Never Letting Go

By April Cumming – February 1, 2015
Photography by Brian Fitzsimmons

“Everybody feels something when it’s about to be over—whether it’s the end of a movie, the end of a relationship, or the end of the last few hours of Christmas,” said Huston Street, the relief pitcher for the Los Angeles Angels. 

For Street, that moment is when he steps on the mound in the ninth inning to close the game. 

He loves the competitiveness. The finality of the last out. The fact that other people believe pressure exists, but he believes pressure is a pretend idea; a choice. While other people worry about the consequences, he couldn’t care less. He’s focused on his pitch and where he’s going to throw it. When the game’s about to be over, he wants to be the guy with the ball in his hand. He knows he can handle it—the competitiveness, the finality of it all—and he wants to be in that moment. 

To him, performing means choosing to treat every moment the same.

“When I’m running into the mound I think, ‘Get the first guy out.’ When I’m walking around the mound, I’m thinking about my timing and my rhythm. And then, when a batter steps into the box, I’m thinking, ‘First pitch strike. Get ahead.’ After that first pitch, the battle begins. From there, it becomes very adaptive. I adapt to what I see, to what I feel,” he said. 

With every hitter that comes to bat, the process starts anew, and the same thought, “First pitch strike. Get ahead,” runs through his mind. For Street, his life is a series of moments—of periods in time—like this. 

He’ll be the first to admit that not a moment of his day goes by that’s unscheduled. Even his unscheduled time is scheduled—from the minute he wakes up to the minute he goes to sleep. 

“I try and take everything in windows of time,” Street said. 

Once the season starts, he goes to bed around 2 a.m., waking up to have coffee around 11 a.m., and breakfast around 1 p.m.—when he arrives at the field. He’ll eat again at 3 p.m., 6 p.m., and then again after the game around 10:30 p.m.—always staying on West Coast time. (When he’s on the East Coast, this means going to bed at 5 a.m. and waking up at 2 p.m.) 

“That’s just the baseball life,” Street said.  

While he shakes his head at the query of having any pre-game superstitions or rituals, he does have one routine he follows. “Before batting practice, I go and grab five bottles of water, put them in front of my locker, and will not step foot on the field until those bottles are gone,” he said, noting that hydration is probably the biggest change he’s made in his training over the years. 

“Baseball season is all about surviving,” Street said. “Winning matters, results matter, but you have to find the process that works best for you and stick to that.”

For him, finding the perfect training process took awhile. 

“Around my fifth or sixth year in the big leagues, I learned the difference between overall fitness and ‘Okay, I am now training to survive a baseball season.’ It took me about five years of tinkering with how often to lift weights and how much weight I should lift. That’s why I got hurt so much in the beginning,” he said. 

Street missed a total of 60 days due to a calf injury in 2012. In the last two years, he’s only missed 7. 

“My dad used to say that the hardest thing to do in the world was the same thing every day. To find something that’s successful, and then do it over and over and over again. If it’s a physical thing, it gets hard to repeat. And if it’s a mental thing, you get bored. I think we all fight the idea of ‘Do I really want to go through this today?’ and the answer is normally, ‘No, I don’t want to. But I’m going to.’” 

Street’s days are bookended by thoughts of his father and mentor, the late James Street, who passed away in September 2013. 

His Angels jersey sports the number 16—the same number his dad wore as the quarterback for the University of Texas ’69 National Championship team. “I believe he’s with me all the time, but wouldn’t want me to worry about him. Just as he wouldn’t when he was alive,” Street said.

“I still miss him. And I think of him. Not so much when I’m out there playing, but in the mornings and at night. Nostalgic moments you remember sneak up on you.”  

Street started his athletic career early on, lettering in baseball and football at Westlake High School—where he won all-district and all-state honors in both sports—and fielded offers to play on both the University of Texas football and baseball teams. 

“All I really cared about was going to UT,” Street said. “Even from a really young age, all I really wanted to do was go to UT, play sports, and kind of be like my dad.”

His dad, however, was surprisingly unsupportive of the idea Huston had of playing football for UT. 

