HOUSTON -- The Philadelphia 76ers are in Houston to play the Rockets at Toyota Center on Monday night, but with the World Series taking place just down the street, they figured it was worth their time to visit two sports venues while they're in town.The 76ers created a bit of
HOUSTON -- The Philadelphia 76ers are in Houston to play the Rockets at Toyota Center on Monday night, but with the World Series taking place just down the street, they figured it was worth their time to visit two sports venues while they're in town.
The 76ers created a bit of a spectacle when they walked onto the field at Minute Maid Park while the Dodgers took batting practice before the Astros' 13-12 victory in Game 5, giving Houston a 3-2 lead in the best-of-seven Series. Half the basketball team wore Dodgers jerseys; the others opted for Astros jerseys. Most spent a large part of their time near the cages taking photos of their surroundings, posing for selfies with teammates and getting shots of the field in the background.
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Apparently, even athletes who are playing at the highest level can still be a little star-struck.
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"You respect the craft," guard Nik Stauskas said. "As a professional athlete, you respect anyone who's a professional at their sport. Obviously, these guys have worked tremendously hard to get to this point in their lives. It's an honor to be here, it's an honor to watch them and hopefully we'll get to see a great game tonight."
Stauskas wore an Astros jersey, while his teammate, guard T.J. McConnell, opted for the Dodgers. Stauskas, admittedly not a baseball fan, simply wanted to support the home team. McConnell, however, purposely chose the Dodgers in honor of one of the more popular athletes to play in the City of Brotherly Love.
"We play in the city of Philadelphia, and I've grown up watching baseball, and Chase Utley is one of my favorite players of all time," McConnell said. "He's a beloved Philadelphia Phillie who now plays for the Dodgers. I'm going with the Dodgers on this one."
The 76ers, 2-4 in the early stages of the 2017-18 season, will play the Rockets for the second time in a week when they meet at Toyota Center on Monday. They came to Houston by way of Dallas, where they beat the Mavericks on Saturday, 112-110.
For the 76ers, Sunday was a day of rest between games, but they respected the fact that the two baseball teams involved in the World Series were in full preparation mode during their visit to batting practice.
Being that close to the action gave some of the players a greater appreciation for how much goes into the simple act of hitting a baseball.
"When you see them bat, and hear the sound of the bat when the ball goes off the bat, you appreciate how hard it is to play your respective sport," McConnell said. "So I'm standing here in awe, just pretty much watching them working their craft. It's awesome."
They also appreciate how hard it is to hit a baseball, which many ballplayers say is the toughest things to do in sports. Stauskas tried to do so at a batting cage with a friend last summer. It didn't go well.
"The ball was going 40 miles an hour," he said. "I did not hit one ball. I have the most respect for these guys that can hit a ball going 95 miles an hour. It's really unbelievable."
They may not be great at hitting, but catching, for one 76er, is a different story.
Joel Embiid, the 76ers' 7-foot-tall center, found himself on the receiving end of a Giancarlo Stanton home run ball during the T-Mobile All-Star Home Run Derby last summer at Marlins Park.
"There were actually a lot of baseballs coming my way," he said. "I caught one of them."
Embiid said he tries to find time to keep up with Major League Baseball and is rooting for the Dodgers to win the World Series.
"I try to watch them when I can," he said.
Alyson Footer is a national correspondent for MLB.com. Follow her on Twitter @alysonfooter.