Houston Astros second baseman Jose Altuve may have appeared to have been surrounded by a forest of towering people at the After-School All-Stars North Texas‘ “Rising Stars Luncheon” VIP meet-and-greet on Wednesday, March 28, at Northwood Country Club. But there was no doubt that he was a the man-of-the-hour … well, almost. But more about that later.
The day really started off the day before, with organizers warning that Jose would be arriving just before noon for quick photo opps. That was the plan. He was to arrive via the Astros flight to Dallas on Wednesday in preparation for the Thursday season opener against the Rangers at Globe Life Park. When he found out that the arrival was pushed off to Thursday in time for the afternoon game, Jose took a United flight Wednesday arriving at Northwood at 11.
Not to worry. In shirt and blue jeans, Jose accommodated all with a knock-out smile for photos with the Presenting Sponsor Conlon family (Robyn and Don Conlon, Marybeth and Kevin Conlon, Meagan and Keith Conlon and Lizzie and Casey Conlon), Nancy C. Rogers, Gina Betts and son Jack Betts, the Cooley girls (Bela Cooley, Ciara Cooley and Lisa Cooley), 2018 Cattle Baron’s Ball Co-Chairs Katy Bock and Jonika Nix, April Abney-Lambert, Kersten Rettig and Luke Lange and his entourage . In between shots, he took his place on a nearby couch and checked his cellphone.
Right on schedule, the doors to the ballroom opened just before noon and guests found their tables. The problem was for the folks in the back of the room. There were a couple of pillars that blocked their view of the stage. Still, there were four mega-screens in each corner of the room. Alas, the screens proved not so helpful when the chat between Jose and Brad took place in a dark hole of the room. No live viewing was offered and the acoustics proved lackluster, at times going totally silent.
Amazingly, guests took their seats and one or two wondered what would happen when no one arrived at the dais. Eventually, ASAS National Network President Aaron Dworkin hopped up on stage and told how glad he was to be away from Washington. The good news is that he proclaimed the North Texas ASAS was one of the outstanding programs in the national effort to help kids during that black hole of after-school life. He saluted MetroPCS’s longtime backing the program and added that LeBron James had picked ASAS as the beneficiary of his NBA All Stars weekend in February.
That message was repeated when ASA North Texas Executive Director Marissa Castro Mikoy addressed the group, startling some guests with the news that Dallas has more children living in poverty than any other major urban city in the country. She added that thanks to last year’s luncheon, the organization was able to expand its services to area students.
Following a video, ASAS North Texas 10th grade student Jeremiah Dawn told how when he was one, his father died and his 24-year-old mother found herself having to support them. There would be days when Jeremiah would wait until six o’clock for his mother to pick him up after school. Then he got involved with DJ-ing, cooking and athletics, thanks to ASAS. When his grades started slipping, his ASAS advisor talked with him to get him back on the road for success. Jeremiah admitted that when he entered eighth grade he was nervous, but thanks to ASAS he learned to be himself. Now, he dreams of going to college. Finishing up, Jeremiah said, “People said technology is the future. I want the future now.”
As he returned to his chair, he received high fives from audience members.
Despite the mic going dead, Luncheon Co-Chair Logan Stout encouraged people to give $83 a month to support the program, and a thermometer was put up on the screens showing the donations as they poured in. Within 30 seconds the thermometer soared to $55,000. Only problem, at times the amounts dropped in value. Perhaps folks were seeking loans?
Eventually, as Brad and the 27-year-old Jose took their places on stage, the thermometer disappeared. Brad admitted that he’s glad the thermometer was gone because, as a coach once told him, “once a goal is achieved, it’s done.”
Highlights of the chat included:
- When asked if he was the leader in the Astros clubhouse, Jose said, “Not really. I think all 25 guys bring something to the table.”
- Who is charge of the music in the clubhouse? “(Outfielder George) Springer. Believe it or not, “he gets As for the music,” because he “knows and likes all kinds of music…”
- When 5’5″ Jose faced a ball being thrown by 6’11” Mets pitcher Jon Rauch, did it look like it’s coming from the sky? Jose immediately said, “Yes.”
- Jose admitted that he can’t bunt.
- Does he watch tapes of pitchers? “No,” not for batting. But, yes, when he’s looking for hints about stealing bases.
- Does he talk “trash” when Los Angeles Angeles outfielder Mike Trout arrives at second base? “No, he’s a great guy.”
- “Astros shortstop Carlos Correa is going to be the MVP this year. The kid is only 22 years old and he’s one of the best players I’ve ever seen. He’s so young and so smart. We have a great relationship on and off the field.”
- Hurricane Harvey — “We were on the road. It was really hard to play. A lot of people lost everything they had. All of my teammates did a lot of stuff. J.J. (Watts) was a great guy.”
- Opportunity for young people — “I always try to stay around only those who are going to encourage me. I’m going to remember what Jeremiah said throughout the season.”
- Best pitchers — Max Scherzer and Clayton Kershaw
- Best catcher — “The guy from the Royals.”
- Pudge Rodriquez — “I wouldn’t try to steal a base on him. He’s the best. Quick, strong.”
- Stealing a base — “When you’re stealing a base, you’re watching the pitcher and the catcher, too.”
- 2017 World Series Game 5 — “I obviously played the game. I hit a homer. Springer hit a homer. Correa hit a homer. Yuli Gurriel hit a homer. Everybody hit a homer. We ended up winning the game. It was like normal, but I knew something was going on. People were screaming, Minute Maid was packed and crazy loud. I went home, laid down, and started watching the replay on TV. I went, ‘Oh, my God! Keep going!’ My wife said, ‘You’re crazy.’ There was a lot of emotion in that game.”
- Kids — “I love baseball and I always wanted to have kids. When I had my daughter (Melanie Altuve) everything changed.” He had wanted a boy, but Melanie changed his mind and now he wants “three or four more girls.”
As Jose and Brad left the stage, the guests prepared to leave the ballroom. But quickly, Advisory Board Chair Ben Lange jumped on stage to speak. The mic was dead. But Ben got their attention to thank them and to encourage them to support ASAS, whether through funding or volunteering this effort to help the kids achieve a greater future. Within the past couple of months, ASAS North Texas was the recipient of a $592,141 commitment from Crystal Charity Ball.