Texas Southern University began playing intercollegiate baseball nearly 60 years ago. The Tigers have yet to play a game on their home campus, but that will soon change thanks to some significant support from the most prominent team in town.
Texas Southern, a historically Black university in Houston’s Third Ward, received a $1 million donation from the Astros Foundation over the weekend so it can construct on-campus baseball and softball stadiums. The college teams currently play their home games at city parks – the baseball team at MacGregor Park and the softball team at Memorial Park.
“It’s a game-changer for us,” said Kevin Granger, Texas Southern’s vice president of intercollegiate athletics. “It’s huge for us to have an organization like the Astros behind us and assisting us with getting these well-deserved facilities for the student-athletes.”
Texas Southern is expected to break ground and start construction on the stadiums later this year, according to Granger, who said it’s yet to be determined whether the facilities will be ready in time for the Tigers’ 2024 seasons. The school’s baseball and softball teams, which compete in the Southwestern Athletic Conference, started their 2023 campaigns earlier this month.
Texas Southern’s baseball team opened the season last week at the inaugural Cactus Jack HBCU Classic, which the Astros hosted at Minute Maid Park through a partnership with Houston-area rapper Travis Scott and his Cactus Jack Foundation. The university was presented with a ceremonial check for $1 million during the round-robin weekend tournament, which also included fellow HBCUs Prairie View A&M, Grambling State, Jackson State, Mississippi Valley State and Southern.
The forthcoming stadiums will be made available to the surrounding community when the Tigers are not using them for practices or games, Granger said.
“If you look around the Third Ward area, there’s not a whole lot of community facilities for the community to practice or learn the game,” he said.
Granger said the donation from the Astros organization was about two years in the making, because that’s how long ago he met franchise owner Jim Crane and discussed the school’s athletic needs. Granger said he had taken the Texas Southern golf team to Memorial Park Golf Course in conjunction with Houston Open, the annual PGA Tour event hosted by the Astros Golf Foundation, and Crane pledged to help the university with its baseball and softball facilities.
Their encounter also helped spawn an ongoing partnership between the Astros and the university at large, Granger said. Texas Southern students interned last year with the Astros, who also are providing scholarships for the school’s sports management program, according to Granger.
“TSU students deserve the opportunity to go from playing and watching baseball at a city park to having their own stadium on campus,” Paula Harris, the director of the Astros Foundation, said in a news release from the team. “The entire World Series-winning Astros organization is proud to be a part of the historic and monumental opportunity for Texas Southern University baseball.”