HARRIS COUNTY - HSA INSIDER

A weekly look at all things Houston sports this week from the Harris County - Houston Sports Authority

A weekly look at Houston sports. Harris County - Houston Sports Authority

They captured our imagination, then they captured our hearts.

Those Houston Astros kept us on the edge of our seats for seven epic nights with head-shaking defensive plays and an offense that wouldn’t quit. They kept us trusting each other and kept us believing.

They took a swing at history and came away with their first World Series title.

Today, Houston will come together with the Astros to celebrate each other with a #HoustonStrong parade downtown. It’ll put an exclamation point on an incredible season and another huge sports event.

And, yes, we’re already working on the next big event – the 2024 College Football Playoff National Championship.

Houston was awarded the Jan. 8, 2024 game which will be played at NRG Stadium.

In less than two years, Houston has hosted the 2016 Final Four, the 2017 Super Bowl and the 2017 World Series. The Final Four and Super Bowl together generated an estimated $600 million for the economy and showcased not only Houston’s sports venues, but also a thriving downtown area with the Hilton-Americas,  Discovery Green and the George R. Brown Convention Center that’s perfect for a big-event experience.

In event terms, Houston has everything in place.

“Both the Final Four and Super Bowl had very successful footprints with the fan fests and music fests,’’ said Doug Hall, VP of Special Projects for the Harris County – Houston Sports Authority “

“The downtown experience has been great for the fans and the light-rail component connects us with the venues. It gives us the best of both.’’

Bill Hancock, executive director of the CFP, said Houston had demonstrated it’s mettle for college sports adding, ““Houston is one of the most venue-rich cities in the country with a great, modern stadium, multiple convention centers/arenas and a downtown park that will make for a terrific festival setting for our attendees.”

Hall estimates the 2024 championship game could bring $300 million to the local economy.

* * *

The Houston Business Journal released its list of Houston’s top-20 most influential sports leaders this week and it’s a who’s-who.

Take it from Houston Rockets owner Tilman Feritta, who told HBJ, "From ownership to presidents to general managers and coaches ... I don't think you've ever had it as strong (as it is now in Houston).

As you’d expect, Fertitta, Astros owner Jim Crane, Astros manager A.J. Hinch, Texans owner Bob McNair topped a list that also included two women -- Janis Burke, chief executive officer for the Harris County – Houston Sports Authority, and Suzie Thomas, the executive vice president, general counsel and chief administrative officer for the Houston Texans.

Others on the list included  Dynamo CEO Chris Canetti, Texans President Jamey Rootes, Houston Golf Association executive director Steve Timms and Joel Cowley, President/CEO of Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo.

For the full list:

https://www.bizjournals.com/houston/news/2017/10/31/see-houstons-top-20-most-influential-leaders-in.html?ana=e_hstn_bn&u=urYkvDVVf%2BSFvNNiDGWL5g0f4c79be&t=1509549134&j=79089411

* * *

With visions of all those incredible Astros plays still dancing through your heads – one of George Springer’s homeruns, an Alex Bregman defensive play or a performance from Justin Verlander or Charlie Morton – start thinking about your nominations for the inaugural Houston Sports Awards. You’ve seen moments from the Texans, the Rockets, college and high school teams, so make a list. There will the 10 different awards presented at the Feb. 8 event at the Hilton-Americas and the selection committee wants to know what you think.

Go to www.houstonsportsawards.com to submit your nominations and get sponsorship, ticket and table information.

 

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The Astros suffered a heartbreaking loss to the Yankees Thursday. Composite image by Brandon Strange.

After an impressive two-game sweep of the NL-best Mets at home earlier in the week, the Astros took to the road to begin a four-game series with the league-best Yankees on Thursday night. To little surprise, the series started with a bang (no, not a trash can bang) in more ways than one, confirming that this series should be a must-watch this weekend.

New York's comeback proves no lead will be safe

Right from the get-go, the loud Yankee Stadium faithful had their chance to rain boos down on Jose Altuve before showing some pleasure as he led off the series by being hit by a pitch. They were quickly, though only temporarily, quieted as Altuve would come in to score two batters later on a three-run blast by Alex Bregman.

Three-run homers seemed to be a theme, as New York would get one of their own to tie the game off the bat of Giancarlo Stanton to tie the game, then Yordan Alvarez continued his dominant June by pushing the Astros back in front by three with another three-run bomb in the third, making it 6-3. That lead held through to the bottom of the ninth, where instead of holding it, Ryan Pressly issued two walks to set up the fourth homer of the game to tie things again before Aaron Judge would get a walk-off single to complete the impressive comeback.

Not only will we get to sit back and watch the slug-fest between Yordan and Judge this weekend, but it looks like with Alex Bregman swinging well again to round out the top of Houston's order, the Astros may be getting closer to their full power. So far in June, these two teams sit third and fourth in on-base percentage, with the Astros at .351 and the Yankees right behind at .350. That means we should continue to see scoring opportunities on both sides that can tilt momentum one way or the other as these lineups try to battle against the opposing pitcher.

How will the aces fare

Verlander vs. Judge, and Cole vs. Alvarez, need I say more? Although we won't see Justin Verlander go up against Gerrit Cole in the same game in this series (they should go head to head next Thursday, however), they will pitch on back-to-back days, with Houston's ace going Friday night and New York's on Saturday afternoon. Verlander is coming off his worst start of the year, a three and two-thirds inning outing where the White Sox put up seven runs, four earned, against him and knocked him out early to give him his third loss and increased his ERA from 1.94 to 2.30.

The last time he faced the Yankees was in the Bronx in the 2019 playoffs, in ALCS Game 5, where he went seven frames while allowing four runs, all on two homers in the first inning, which is all New York needed to grab the 4-1 victory to make it a 3-2 Houston lead in the series, which the Astros would go on to clinch in Game 6. So, with the double dose of bad taste in his mouth, it will be interesting to see if he can use that as the fuel to get back to the phenomenal form he's had this year or if the Yankees try to jump on him early like they did nearly three years ago.

Cole, meanwhile, is fresh off of two quality starts in a row against the Rays, where he allowed just one run on six hits with nineteen strikeouts over 13.1 innings of work. He's had his share of strife this season, though, including a seven-run shelling by the Twins earlier this month, along with a start in April where he couldn't make it through two innings against the Tigers. He's had success against his former club, most notably a complete-game shutout in Houston last July with twelve K's and holding the Astros to just three hits.

If the series opener was any indication, we are in for the treat of a playoff-caliber matchup, if not a potential ALCS preview that we may see in October. The Yankees showed why they have the best record and are the hottest team in baseball on Thursday night, but the Astros were only a good outing from their closer away from having a relatively lopsided win. The rivalry is real; the competition is close, and we get to enjoy the show.

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