What better place for a Dartmouth man than wearing the Tools of Ignorance behind home plate? Ausmus, 34, is a certified Ivy Leaguer with a degree in government that probably does him absolutely no good as he mentors the Astros' young but erratic pitching staff ("Wade, I think a bicameral legislature with a strong chief executive would produce a call for an inside slider right about now..."). But he's a certified student of the game, a leader who knows about patience and chemistry, and a defensive whiz -- he's won a Gold Glove two years in a row. Hitting? Don't ask. He's got a career average near an adequate .250, but he can struggle through some deep slumps. (Among Dartmouth grads who've taken ballet lessons in college, though, he's the all-time Major League leader.) The Astros don't need his bat, however, as much as they need his pitch-calling acumen and his ability to throw out runners. And in those categories he's among the best in the game today.
It's not easy being an athlete. You make millions of dollars, and the public expects you to perform at the highest level and not be a jerk. Craig Biggio is no longer able to perform at the highest level. There's also word that he can be a bit of a jerk. But he's the Sportsman of the Year because of his actions off the playing field. He's a prominent supporter of the Sunshine Kids, an organization that helps fulfill wishes of children with cancer. He's raised over a million dollars for the organization. He invites the kids and their families out to the ballpark. He and his wife visit hospitals and kids' homes. And every year he sponsors a baseball game in which he pitches and the children get to play. In this case, the sins of the player are easy to forgive.
It's not easy being an athlete. You make millions of dollars, and the public expects you to perform at the highest level and not be a jerk. Craig Biggio is no longer able to perform at the highest level. There's also word that he can be a bit of a jerk. But he's the Sportsman of the Year because of his actions off the playing field. He's a prominent supporter of the Sunshine Kids, an organization that helps fulfill wishes of children with cancer. He's raised over a million dollars for the organization. He invites the kids and their families out to the ballpark. He and his wife visit hospitals and kids' homes. And every year he sponsors a baseball game in which he pitches and the children get to play. In this case, the sins of the player are easy to forgive.
Only one coach in this city has led a team to four straight championships. While his point guard died from cancer. While his two star players fought so much that it made the Clyde-and-Chuckster feud look like a couple of preschoolers fighting over a toy. While his home court got wiped out by a flood. Yes, Van Chancellor has had to deal with a lot of problems, but he's kept his team together, he's kept his wits, and he's continued to do the best commercials on sports radio. This season, he's had only one constant, Tina Thompson, one of the few holdovers from the championship years. Half of his team has been injured at one time or another. Yet he's kept the team in the playoff hunt and still done his media appearances with good humor. Bravo.
Only one coach in this city has led a team to four straight championships. While his point guard died from cancer. While his two star players fought so much that it made the Clyde-and-Chuckster feud look like a couple of preschoolers fighting over a toy. While his home court got wiped out by a flood. Yes, Van Chancellor has had to deal with a lot of problems, but he's kept his team together, he's kept his wits, and he's continued to do the best commercials on sports radio. This season, he's had only one constant, Tina Thompson, one of the few holdovers from the championship years. Half of his team has been injured at one time or another. Yet he's kept the team in the playoff hunt and still done his media appearances with good humor. Bravo.
They don't get half-hour specials on KTRK. Ken Hoffman doesn't write about judging their tryouts. Rich and Charlie don't talk about one of them being robbed for not making the squad. No. The Power Dancers just show up every night -- for far more games than the Texans' cheerleaders. They have actual dance talent and routines with real choreographed moves. They even sit on the sidelines and cheer at times. They're pretty good-looking, too. Best of all, among their tight-fitting costumes are shirts with political statements for animal rights. Go Rockets! Go little dogs and cats! Rah. Rah. Rah.
They don't get half-hour specials on KTRK. Ken Hoffman doesn't write about judging their tryouts. Rich and Charlie don't talk about one of them being robbed for not making the squad. No. The Power Dancers just show up every night -- for far more games than the Texans' cheerleaders. They have actual dance talent and routines with real choreographed moves. They even sit on the sidelines and cheer at times. They're pretty good-looking, too. Best of all, among their tight-fitting costumes are shirts with political statements for animal rights. Go Rockets! Go little dogs and cats! Rah. Rah. Rah.
There's just something about a woman in a hockey jersey grabbing a big beer in one hand and slamming the sideline glass with the other as she screams for someone, anyone, to beat the pulp out of some visiting glamour-puss center. But even if there weren't, there'd still be something special about Houston Aeros fans. Maybe it's because the Aeros play a sport most Houstonians rank up there with team handball; maybe it's because they're a minor-league franchise and therefore offer family-friendly prices, but the thousands of dedicated Aeroheads are definitely a fun and fanatic bunch. (Speaking of prices, an Aeros game will be the cheapest way to get a glimpse of the new downtown arena.) They definitely know their stuff, which is likely more than you'll be able to say about the wine-swilling corporate types who'll occasionally take in a business-expense game if Houston lands an NHL franchise. Not to mention the Aeros' active fan club, the Tailgunners, which sponsors charity events and even "Feed the Team" dinners.
There's just something about a woman in a hockey jersey grabbing a big beer in one hand and slamming the sideline glass with the other as she screams for someone, anyone, to beat the pulp out of some visiting glamour-puss center. But even if there weren't, there'd still be something special about Houston Aeros fans. Maybe it's because the Aeros play a sport most Houstonians rank up there with team handball; maybe it's because they're a minor-league franchise and therefore offer family-friendly prices, but the thousands of dedicated Aeroheads are definitely a fun and fanatic bunch. (Speaking of prices, an Aeros game will be the cheapest way to get a glimpse of the new downtown arena.) They definitely know their stuff, which is likely more than you'll be able to say about the wine-swilling corporate types who'll occasionally take in a business-expense game if Houston lands an NHL franchise. Not to mention the Aeros' active fan club, the Tailgunners, which sponsors charity events and even "Feed the Team" dinners.
Minute Maid Park
Forget about the stupid corporate name and that god-awful choo-choo train in left field. The best new stadium in Houston is the oldest new stadium in Houston: Minute Maid Park, a.k.a. the Juice Box, Home Run Field and Sponsorship Stadium. Minute Maid wins simply because it offers the best, and most interactive, fan experience in Houston: Sit in the Crawford Boxes and catch pop fly home runs. Sit in the field boxes and interfere with a ball in play. Our favorite seats are in right field on the first level, under the overhang, where we don't have to watch the DiamondVision screen. Go get a $10 hot dog and enjoy.

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