Lance McCullers Jr.

Lance McCullers Jr. pitches for the Sugar Land Skeeters on June 10 at Constellation Field. (Photo by Landan Kuhlmann)

Lance McCullers Jr. trotted out to the Constellation Field mound, and the Sugar Land Skeeters crowd greeted him with a throaty roar as they got the rare chance to see a member of the Houston Astros’ 2017 World Series team take the field along with the organization’s stars of tomorrow.

Alexis Pedraza was just excited to see her favorite pitcher take the mound again.

“I made a trip up here (from Pasadena) especially for Lance,” said the 21-year-old Pedraza, who was decked out for the occasion in a McCullers Astros jersey and headband. “I’m really excited to see him pitch tonight.”

Pedraza’s sentiment was likely similar to many of the nearly 6,800 spectators who on June 10 made their way out to Constellation Field to see McCullers, a Major League Baseball All-Star in 2017, make a minor league rehabilitation start for the Skeeters against the Round Rock Express in what is likely to be a short stay with the club.

Its anticipated brevity combined with the buzz that permeated the balmy Fort Bend County night just confirmed what Sugar Land resident Bubba Warren had in mind when he came out to the park. Warren said he lives just 10 minutes from Constellation Field and has attended Skeeters games since their inaugural season in 2012.

He said Thursday night, though, had a different atmosphere than many games before it.

“It’s fantastic to be able to see (those kinds of stars) in our own backyard,” he said.

Pedraza, who is a tour guide at Minute Maid Park, said McCullers has long been her favorite pitcher since he debuted with the Astros back in 2015 – even more so after he agreed to take her high school senior pictures with her at the ballpark in 2019.

That alone, she said, made it worth the trip – one that is far more convenient than previous Astros affiliate stops in Round Rock and Fresno, California.

“To be able to come out here with maybe a 40-minute drive to see some of those players who were on the World Series team do their rehab is pretty cool,” she said. “I was really upset when I couldn’t go see Carlos Correa the year before (in Round Rock), so knowing they can come rehab a lot closer to me is really cool.”

In the end, McCullers wound up throwing four innings of one-run baseball, striking out four and walking none while allowing two hits against the Express in a game the Skeeters won 2-1.

But for many in attendance, the experience was about much more than the results. The feeling of the star power in their midst was one that those in attendance won’t soon forget, and it’s an atmosphere the Astros and Skeeters hoped to create when they joined forces during the offseason.

“Quite honestly, that’s what kicked us in the rear to get us to come out here, so to speak,” Warren said with a laugh. “It was getting a good chance to see him.”

Pedraza echoed the sentiment.

“Being able to be here is one of the best feelings in the world,” she said.

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