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First pitch glides in for NBA great Drexler

Longtime Astros fan on target to start Game 6 of ALCS
MLB.com @alysonfooter

HOUSTON -- Perhaps it was not by coincidence that the person the Astros asked to throw out the ceremonial first pitch on Friday was a former star athlete who knows a little about playing for a championship team in Houston.

Clyde "The Glide" Drexler -- raised in Houston, a product of the legendary University of Houston "Phi Slama Jama" basketball program and a 10-time NBA All-Star with the Portland Trail Blazers and Houston Rockets -- handled plenty of high-pressure situations during his Hall of Fame career.

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HOUSTON -- Perhaps it was not by coincidence that the person the Astros asked to throw out the ceremonial first pitch on Friday was a former star athlete who knows a little about playing for a championship team in Houston.

Clyde "The Glide" Drexler -- raised in Houston, a product of the legendary University of Houston "Phi Slama Jama" basketball program and a 10-time NBA All-Star with the Portland Trail Blazers and Houston Rockets -- handled plenty of high-pressure situations during his Hall of Fame career.

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Drexler also knows the sweet taste of victory, having won an NBA championship with the Rockets in 1995. He was in attendance at Game 6 of the American League Championship Series presented by Camping World between the Astros and Yankees, with hopes that he would be watching them play again the next day and into the World Series.

"I'm glued to the TV, because anytime the Astros or any Houston team -- Rockets, Texans -- are doing anything, we support them 2,000 percent," Drexler said. "We know what a long road it's been, and we need more winners in the city of Houston."

The Rockets won consecutive titles in 1994 and '95, and at that time, they were the only Houston team to have won a championship. The Houston Dynamo soccer team won back-to-back MLS Cup titles in 2006-07.

As he waits with the rest of Astros nation for the first World Series title in history, Drexler -- who grew up watching and rooting for the Astros -- said after a lifetime of baseball fandom, he was thrilled to be part of the Game 6 opening ceremony.

"It's incredibly special, because this is one of the biggest games in Astros history," Drexler said. "To be able to throw out the first pitch -- a Houston kid who grew up loving the Houston Astros and watching Bob Watson, Cesar Cedeno, Nolan Ryan, Joe Morgan, Jeff Bagwell, Craig Biggio ... come on.

"I've been an Astros fan for so many years, this is not only an honor, it's a pleasure. But more importantly, we need a 'W'."

Video: ALCS Gm6: Jack Ingram performs the national anthem

Also included in the pregame ceremony was the Houston Fire Department, which presented the nation's colors. Country music star Jack Ingram performed the national anthem, while longtime season-ticket holder Valentin Jalomo, who is a well-known figure at Astros games and is most identifiable for his unmistakable handlebar mustache, called "play ball!" as the final event before first pitch.

Alyson Footer is a national correspondent for MLB.com. Follow her on Twitter @alysonfooter.

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