THANKS, LANCE!

Lance McCullers gives lucky fans free tickets to World Series

The fiery McCullers is passionate about giving back to fans. Photo by Tim Bradbury/Getty Images

This article originally appeared on CultureMap.

Houston Astros pitcher Lance McCullers, Jr. may not be playing in the World Series, but the fiery fan favorite and local philanthropist is still very much part of the action.

McCullers, who was a pivotal and impactful piece of the 2017 Astros squad that clinched the World Series title, has been in Florida rehabbing following Tommy John surgery on his elbow. While the pitcher has been impressively returning to form, he's also been watching for Astros fans who are going above and beyond — and rewarding them.

It started with Forrest Magee, a Houstonian and a long-time Astros fan, whose hilarious (and relatable) excited reaction to a play during Game 4 of the ALCS went viral.

"I was watching the game and I was like, 'Man, it's really cool that that kid is sitting by himself in New York and repping the Astros like that,' McCullers tells CultureMap. McCullers asked for ways to contact Magee on social media, reached out to Magee on Twitter, and thanked him and invited him to a game, offering him two tickets.

Then there was the ugly moment that also went viral, when a trio of Astros fans were bullied and harassed during Game 5 of the ALCS at Yankee Stadium. Cruz Arcia, Jr., Nathan Rocha, and Kristina Contreras had beer, popcorn, and other food dumped on them and were nearly assaulted by Yankees fans before security stepped in.

McCullers stepped in, too, offering Arcia two tickets to a World Series game. "As a player for the Astros our fans are an extension of our community and our family that we have in the clubhouse," says McCullers. "They're the ones who support us. So, I wanted to make it right. I wanted them to know that I appreciate them going on the road and supporting us — because that's financially expensive and can be intimidating going into opposing stadiums to support a team. I wanted to make it right for them getting their game messed up, and also wanted them to know that I appreciate them supporting us."

His generosity doesn't stop there—he's also offered a chance at four World Series tickets through his Lance McCullers Jr. Foundation. "We're helping animals, which I'm really passionate about, and giving animal enthusiasts and Astros fans a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity," he says.

For McCullers, the generosity is about his chance to interact with fans and give back. "Not everyone has the kind of platform that a lot of guys on our team have," he says. "I think everyone on our team uses it responsibly and for good."

The 25-year-old also sees a chance to leave his mark long after his days in an Astros uniform are over. "One day, there will be new players wearing Astros jerseys, there'll be new reporters taking to players, new guys winning games and winning homers," he says.

Continue on CultureMap for McCullers' thoughts on how the World Series will play out.

Photo by Alex Bierens de Haan

What a week.The Rockets look terrible in losing consecutive games to losing teams, and that doesn't register as the tiniest ripple in the week's pond of Houston sports woe. Pond? More like ocean.

The Astros are irrefutably confirmed for all-time as cheaters and liars over a multi-season period. Jim Crane is no idiot, but specifically on the issue of whether the Astros' 2017 World Series championship is tainted, Jim Crane is an idiot if he really thinks it is not. Astro lackeys, toadies, and homers should stop the "a bunch of other teams did it too!" and "Mike Fiers is an a-hole" lameness. The Astros were guilty, caught, and deserved to get hammered. If/when others are proven as guilty as the Astros, so should they be hammered.

So after Major League Baseball Commissioner Rob Manfred's lowering of a rightful boom, and then Jim Crane firing Jeff Luhnow and A.J. Hinch, what does it all mean for the 2020 Astros? It's a wow of a story, but really not a crisis. The loss of Gerrit Cole is much more meaningful. Luhnow's shoes are fairly easily filled for this season. Hence for now, Crane himself will head up baseball operations. The Astros weren't and aren't pursuing any meaningful free agents or major trades. Before his demise Luhnow finished the financial corner cutting moves that filled out the roster.

It's not as if Luhnow's personal expertise made all scouting, drafting, and signing decisions. And now the Astros have no first or second round pick to make this June anyway. 30 year old Pete Putila is the ranking baseball guy still employed by the club, but he is a branch of the Luhnow tree. If Crane's goal is the "housecleaning" he termed the Luhnow and Hinch firings as being, how can he promote a Luhnow lieutenant? Every front office in baseball has shrewd analytic minds, looking to move up. Crane can easily hire one of them.

As for field manager, Hinch was a great handler of people (well….with one kind of important exception) but this roster is strong enough to operate on autopilot to a good extent. Bench coach Joe Espada is highly regarded and been a finalist for other managerial gigs. But he was on Hinch's staff when cheating was ongoing in 2018. That seems pretty much disqualifying. Two known interviewees are quality options, though neither has skippered a team to the World Series. Buck Showalter was always extremely highly regarded, John Gibbons steered the Blue Jays to back-to-back American League Championship Series appearances in 2015 and 2016. Between those two I'd lean Showalter but either would be fine.

How thankful are Bill O'Brien and the Texans for the Astros' mess grabbing all the headlines not even 24 hours after the Texans' collapse in Kansas City? It's almost impossible to get blown out of an NFL game in which you lead 24-nothing. Almost. The Texans pulled it off! Won't that cute little AFC South Champion banner be extra cute when it hangs next season? Hangs like a dead man from a noose.

As I put it last week, the Chiefs' offense is better than the Texans' offense, the Chiefs' defense better than the Texans' defense, and the Chiefs' coaching better than the Texans' coaching. But the way the game played out was still preposterous.

If Travis Kelce had beaten Lonnie Johnson any worse than he did Johnson's name should have been legally changed to Rented Mule. J.J. Watt was essentially a zero. No tackles, no assists on tackles, no sacks, no quarterback hits. Are you going to pay 15 and a half million dollars to a 31 year old Watt after his three major injuries in the last four seasons. That's a yes.

At least we have clarity that the Texans must dedicate their first round pick to a pass rusher or a defensive back. Wait, they don't have a first round pick. Well, in 2021 then. Wait. Bill O'Brien traded that away too. Speaking of O'Brien…

Opting for the field goal on fourth and one up 21-0 early second quarter was not indefensible. However, O'Brien's explanation for doing so was pitiful. The fake punt? Most agree, dumb.But not absolutely indefensible. This was the O'Brien Is Not Fit For Command moment of the game: He needed to use a timeout, with 11:45 left in the fourth quarter, the Texans down 17, facing fourth and fourth and four, in Chiefs' territory, to decide to go for the first down rather than punt. A cinder block could have displayed the same game management IQ. O'Brien has three seasons left on his contract. Unless Cal McNair takes a decidedly different tack than his father did, O'Brien's job is as safe as any Supreme Court Justice's.

Speaking of Cal, since the loss he's been spotted as often and been as vocal this week as Alex Bregman.

Buzzer Beaters

1. So, if guaranteed the truth: For a million dollars is your bet Altuve was wearing something or not? 2. Alex Cora should be banned from ever again managing a Major League team. 3. Famous "scandals": Bronze-Teapot Dome Silver-Patty Smyth fronted band, had big hit with Goodbye to You Gold-Kerry Washington and the TV show.

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