HOUSTON -- The Astros are taking aim at their first World Series championship, and prior to Friday's Game 3, they took a moment to honor some Houstonians who have been champions in the competitive arena and beyond.Many were at Minute Maid Park for Game 3 of the World Series between
HOUSTON -- The Astros are taking aim at their first World Series championship, and prior to Friday's Game 3, they took a moment to honor some Houstonians who have been champions in the competitive arena and beyond.
Many were at Minute Maid Park for Game 3 of the World Series between the Astros and Dodgers, including Texans defensive end J.J. Watt, who was honored with ceremonial first pitch duty. Houston won, 5-3, to take a 2-1 lead in the best-of-seven Series.
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"I love J.J.," Astros manager A.J. Hinch said before the game. "He's such a pillar of our community, and part of the city in so many ways, and really defines kind of the fabric of this city. And what he's done through his hurricane efforts, recovery efforts, is nothing short of extraordinary."
It didn't take Watt long after he joined the NFL in 2011 to cement his status as a legendary Houston athlete. That he also emerged as one of the city's most prominent humanitarians during his time in the Bayou City has only added to his allure. That includes his most recent and arguably best-known fundraising effort, an online campaign for Hurricane Harvey relief that raised $37 million.
Watt started with a goal of just $200,000, but once his efforts made national news, the small idea turned into an avalanche.
"He's welcome in our clubhouse any time he wants to, because of who he is and how he goes about it," Hinch said. "I would expect a lot of loud cheers tonight. I would expect him to get one of the biggest ones."
That prediction was accurate. Watt, using crutches after undergoing season-ending surgery on his fractured leg, drew thunderous applause as he strode to the mound to throw the pitch, enhancing an already raucous atmosphere unique to the postseason.
Watt wasn't the only famous Houston figure the Astros invited to participate in the pregame festivities. The Astros honored three more "Houston champions" on the field -- four-time Olympic gold medalist Simone Biles, who dazzled at the 2016 Games in Rio de Janeiro; astronaut Scott Kelly, a retired U.S. Navy Captain and veteran of four space flights; and Houston Dynamo soccer legend Brian Ching, who was part of two MLS Cup championship teams.
The ceremony included an unfurling of the flag by Astros season-ticket holders, joined by Greyshirts, who were instrumental in Hurricane Harvey flood relief.
A joint service color guard presented the nation's colors, and Master Sergeant Promise Harris of the Texas Air National Guard performed the national anthem, which concluded with a pitching mound landing by Challenger the Eagle.
Hall of Famer Craig Biggio delivered the game ball to the mound, accompanied by Christian Tilley, a local member of Boys & Girls Club of America.
Harris County Judge Ed Emmett called "Play Ball!" as the final act of the ceremony, kicking off the first World Series game played in Houston in 12 years.
Alyson Footer is a national correspondent for MLB.com. Follow her on Twitter @alysonfooter.