A rendering of the Houston Sports Hall of Fame at Green Street downtown. Courtesy Harris County-Houston Sports Authority
The Harris County – Houston Sports Authority Insider will take you inside Houston Sports each Friday because #WeAreHoustonSports!
Back in February, it was the exclamation point to a star-studded night celebrating the best athletes and moments in Houston sports.
With legendary 34s Nolan Ryan, Earl Campbell and Hakeem Olajuwon still taking bows as the event’s headline honorees, emcee Bill Worrell dropped the news about the creation of the Houston Sports Hall of Fame – an announcement a very few people in room – in fact in the entire city – knew was coming.
Fast forward three months to today when the Harris County – Houston Sports Authority, in partnership with Midway and Lionstone, is preparing to break ground on Phase One of the Hall on GreenStreet Promenade.
The event is set for June 4 at 3 p.m. and the actual groundbreaking will be open to the public. Prior to that, the first class of no-last-names-needed inductees – Nolan, Earl and Hakeem – will be presented with their Hall of Fame rings in a private ceremony.
Those rings – the latest bling for these multiple Hall of Famers – all have the No. 34 on them and were designed by Houston’s Fred Cuellar of Diamond Cutters International. Each one is unique to the player, team and sport.
Earl’s with be trimmed with Columbia blue stones for the Houston Oilers’ team colors, while Hakeem’s will be Houston Rockets red and Nolan’s will have Houston Astros orange. Nolan’s and Earl’s will have some gold trim, while Hakeem’s will have platinum. His Muslim faith does not allow him to wear gold.
In case you’re wondering, Hakeem’s long slim fingers mean he has the smallest ring at size 11. Nolan wears a 14 and Earl is a size 20.
Mayor Sylvester Turner and other city officials will be on hand to honor the inaugural inductees and help break ground on the Walk of Fame. Each inductee will have his own plaque along the Walk, which runs from the House of Blues through the GreenStreet Promenade.
"It's incredible what this will mean to all Houstonians,’’ said Harris County-Houston Sports Authority CEO Janis Burke. “This will outlive us all as a way to honor some of the greatest athletes ever to play their respective sports. And the proximity to Minute Maid Park, Toyota Center and the George R. Brown Convention Center will allow visitors from all over the world to honor them as well.''
The Walk is simply the first phase of the new Hall of Fame. Additional phases will have interactive components as well as LED displays.
The final phase will be the an actual interior space for the Hall of Fame and the Hall’s first exhibit will be the 8-foot paintings by Houston’s Opie Otterstad of each member of the inaugural class which were unveiled at the Houston Sports Awards.
While most of the Astros roster is returning for the 2024 season, there are still some areas of uncertainty for the club. Astros manager Joe Espada will have some tough decisions to make in his first season managing the team.
The Astros infield is set, so we know who will be playing on a nightly basis, assuming health. The outfield is where things get tricky. Espada told the Houston Chronicle last week that he hopes to play Alvarez more in left field this season, which would open up the DH spot for Chas McCormick and players he would like to rest while keeping their bat in the lineup (Yainer Diaz, Jose Altuve, etc).
Astros GM Dana Brown would like to see if Jake Meyers can hit well enough to play regularly in center field. This is a team that stresses defense, which Meyers provides. But if defense is the top priority, wouldn't that mean Chas McCormick should play left field with Yordan Alvarez hitting in the DH spot?
Certainly, there will be nights when that's the case. The reality of the situation is all these guys are going to play, but how much and where is yet to be seen.
Houston plays 20 games in 21 days to start the season, so it's not going to take long to see if Meyers is providing enough offense to play regularly. If we get into the month of May and Meyers is an offensive liability in the lineup, we won't be surprised if his playing time starts to decrease. But by how much?
Don't miss the video as we examine how Joe Espada will deploy his outfielders and get the most out of the DH this season!
Watch Stone Cold 'Stros (an Astros podcast) every week on SportsMapHouston's YouTube channel.