What, you think Lance Berkman materialized inside Minute Maid Park at the hands of some benevolent baseball god? Houstonians have reason to be grateful to the Rice Owls men's baseball team, not only for the wonder that is Berkman, but also for the city's most recent national championship (2003) and top-caliber baseball weeks before the 'Stros take the field. The Owls finished 2004 ranked tenth in the nation by Collegiate Baseball; they remain in the top 15 for 2005. Thirty former Rice baseball players were playing professionally in 2004 -- four as major-leaguers, including Berkman and Bubba Crosby of the New York Yankees. Under the tenure of head coach Wayne Graham, who will be inducted into the Texas Sports Hall of Fame this month, the team has made four trips to the College World Series and has won eight straight Western Athletic Conference championships. Three of Rice's pitchers went in the top eight in the 2004 MLB draft. And as if that weren't enough, they have rescued Houstonians from the sports wasteland that is February.
For once, you might leave the mall feeling good about the money you've spent (and how many calories you've burned). The ALS Association of Houston is hosting a three-mile "Walk to d'Feet ALS" this weekend around the perimeter of the First Colony Mall parking lot. Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, which most of us know as Lou Gehrig's disease, kills someone every 90 minutes, and a new case is diagnosed in the same amount of time. Walk participants can help lower this ratio: Proceeds from the walk will support ALS sufferers and their families and will fund research to improve treatments for the disease. Walkers can register in advance or at the event, which begins at 8 a.m. on Sunday, February 20. 16535 Southwest Freeway. For information, call 713-942-2572 or visit www.alsa-houston.org. $35. -– Julia Ramey