Culture / Sporting Life

Astros Wives and Modern Hunk Brent Strom Become Runway Stars as the Club Models an Unprecedented Domestic Violence Battling Weekend for the Rest of MLB

Twila Carter, the Astros Foundation and Creating Change From the Heart

BY // 10.06.21

The morning after the Houston Astros clinched another division title (and another playoff berth), a group of Astros wives showed up early at Minute Maid Park. Sure, the celebration had gone late into the night, spilling from the field to the clubhouse to out-of-the-park venues. But Nina Altuve, Kat Pressly, Dayara Diaz and the rest of a fashionable pack were not going to miss this.

After all, they’d made a commitment. To one of the most important things the Astros franchise does. So they got ready on the upper level of the park’s Union Station (yes, Union Station has an upper level) for a runway turn that means much more.

“I was just up there with Nina and little Melanie who I just adore,” Astros foundation executive director Twila Carter says of Astros star Jose Altuve’s wife and 4-year-old daughter. “And Melanie had a little crown on. Certainly, they’re so supportive to do this. It will be fun.

“It’s a light moment in a heavy subject.”

The heavy subject is domestic violence which the Astros took on like no Major League Baseball team ever has in the last weekend of the regular season. While excitement over the Astros’ playoff opener against the Chicago White Sox on Thursday afternoon is high — and the kind of thing that prompts local TV news pompom waving — the concentrated effort to fight the epidemic of domestic violence could be much more impactful in the long run.

And if Carter has her way, city changing.

While the Safe at Home luncheon, punctuated by the Astros wives’ fashion show, which raised $350,000 for domestic violence organizations, kicked things off, the push from the franchise went on for a full weekend. This included the unveiling of the Texas Council on Family Violence’s 2020 Honoring Texas Victims Report at Minute Maid Park. The 50-50 game raffle proceeds going to the Texas Council on Family Violence on Friday, Saturday and Sunday. And Texas Council on Family Violence CEO Gloria Terry appearing on the team’s game broadcast.

“It will be the first time any major sports team has ever taken it this far,” Carter tells PaperCity.I’ll go on the record saying that. But it’s one that every major league professional sports team should do.”

Twila Carter’s reached out to Major League Baseball officials to talk about this supersized weekend and the Astros’ domestic violence efforts. Just three years after former Astros general manager Jeff Luhnow traded for MLB domestic violence policy violator Roberto Osuna, angering many victim advocates, the club is, in many ways, leading the way on the issue.

For Carter, this is a very personal mission. In fact, she feels like it is the most important thing she’s ever done.

“I don’t get emotional about too many things,” says Carter, who’s worked for Jim Crane for 24 years and was entrusted with the owner with starting and building the team’s foundation. “But I will tell you, to see this. . . it brings tears to my eyes. It has been a really focused moment for me. To be able to talk about domestic violence. And for our fans to support it. It’s what we all should be doing. And it’s just a great deal. And it’s a very purpose driven effort.

“We didn’t react. We responded And we continue to.”

Any thought that the Astros would stop responding or not continue this push after Osuna left the team have long been put to bed.

Astros Wives and a Pitching Legend

The Astros wives — besides Nina Altuve, Kat Pressly (the wife of closer Ryan Pressly), Dayara Diaz (the wife of super utility wiz Aledmys Diaz) and little Melanie Altuve, coaches wives Pamela Espada, Brenda Campos Cintron, Liz Collins and Katie Bracamonte and staff wives Claudia Meyer and Geri Scarpitto also participated in the runway show — brought some fashion fun to a vital fundraising lunch. Melanie Altuve walked hand in hand with her mom, wearing a navy dress, shiny silver shoes, that crown and a small Astros No. 27 jersey with “Daddy” on the back.

Melanie Altuve stole the show (again), but she got some competition from an unlikely source. Astros pitching coach Brent Strom — the 72-year-old Yoda of mound work — drew some of the loudest cheers as he walked (and twirled) down the runway with his beloved wife Carrie.

Astros pitching coach Brent Storm and his wife Carrie received enthusiastic applause for their runway turn.
Astros pitching coach Brent Strom and his wife Carrie received enthusiastic applause for their runway turn.

Watching from near the back of the packed Union Station lobby space, Jose Altuve, Astros bench coach Jose Espada, hitting coach Alex Cintron, coach Michael Collins and bullpen catcher Javier Bracamonte took particular delight in Storm’s moves. And the bow the crowd all but demanded at the end.

This Safe at Home luncheon included some heartbreakingly somber moments too. The kind of moments that the epidemic of domestic violence causes. The type that leaves holes in families — and empty places at the dinner table. Shari Nightingale of Katy spoke movingly about her late daughter Lindsay Ferrill, who was murdered by her ex-boyfriend at age 28 in 2012 after being lured to a ranch outside of College Station. Ferrill’s then 3-year-0ld daughter Peyton was in the next room as her mom was killed. Ferrill died against the door to that room, trying to keep her killer from harming her little girl as Nightingale movingly detailed.

Shari Nightingale and her husband ended up adopting Peyton and the now 12-year-old is a budding musician who’s reconnected with her biological father. One who still misses her mom and deals with the repercussions of that horrifically violent day.

There were more days like that than ever in 2020, the worst year on record for domestic violence in part because of the pandemic shutdowns. In Texas, 228 people were killed by their intimate partners in 68 Lone Star State counties last year.

“It is a year where the highest number of domestic violence incidents happened,” Gloria Terry tells PaperCity. “It’s about elevating that information to the community so that we can collectively say no more. We will not tolerative abusive behavior.

“To have the Astros name and influence behind that is invaluable.”

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Astros Foundation executive director Twila Carter checked every detail. Like always.

Carter, who is retiring at the end of this year, cannot imagine the Astros not being involved. She’s become friends with Shari Nightingale (who started as an Astros critic on the issue) and other victims. This kind of overwhelming cause is why Crane entrusted her with starting the Astros Foundation and making it stand for something in the first place.

And as the Cowboy Auctioneers — energetic auctioneers who wear cowboy hats and cowboy boots — built up the bids for dream experiences like a swanky St. Martin island vacation (went for $18,000), a four course tasting dinner on home plate at Minute Maid Park ($25,000), a fairytale Burgundy vacation ($18.500 — and sold twice) and a Costa Rica jungle escape ($21,000) — and the Astros wives walked the runway in Tootsies fashions — Carter could see the good being done.

“It will be the first time any major sports team has ever taken it this far. I’ll go on the record saying that. But it’s one that every major league professional sports team should do.” — Twila Carter

Harris County District Attorney Kim Ogg gave Twila Carter an award for her efforts in the fight against domestic violence on this day, but a lasting, larger professional sports impact would mean more to this driven crusader.

“We have the largest collective voice between the Rockets, the Texans, the Dynamo and the Astros,” Carter says. “We have the largest collective voice in this city. Imagine what we could do if we could all come together to use that voice for one cause that is prevalent and pervasive.

“And it’s our children growing up and repeating the cycle.”

The head of the Texas Council on Family Violence hopes that the rest of Major League Baseball takes notice. “This is unequivocally the reach that we would strive for,” Gloria Terry tells PaperCity. “We’re fortunate that the Astros are leading and that they’re modeling it for everyone else.

“To put the level of time and resources to the greater good of your community and fan base, we can do this. And every club in Major League Baseball would easily be able to do this. We could create real change.”

That is worth getting up — even the morning after an epic celebration. The Astros wives were not going to miss this for the best of reasons.

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