“That was one of the first times where he spoke out against something I wanted to do. Usually I would come to him and say, ‘Hey dad, I’m thinking about doing this.’ And he would weigh both options evenly. In that instance though, he told me, ‘Bud, I think you can play football. But you’re going to have to get a lot bigger, a lot faster, a lot stronger, and then maybe, just maybe you can play in college.” 

Street remembers considering if football was something he really wanted to do everyday. “It was a blast playing, but I knew I was just going to be average. It would be tough to be passionate about [that sport] everyday,” he said. 

When he started playing baseball at UT, it soon became clear that he had a shot at playing in the major leagues. That baseball was a realistic career opportunity and it was something he wanted to pursue. 

Under the guidance of coach Auggie Garrido, Street played on the team for three seasons, from 2002–2004. In his freshman year, he led his team to the College World Series—defeating South Carolina to win the title. In 2004, he entered the Major League Baseball Draft and was selected in the first round by the Oakland Athletics. After spending a short few months in the minor leagues, he made his relief pitcher debut with the Athletics in the spring of 2005. 

“You get swept up in it—that whirlwind. You don’t realize it until you’re three years in. It takes a significant amount of work [to be in the major leagues]. In college, I anticipated the big leagues to be much more emotionally intense. But it’s actually more intense as a subtle grind. Every day, you have to work on being focused. You have to be focused on what you need to spend energy on,” Street said.  

After playing with the Athletics for four years and the Colorado Rockies for three, he started his 2012 season with the San Diego Padres before being traded to the Los Angeles Angels halfway through the 2014 season. 

In the offseason—from November to March—Street returns to his home in Austin. His family, wife Lacey Street, and sons Ripken, 4, and Ryder, 2, follow his lead. 

“Coming back home is always hard, because it’s the first time in eight months where I have nothing to do,” Street said. 

“You have to like to go, and you have to enjoy going,” Lacey said of all the travel that comes with being the wife of a professional baseball pitcher.

In the past year, with spring training, the regular season, and a trade mid-season last year, Lacey moved four times to keep up with Huston. And at the end of the season, they moved, as they always do, back to Austin. Total move count: 5

Street considers himself neither a traveler nor a homebody at heart. “I’m schizophrenic,” he said. “I’ve been trying to figure myself out. I love traveling when I’m traveling, and I love being home when I’m home. I have to love both.”

“As I’ve gotten older and traveled more to other cities, I’ve realized how authentic Austin is. It has that element. I hope it stays that way.” 

Would he ever consider moving away from Austin? “No, no chance. They’ll never get rid of me,” Street said. He still has fond memories of family outings to Dan’s Hamburgers and Matt’s El Rancho as a kid. “You know, the staples,” he said.

At night, when Huston returns home from a season game, he’s greeted by two of the most outspoken announcers he’s ever met. His sons. “Dad, you won the game tonight,” they’ll say to him, or “Dad, you blew the save.”

His family keeps him humbled and centered.

“He was raised grounded,” Janie Street, Huston’s mother, said. “You don’t wake up that way. His dad was a football player, but when Huston was growing up, he didn’t know who his daddy was. There were lots of football players around. That’s not what defines you,” she said.  

The same is true for when Huston’s sons sit down and watch a Los Angeles Angels game on TV “To them, those guys are just Daddy’s friends. They’re just people who work with Daddy and play ball with Daddy,” Janie Street said. 

“We were watching a game one time,” she said, “and Ripkin was like, ‘Oh, that’s Mike Morris. Now he’s the guy, he’s the one that hit the home run off of Daddy, remember?’ And I’m like, ‘I remember,’ but I didn’t think a 4-year-old would.” 

“He’s a genius. He loves baseball,” Street said of Ripkin. 

“My oldest son is the sweetest, most polite kid. And my 2-year-old just has to have his way, and he’s the boss,” Street said.

When it comes to his sons and baseball, he couldn’t care less if they ever considered playing the sport. “My dad used to tell me, ‘Bud, I don’t care what you do. Just do something you love. And every day, get a little bit better. Be the best that you can be.’ That’s what I’ll tell my sons; the same thing my father told me.”

It’s a cold and ominously overcast December afternoon and Janie Street is sitting in her son’s living room, in front of a series of ceiling-high bay windows that look out on Lake Austin.

