on to Kent Emanuel, who finished the inning off. After another scoreless inning for Houston's offense, Emanuel remained in the game in the top of the ninth to keep a walk-off chance alive, and he would do so by erasing a walk to send the one-run game to the bottom half. The Astros wouldn't pull off a comeback, though, dropping the opener to Los Angeles.

Up Next: The middle game of this series will be another 7:10 PM Central start on Tuesday night. It shapes up to be an exciting pitching matchup, with Lance McCullers Jr. (2-1, 3.58 ERA) for Houston going up against the two-way star Shohei Ohtani (1-0, 2.41 ERA) for Los Angeles.

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