Astros slugger George Springer's all-star benefit hits a grand slam for kids who stutter
Astros slugger George Springer’s third annual All-Star Bowling Benefit attracted more than 300 guests Sunday night — a record for the event — and pulled in more than $125,000, also a record. The proceeds will go toward sending underprivileged kids to Camp Say, a summer camp in North Carolina for young people who stutter.
Springer, who’s never let stuttering stop him from hitting home runs or anything else, is leading the first-place Astros in homers with 17 this season. He hit his last “Springer Dinger" earlier in the day. I cornered him at the bowling fundraiser and asked when was the "first" time he blasted a pitch over the fence.
Funny how hitters can remember every home run.
“It was a fastball,” Springer said. “I was 8 years old and playing on the 10-year-olds’ field in Little League. My team was the Yankees. The fence was 185 feet. When I was running around the bases, my only thought was, ‘I just hit a home run!’ I didn’t think I could hit the ball that far.”
He's still at it. Two weeks ago, Springer crashed a homer 467 feet, the sixth longest home run in the majors this season.
Springer’s event was held at downtown’s Lucky Strike "bowling center." Pro bowling officials yell at me whenever I call them “bowling alleys." Lucky Strike is located on the third floor of a sprawling complex packed with hip restaurants and bars. It’s an ultra-modern bowling facility, with legit restaurant food, surprisingly excellent pizzas, and full bar. The only downer: It needs a better selection of house balls. I had to use a 15-pound ball with dainty, Barbie-sized holes, hardly big enough for my outdoorsy, working man hands.
Here’s one of the little cool things about Houston. I found a free parking spot on the street less than one block from Lucky Strike. Houston turns off its downtown parking meters on Sundays and after 6 pm on weeknights and Saturdays. You can park for free on streets around Minute Maid Park during Astros games, too.
Try doing that during Cubs games in Wrigley Field. Not only does Chicago keep its meters running at night, they double the price to park on the street during Cubs games – up to midnight. It’s called “surge pricing.”
A bunch of Springer’s Astros teammates attended the bowling event, including Carlos Correa, Alex Bregman, Dallas Keuchel, Jake Marisnick, Lance McCullers, and Mike Fiers. A Camp Say official told the crowd that it costs $3,500 to send a kid to camp for two weeks … and would anybody like to kick in the whole $3,500 right now, “raise your hand.”
McCullers shot his hand right up. He’s one of my favorite Astros for another reason – huge dog lover.
The event was crawling with media superstars like Channel 2 weatherman Khambrel Marshall, Channel 13 sports anchor David Nuno, 1560 AM legend Barry Warner, KPRC 950 AM radio host Michael Garfield, CultureMap’s own Marcy de Luna, Channel 11 anchor Ron Trevino, Astros field reporter Julia Morales, and the “First Lady of Baseball Writers” Alyson Footer. Okay, not exactly the Hollywood Walk of Fame, but they showed up for a charity event, so good for them.
In addition to his sports duties, Nuno now hosts a cooking segment on Channel 13’s website. How’d that happen?
“It’s a partnership with Goya. They asked me to come up with some Cuban dishes with my mom, Beba. I just did another one with my daughter, Anneliese. We cooked black bean dip, paella, and garlic shrimp. It’s an online thing. I’ve done nine of them. I enjoy being a TV chef, even though I really have no idea what I’m doing."
Like most celebrity TV chefs, Nuno has his own catchphrase.
"When I throw anything in the bowl, I say, ‘Take that, pow!’ Basically, I just look like I’m cooking while my mom is really doing it.”
Here’s a cute story about Nuno. Sure, now he’s one of the bright stars in Houston TV news, but 10 years ago … well, everybody has to start somewhere. Nuno and I hosted the midday show on 1560 AM, “The Game.” It was a new station, complete with typical new station problems, No. 1 being a shaky signal. The first few weeks, practically nobody could hear us. After that, nobody wanted to hear us.
One day, a caller got particularly belligerent with Nuno and me, totally out of line. The exchange turned heated with some threatening language. We should have hung up on the guy, but we didn’t exactly have a long line of callers on hold. Like none. At one point during the call, it sounded like go time. I thought, this guy wants to fight us. Nuno, who was the muscle on our show, said, 'Come on down.' I was behind Nuno on this. I mean, I would have been standing behind him.
That’s when I interceded – you know me, peace and love - and ended the call. I told Nuno, “We have about six listeners, and you want to fight 18 percent of them?”