LOCAL Houston | The City Guide March 2017 - Page 55

FOOD | ARTS | COMMUNITY | STYLE+LEISURE PITCH PERFECT LANCE MCCULLERS STEPS BACK ONTO THE MOUND By Tim Moloney | Photography by Brian Styles Coming off a season plagued by elbow and shoulder injuries, Houston Astros pitcher LANCE MCCULLERS, JR. is ready to get back in the game. “I did my second bullpen today, so my arm is good. I’m looking forward to spring training. Going into spring training healthy is nice,” says the affable 23-year-old. But first, before he and his wife KARA head down to the new training facility in West Palm Beach, Florida (that the team shares with the Washington Nationals), they’ve got to load up their two rescue dogs in the car for the cross-country drive. “We’re going to be there for a while, and they go everywhere with us,” says Kara. In fact, Mr. and Mrs. McCullers share a passion for pet rescue. The relatively new Houstonians partner with causes like Houston Pets Alive to raise awareness and funds for animal adoptions and no-kill sanctuaries. The Lance McCullers Jr. Foundation works toward just that. Let’s get back to baseball. You probably already know Lance’s name. That’s because he shares it with his father, also a pro MLB player from 1985–1992. But just because the MLB was in his DNA, playing ball, for Lance, was not a foregone conclusion. “This is what I wanted to do; it wasn’t pre-ordained or anything,” he says. And he’s good at it. Drafted straight out of Jesuit High School in Tampa, Florida, when he graduated in 2012, the younger McCullers was named the Gatorade National Baseball Player of the Year in that year. The Astros selected him in the first round of the 2012 draft. Bringing him up in farm teams, he joined the big leagues in May 2015. “Houston’s a really cool city. Kara and I like it a lot, especially the restaurants. It reminds me a lot of Tampa, the fan base here is great, and with the team’s recent success, it just keeps getting better,” he says. Something you might not know: “During the season, if I’m pitching, I’ll go watch a movie before I pitch. We like the iPic at River Oaks District. When you get up early, it’s a long day before you pitch at 7:30, and you have a lot of time to think about the night. Seeing a movie keeps my mind off it. I see a lot of kids’ movies, alone,” he laughs. It’s a striking admission from a pitcher who’s mature beyond his years. march 17 | LOCAL 55