Taking her athletic talent to the field, two-time Olympic gold medalist Simone Manuel was given one of the biggest honors in her native Houston last Saturday. She threw the first pitch at the fifth annual 2017 JJ Watt Charity Classic Softball game at Minute Maid Park in Houston, Texas – an arguably more coveted honor than the same position at an Astros game, because there’s only 1 of them each year, as compared to 81.
From small town Wisconsin, JJ Watt was the #11 overall pick in the 2011 NFL Draft by the Houston Texans. He was the NFL Defensive Player of the Year in 2012, 2014, and 2015. Through much adversity and with the support of his family, JJ Watt made it to the biggest stage in football playing in the NFL. Not forgetting where he came from, he created the JJ Watt Foundation in hopes that other children may be granted the same opportunities for success that he had growing up.
This charity event includes a home run derby, a softball game between the offensive and defensive players from the Houston Texans, and a firework display. There was also a silent auction with available autographed apparel. The event has proven to be wildly successful. It began in 2013, and since then has raised over $2,965,000. All of the proceeds from the event go to the JJ Watt Foundation which provides safe after-school athletic opportunities for middle schoolers and aims to teach accountability, teamwork, leadership, work ethic, and perseverance through sport.
Finishing a successful junior year at Stanford following her Olympic Game debut, Manuel was honored by her home town’s most popular athlete with the honor. Houston is also home to Simone Biles – one of the biggest stars of last summer’s Olympics, earning 4 gold medals in gymnastics. The 20-year-old was born in Texas, and getting to be back to her old stomping grounds and give back to her community would have been inspiring for young athletic middle-schoolers. If you know of a middle school in need of support, or are willing to help with a donation, click HERE.