“I saw a new side of him—of all my sons—this past year. They’ve been there for me,” she said, tossing a glance toward the travertine-columned kitchen where Huston is pulling his sons apart from a tussle over a Superman flashlight. “I’m so proud of how they’ve handled their difficulties. They’ve shown their true character, and I’m proud of the people they’ve become.” 

The night before her husband James passed away, the two had just returned from a 3-day trip to watch Huston close out the 2013 season for the San Diego Padres. The night before, Huston and his dad had been sitting in the hotel lobby, discussing the game and James’ future plans for the settlement business he had started.

“We were a team. We had fun. I’m still mad at him [for leaving],” Janie said with a muffled laugh.  

“There’s all the clichés, but they’re true,” she said. “You try to focus on the good, and treat each day like the present. You focus on what’s meaningful and important. Accomplishments are nice, but it’s the simple things that matter.”

Huston’s younger twin brothers, Juston and Jordon, also pitched for the Longhorns, with Juston lettering in 2005 and Jordan lettering in 2007 and 2008. 

Juston, now an actor, will portray his dad in the upcoming film, My All American. The film tells the story of defensive back Freddy Steinmark, and the University of Texas ’69 National Championship football team. James Street, the team’s quarterback, was most famous for his 44-yard pass completion that secured the Longhorns’ win against Arkansas. He later led Texas to win 21–17 against Notre Dame at the Cotton Bowl. 

“We all have a little piece of Dad in us, and we all have our moments,” Street said. “But Juston’s the storyteller in the family. He’s always had that gift, and he’s gonna kill it [in the movie].” 

Jordan went on to major in Spanish and attend seminary in California. He recently returned from a missionary trip to Central America. 

Hanson, the brother who called Huston in the early morning hours after the night of their dad’s passing, now works in finance in Houston.

Ryan, their older half-brother, has two kids, ages 11 and 8, and works as an architect in Austin. 

With a schedule that has him playing games almost every day of the week, Street prefers not to watch too many games on TV when he gets home. Instead, he and Lacey will binge watch two or three new shows a year—past favorites span from Parenthood and House of Cards to Game of Thrones, The Newsroom, Curb Your Enthusiasm, and Scandal. “It’s something we can do together, and it gives us something [besides baseball] to talk about,” Street said. 

He confides that in the two, 30-minute blocks of unscheduled time he allots himself a day, he plays an average of 15 speed chess games an hour on In the 10 years since he first got into the online sport, he estimates he’s played around 20,000 games. 

“Lacey can tell you how serious I get about my chess games. The thing that frustrates me the most is a slow Internet connection,” Street said. That’s to be expected from a guy whose favorite pitch is the fastball—clocked at 94 miles per hour. Someone whose one setting is speed. 

That’s not to say Street never slows down or steps away from the regular routine for a night. 

“He’s pretty romantic,” Lacey says of Street, adding that he’ll often surprise her with flowers or gifts. “He’ll know when we need to take a break and have a date night. And he’s always making sure we take a vacation at least once a year,” she said. 

The couple first met ten years ago in downtown Austin. By the next day, they were floating the Comal River together. “We met, and then she told me she was going to go tubing the next day, so I invited myself,” Street said. 

“He was like ‘Oh wait, I’m going there too.’ And I was like, ‘Really, that same spot?’ And he was like, ‘Yeah, yeah, right there,’” Lacey said.

It was the perfect and the worst time to meet each other, Street said. The perfect time because they were both starting something brand new. It was the night of Street’s last day of college at UT. “We had just lost the College World Series (to Cal State Fullerton), and it was our last night as guys going out,” he said. 

For Lacey, it was her first day of summer break after high school—before her freshman year of college at TCU (where she went on to compete in cheerleading). 

“We just hung out with each other for probably three or four weeks. After summer ended, we talked on the phone every night. And then somewhere along the line, I was just like, ‘Listen, I’m not letting you go,’” Street said. 

Lacey said she feels like baseball is good for their marriage. “We kind of have to lean on each other a lot because we don’t really have anybody else. And we’re always in these random cities, where it’s just us. You’re in your own little bubble,” she said. 

They just celebrated their seventh anniversary on Jan. 5 with the news that they are expecting. They’re both hoping for a girl. 

