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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Yordan Alvarez came up big in Game 5. Composite image by Jack Brame.

The Astros can win the pennant Friday night. Can't dangle the carrot any closer in front of the face than that. Taking the last two games at Fenway Park has the Astros in excellent position, but any notion that a third American League championship in five years is now inevitable, is silly. The Astros are probably 80 percent or better to advance, but of course the Red Sox could win games six and seven at Minute Maid Park à la the Nationals in the World Series two years ago. The Astros had all the momentum after winning three straight in D.C., came home for the coronation, and pfffft. You have momentum...until you don't. It's nothing to bank on. The Red Sox had all the "mo" after clobbering the Astros in games two and three of this AL championship series. Then Jose Altuve crushed the eighth inning tying home run in game four, ahead of the seven run volcanic eruption of a ninth inning. Nine more Astro runs later in game five, and here we are.

One key distinction that makes the Astros hand look stronger up 3-2 now than vs. the Nats, the Red Sox don't have Stephen Strasburg and Max Scherzer ready to pitch. Like Framber Valdez vs. Chris Sale in game five, game six is another starting pitching rematch. Alvin native Nathan Eovaldi grossly outpitched Luis Garcia in game two. We'll see if Sox manager Alex Cora winds up regretting even more using Eovaldi to start the fateful game four ninth inning. Eovaldi only threw 24 pitches, but three nights later we'll see what and how much he has in the tank.

After pitching horribly against the White Sox and then the Red Sox, and then citing a sore knee, Luis Garcia is his own huge question mark. So was Valdez before Wednesday spinning one of the great postseason pitching performances in Astros' history. Framber was awful in each of his first two postseason starts, absolutely magnificent in cruising through eight innings in game five. Should the Sox force Game Seven, Valdez certainly is a relief option on two days rest. Jose Urquidy would start, opposite Eduardo Rodriguez in a game three rematch.

Valdez and the Astros hope his next outing is Tuesday night in game one of the World Series. Ideally, at Minute Maid Park against the Atlanta Braves. Alas, the defending champion Dodgers remain alive and kicking, having won their fourth do or die game already in this postseason to send the National League Championship Series back to Atlanta. Now, if somehow we knew as fact that the Astros are going to win the World Series, I'd estimate approximately 99 percent of Astros' fans would prefer to beat L.A. Since we don't know that the Astros are going to win it all, getting the Braves would be more favorable for the Astros, if for no other reason than the Astros would get home-field advantage. Should the Braves make it, among other factoids Charlie Morton would be in his third World Series with three different teams in the last five seasons (Astros in 2017, Rays last year, Braves this). If the Braves can close out the Dodgers Saturday, Morton is Atlanta's likely game one starter at MMP. Provided the Astros are the AL Champs of course.

Watt a matchup for the Texans

The Texans play at Arizona Sunday. Yeah, and? You imagine that J.J. Watt and DeAndre Hopkins find the two team's current situations amusing? The Texans are a 1-5 stink bomb that will keep on stinking. The Cardinals are 6-0 and an emerging Super Bowl contender. While Deshaun Watson continues collecting about 600 thousand dollars per week to do nothing (and waiting to become a Miami Dolphin?), Kyler Murray has made the leap to upper echelon NFL quarterback.

Buzzer Beaters:

1. Decisions, decisions. Astros-Red Sox game 6 or Rockets home opener vs. Thunder. Tough call?

2. The Rockets will regularly be overmatched and probably lose 55 games or more again this season. At least they have young talent to offer some hope. The Texans presently have near nothing.

3. Best 2021 Astros' postseason journey signature food: Bronze-Atlanta/Los Angeles, anything? Silver-Chicago, deep dish pizza Gold-Boston, lobster roll

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