For Huston Street, alumni weekend at Texas is what it’s all about. It offers a chance to reminisce with former coaches and teammates, trading the crack of wooden bats for the ping of aluminum ones and running burnt orange base paths. You can almost smell the nostalgia seeping from the dugout.
Saturday was Texas’ annual alumni baseball game, in which former Longhorns return to Austin to team up against current players.
Street, who is from Austin and attended Westlake High School, relishes the time he spends in Austin every winter, even if it’s only for four months.
“I love being in Austin; it’s still home,” he said. “I take every minute and try to enjoy it as much as I can.”
Street pitched and played third base at Westlake, in addition to playing safety on the football team. In the 2000 Texas state title game, Street tackled then-future Longhorn Cedric Benson, who played at Midland Lee High School.
Street’s dad, James Street, played quarterback at Texas and was undefeated as a starter, leading the Longhorns to the national championship in 1969. Huston said he could have played football at Texas but would not have been anything more than a special teams player.
“God blesses you with certain abilities,” he said. “And football was not the ability that he gave me to be great at.”
Street enjoyed the excitement of football, but it didn’t measure up to his love of baseball.
“Baseball was something I had more sincere passion for because I felt I had an opportunity there,” he said. “Football was more about the thrill of the tackle and the first hit of the game.”
Street arrived at Texas in 2001 and made his Longhorn debut in the spring of 2002. He made 14 saves his freshman season and was named a Freshman First Team All-American. During the 2002 College World Series, he set a record with four saves, helping the Longhorns win their first College World Series since 1983.
“I’d grown up dreaming of playing at Texas, and I got lucky with the success of those teams and the relationships I forged,” Street said. “The timing was perfect.”
Street said he remembers most of the relationships he forged with his teammates and is thankful to his coaches who helped him become a better baseball player and a better person. Head coach Augie Garrido taught him mental preparation, associate head coach Tommy Harmon taught him toughness and pitching coach Frank Anderson lowered his arm angle.
“You take pieces from everybody, but without the University of Texas, I wouldn’t be standing here today,” Street said. “Without a doubt in my mind, it is the reason I was able to accomplish what I did.”
Street and the Longhorns came up short in 2004, losing to California State Fullerton in the world series. After the season, Street entered the Major League Baseball draft and was selected in the first round by the Oakland Athletics. Getting into the MLB was something Street never thought he could accomplish growing up.
“All I wanted to do was come to Texas,” he said. “Texas was the end of the road for me. It was as high as I’d dreamed, as far as I’d thought.”
Street spent 2004 in the minor leagues and was called up to Oakland at the beginning of the 2005 season. He pitched as a reliever for the first month and a half for the Athletics, until a teammate’s injury opened up the closer spot for him.
Street was named American League Rookie of the Year in 2005.
He has had an up-and-down career since leaving Texas and has struggled with injuries in the past two seasons. Last July, his season was cut short when a line drive hit him during batting practice and he had to be hospitalized.
“Baseball is a game of adjustments; it’s a game of staying healthy,” Street said. “It’s about learning your preparation and your own routine. It’s different for every single individual.”
Street has been in the majors for six years but is still tweaking his training program. He took the offseason to make adjustments and hopes to be healthy for the start of training camp in a couple of weeks.
It’s been 10 years since Street started his career at Texas, but he can still remember when he played in the alumni game in college. Back then, he looked up to Texas alumni that returned to play, such as Dennis Cook, Greg Swindle and Roger Clemens.
“They told me, ‘No matter how long you play in the pros, it’s the years at Texas you remember the most,’” Street said. “And it’s absolutely true.”