HOUSTON -- Alex Bregman was among the final batch of star athletes to arrive to the Houston Sports Awards' blue carpet on Wednesday, and the onlookers who waited long enough to catch a glimpse of the Astros' third baseman were given a real treat.First, some background context -- the fans
HOUSTON -- Alex Bregman was among the final batch of star athletes to arrive to the Houston Sports Awards' blue carpet on Wednesday, and the onlookers who waited long enough to catch a glimpse of the Astros' third baseman were given a real treat.
First, some background context -- the fans who lined up along the blue carpet area adjacent to the Hilton Americas-Houston hotel during the opening procession weren't just any random folks off the street. Most of them were kids who attend Santa Fe High School, the site of the tragic school shooting last spring that claimed 10 lives and devastated the community.
Bregman did not know where the kids were from when he first walked over to them -- he just wanted to mingle a little, sign some autographs, take some selfies and make his way into the hotel for the awards ceremony. But when he was alerted by a media member that these were Santa Fe kids, he finished his interviews and then quickly walked back over to the crowd for more glad-handing and picture-posing.
"That's awesome," Bregman said. "I'm really happy to have them out here."
Bregman is part baseball player and part rock star when he steps into a public forum. Some of his appeal is simply his willingness to put himself out there with fans; he gets close enough to have a personal interaction, whether it's a quick conversation, a photo, or a simple high five.
At least three dozen sports figures walked the blue carpet before Wednesday's awards banquet. None provoked a reaction as loud and frenzied as the one aimed toward Bregman, whose breakout season in 2018 turned him into one of the most successful under-25 infielders in history.
"It's fun to be here," said Bregman, who was nominated for Athlete of the Year. "There's so many great people in the world of sports and the Houston sports community here. It's an honor to be here."
Two Astros figures were nominated for awards. Manager AJ Hinch, nominated for Coach (Manager) of the Year, was part of a strong pool of candidates that included Rockets head coach Mike D'Antoni, who won the award.
Olympic gold medalist Simone Biles was named Athlete of the Year, beating out Bregman, Rockets star James Harden and Texans receiver DeAndre Hopkins.
While neither Astros nominee took home hardware, the team was well represented at the awards banquet. The list of attendees with Astros ties included former players Larry Dierker, Art Howe, Enos Cabell, Kevin Bass and Geoff Blum, in addition to Hinch and Bregman.
Sports franchises have their ups and downs over time, but currently, the state of Houston sports is favorable. In 2018, the Texans won their third AFC South title in four years. The Rockets have played in the conference semifinals the past two years. The Astros have been picked by many to make another World Series appearance in '19, and the University of Houston men's basketball team has lost just one game all season.
That's not to say good sports teams make for better sports awards shows, but, truthfully, it does help.
"Houston sports is in a really good era across the board," Hinch said. "To be a part of this, to be part of the community, is really a dream come true."
Alyson Footer is a reporter for MLB.com. Follow her on Twitter @alysonfooter.