Grand slam for charity
Watt's up? J.J. dishes on Deshaun, teammates with baseball potential, and his home run dreams
Houston Texans defensive end J.J. Watt takes to a different field on Saturday as the three-time AP NFL Defensive Player of the Year Award-winner heads to Minute Maid Park to host his 5th annual competitive softball tournament, the J.J. Watt Charity Classic.
Proceeds from the event benefit the J.J. Watt Foundation, which provides after-school opportunities for children in the community to become involved in athletics, so that they may learn the basic character traits of accountability, teamwork, leadership, work ethic, and perseverance.
It’s a cause familiar to actor and former governor of the state of California, Arnold Schwarzenegger, who is scheduled to be in the stands. Schwarzenegger’s own charity, After-School All-Stars, also provides after-school athletics for children.
Thirty-one of Watt’s Houston Texans teammates are stepping up to the plate in support of charity. Although subject to change, the lineup boasts Alfred Blue, Duane Brown, DeAndre Hopkins, and Braxton Miller on Team Offense. Jadeveon Clowney, Brian Cushing, Shane Lechler, Whitney Mercilus, and former wide receiver Andre Johnson, who retired in April and is back living in Houston, are among the players listed to play alongside Watt on Team Defense.
Olympic gold medalist swimmer Simone Manuel will throw out the first pitch at the game, which starts at 7 pm, with a home run derby at 6 pm.
Through his foundation, Watt has helped kids in 28 states, raising more than $2.7 million and donating items from jerseys and uniforms to entire baseball fields and gymnasiums.
Watt took time out of his schedule to speak with CultureMap about the upcoming J.J. Watt Charity Classic, and answered some of our most pressing sports questions.
CultureMap: You’ve been posting Snaps about how much you want to win the home run derby trophy (for the first time). How do you feel about your chances this year?
J.J. Watt: I’m very disappointed in my past performances and am looking to avenge my last four years of losses. I’m going in confident and with an optimistic attitude, and hope to come out on top.
CM: You started off playing this game at the Sugar Land Skeeters' minor league stadium and it got so big that you moved it to Minute Maid Park. What’s it like to play this game at a major league baseball stadium, and the home of the Houston Astros?
JW: It’s great and it helps raise money for a great cause. Our players and fans have a lot of fun with it.
CM: What does it mean to have so much support for this cause from your teammates and the city of Houston?
JW: It’s incredible. My teammates are awesome, making it a special event. And the fans are great to help us raise money for kids.
CM: Which one of your Houston Texans teammates would have the best shot at being a Major League Baseball player?
JW:Shane Lechler. AndBrandon Weeden is impressive as well. He was actually drafted (as a pitcher by the New York Yankees).
CM: This will be the first time fans have seen you in any kind of action since your unfortunate injury last season. How are you feeling physically, and how excited are you to get back on the football field in 2017?
JW: I feel great. I can’t wait to get back out there — it’s been too long. I can’t wait to get back in front of the fans and with my teammates, and get back to doing what I love.
CM: What are your thoughts on quarterback Deshaun Watson being drafted by the Texans?
JW: I think it’s exciting. It’s nice that he doesn’t have to start right away and has time to learn and grow. I hope that he turns into a very successful player.
The 5th annual J.J. Watt Charity Classic is Saturday at Minute Maid Park. Tickets, priced from $5-$200 per person, are on sale here.