—————————————————— Best Commentator 2008 | Jim Deshaies — ­Houston Astros, Fox Sports ­Houston | Best of Houston® | Best Restaurants, Bars, Clubs, Music and Stores in Houston | Houston Press

Jim Deshaies had some tough shoes to fill when he took over the Astros analyst spot from Larry Dierker. But let's just say, as J.D. settles into his second decade as the Astros TV analyst, that he has not only surpassed Dierker, he has perhaps surpassed every other analyst in baseball. The former starting pitcher knows the ins and outs of the game, from pitching to hitting to fielding to strategy. Best of all, he's not a homer, and if the good guys goof up, he'll let you know how and why. And then there's his quick wit and his ability to throw out a Seinfeld reference or obscure pop culture trivia at a moment's notice. Nothing gets past Deshaies, and, if you pay attention, you'll learn more from him than just about any baseball geek in the country.

Yeah, yeah, we've all heard dozens of Aggie jokes — but the joke might be on us. Aggies call Bryan/College Station home, and the area is a lovely corner of open spaces, bluebonnets and historic buildings. Just two hours northwest of Houston, Bryan/College Station offers great restaurants, a restored downtown, dozens of antique stores and art galleries, and several family attractions, all with a down-home attitude and (here's the really good part) down-home prices. There are a number of excellent museums, among them the George Bush Presidential Library, the Brazos Valley Museum of Natural History and the Brazos Valley African American Museum. If you time your trip right, you can attend events including the annual Texas Reds Steak & Grape Festival, the Messina Hof Winery & Resort Harvest, rodeos and minor league baseball games.

Photo courtesy Mulligan's

Mulligan's Golf is a laid-back place where you can have a good time and shank a few balls without being called a "trunk slammer." The range is hidden along a stretch of FM 1960 filled with empty retail strips. But Mulligan's has survived for close to 15 years. It's a family-owned place, and the owner's son, Stephen Pierce, recently returned to serve as Mulligan's teaching pro. Pierce, who met his wife at Mulligan's, offers lessons by appointment. The pro shop will re-grip or re-shaft your clubs, and beer is also for sale. There's also a nine-hole, par-three course if you feel like getting off the range. Both the range and the course are open until 9 p.m. and lighted.

Pat Onstad is the best goalie in Major League Soccer. Period. That's why we're glad he plays for us. Nobody tops the keeper's ability at dashing a shooter's hopes of getting a goooooaaaaal! Sure, scoring helps in the winning department, but those points would mean jack if the other team were able to turn around and match them. Onstad also knows his defenders and is able to organize and work around them in order to create one killer first line of defense. If you have any doubts about his skill, just take a look at some recent 2008 season games where he's been MIA. He was actually playing for the Canadian National Team. Oh, Canada, is there anything you can't do?

If you own a pistol/rifle/weapon, chances are you have a favorite place to shoot — and Top Gun should be that place, with its spacious indoor range and cheap fees. Monday is seniors' day, and anyone older than 62 can shoot for free. Women get the same deal on Wednesdays. There's a nice area to relax, decked out with hunting lodge-esque furniture and decor. The store has a cafeteria, meeting rooms and plenty of friendly staffers. The real genius of Top Gun, however, is that even if you don't own a gun, you can still unload with an Uzi. For $30 an hour, anyone older than 21 can rent a fully automatic weapon — including the Thompson submachine gun — though the deal comes with a "babysitter" for the range. Handguns are also available for $10 per hour. The store offers a variety of classes, from concealed handgun certification to training with tactical weapons. Top Gun gets bonus points for recycling all spent cartridges and for its nice display of Star Trek and Star Wars memorabilia, including official Luke Skywalker and Darth Vader Lightsabers, and a Storm Trooper Blaster.

Erstad isn't new in the rookie sense of the word, he's just another new guy on a team full of other new guys. Besides just being an all-around badass (he's been to the MLB All-Star Game twice and has won a Gold Glove three times), he's just a good, old hardworking dude. He's no slouch like some other unnamed Astros, and there's nobody else on the roster this season we'd rather see walk into the batter's box to pinch-hit during a clutch situation. At age 34, he'll keep performing and will still be an Astro for at least a few more years, we hope.

As long as you're there before dark, Eleanor Tinsley offers a pleasant tour of Buffalo Bayou with plenty of pleasant scenery and shade. The trail follows the bayou below the theater district, through Buffalo Bayou Art Park, past the new public skatepark and through plenty of tree-filled openings, all with the skyline in the background. The twists and turns allow for a choose-your-own-adventure workout to keep you from seeing the same old thing day after day. But if routine is your style, there are plenty of trails perfect for your short- or long-distance trek. And with so many options, you never have to worry about breaking out of the pack or slowing down the people behind you.

The Armand Bayou Nature Center is a good place to be outside. Located in a suburban neighborhood in far south Houston, the center is not "off-the-beaten-path" cool, but it is a big area where you can experience a lot of nature-y things. One of those is a canoe trip down the Armand Bayou. The nature center offers a guided trip on the second and fourth Saturdays of each month. About a three-mile round trip, it costs $25 and reservations are required. We can't guarantee you'll see anything breathtaking — you might — but Armand Bayou has enough of a backwater atmosphere to make you feel Deliverance.

We wouldn't be surprised if Doomsday sent one of its "wrestlers" to our door to fake beat us up for this award. We tested fate last year by naming the athletic-comedy-acting troupe as Best Comedy Show. But we'll take our chances once again in order to tip our hat to antics that would either piss off the wrestlers of WWF or make them laugh so hard they pee their pants. Forget the fights — the competitors alone will have you in stitches before the bell for round one. Doomsday's roster includes Bill "The Thrill" Korczynski, a geriatric has-been who's been defeated in the ring by more heart attacks than opponents. Kosher Killer, Russian Bear and The Stormin' Mormons make up the ever-increasing variety of beefed-up stereotypes and other fighters we're not so sure about, including Precious Jewels, a gender-bending oppressor who dons a head-to-toe, sparkly pink S&M suit and defeats his opponents by dry-humping them. These guys and more are matched up for bouts that result in both headlocks and hilarity. Ding!

Although not an officially recognized dog park, this is one of the most popular spots for people and their pooches. It features tons of open, flat space for walking, running and playing fetch. There are woodsy areas for the more inquisitive canines, and its right on Buffalo Bayou, perfect for swimming or a quick cool-down. Its situated at the bottom of a hill, a good ways away from the road, so you dont have to worry about Fluffy wandering into traffic. And, perhaps most importantly, the folks who use this park are pretty darn good at picking up after their dogs. So remember to bring a bag — or two.

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