“They’re really grounded with this life,” Janie Street said. “You know, they’re normal. Their life is normal. They have a little more stuff than most of us, but when you’re around them, it’s real easy to see they’re not caught up in all that. They appreciate their opportunities, they work hard, and they’re disciplined. They’re no different than anyone else who has a job; someone who’s made a commitment. They have some things [other people don’t have], but they also give up some things—like time. Time is really valuable to them.” 

“Everybody, when they experience success, gets bigheaded,” Street said. “Even I get excited. When you see people starting to get anxious [from success], that’s when you know they need to just chill.” 

Street has both a mental side for baseball, but he’s got a soft side too, said Janie Street. It’s a personality pendulum that keeps him focused, down-to-earth, and levelheaded.  

“My dad used to say, ‘The good ones learn from their mistakes, but the great ones learn from other people’s mistakes,’” Street said. “So I always try to watch guys in front of me, guys who have been 31 before. What did the successful ones do and what did the unsuccessful ones do? I try to learn from them; I’m always learning. Sure, I’ve played baseball before, but I’ve never played baseball at 31.” 

Two of the closers Street admires and looks up to most are Dennis Eckersley and Trevor Hoffman. “When I played in Oakland, Eckersley was someone I really looked up to. He was very aggressive, and he took charge. He had supreme confidence on the mound. But then, when you talked to him away from the mound, you saw it was all fear. He used fear to motivate himself,” Street said.

“When you’re on the mound, you really function in your own little bubble. But it’s all the moments before that—the preparation, the process, every single pitch—that make closing pitchers great,” he said. 

Street, a two-time All Star, has been a closer since his rookie year with the Oakland Athletics—when he won the American League’s Rookie of the Year award. He has saved 275 games in 319 chances (86 percent) in his career with a 2.82 ERA. He is ranked 30th on the MLB career saves list, and climbing. His two idols, Hoffman and Eckersley, are ranked 2nd and 6th on the list, respectively. 

In the 2014 season—the first half of which he spent pitching for the Padres before being traded to the Angels—Street posted a 1.37 ERA and converted 41 of 44 save opportunities. 

So what are his goals for next season? 

“I want to win a World Series. I’m on one of the few teams that has a fair shot. There’s not many teams that come along like the Royals, and I have a lot of respect for them,” Street said, referring to the Kansas City Royal’s Divisional Series win that ended the Angels’ 2014 season.

“Eckersley and Hoffman, they never gave a pitch away. And that’s what I try and emulate,” he said.

As a kid, Huston was conditioned to never let go of or give anything away easily. 

“If I had a baseball practice and a piano recital the same day, and I wanted to skip my piano recital because I hadn’t practiced, mom would make me go to my piano recital because she had signed me up for it. Her point was that if you commit to something, then you’re going to be there.” 

Janie Street nodded in agreement. “Whatever you start, you finish,” she said. 

Those words of wisdom are as familiar to Street’s ears as the reverberating sound of a raucous stadium crowd when he takes the mound in the ninth inning. 

Whatever you start, you finish.


Quick Q&A with Huston Street 

Favorite pitch: “It changes every game. I expect all my pitches to be good because I have just one inning to get people out however fast I can. But, if I had to choose, it would be the fastball.”

Stepping up to bat…terrifying or exciting? “It’s awesome. They don’t let us bat in the American League, but I think I could get a hit if they let me.” 

Favorite song: “Texas” by George Strait. “I’m a fan of old school country.” 

Best barbeque in Austin: “An order of brisket and sausage at Iron Works. It doesn’t get better than that.” 

Kid outing: Zilker Park to ride the train or walk around the Lady Bird Lake trail. 

Date night outing: Anywhere from restaurants on Austin’s East Side to those along South Congress or Lamar. Uchi and laV are two of their favorite restaurants in town, Lacey said. 

Favorite book? “I read newspapers, but not books. It’s a definitive choice I’ve made. Later in life, I’m sure I’ll realize how wrong I was.”

Favorite quote: “But the one who does not know and does things deserving punishment will be beaten with few blows. From everyone who has been given much, much will be demanded; and from the one who has been entrusted with much, much more will be asked.” Luke 12:48

“That’s the one book I do read,” Street said.



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