by Clem Boyd, Communications Content Manager
When the Houston Astros captured their first World Series championship in franchise history on November 1, a Cedarville University Yellow Jacket celebrated with them on field.
2004 graduate Jason Howard is senior vice president for ticket sales and strategy for the Astros. He joined the World Champs in 2012 after a five-year stint in business operations with the Arizona Diamondbacks. Before that he worked three years for the NBA’s Indiana Pacers in ticket sales.
It’s been an astronomical ride for the former Yellow Jacket point guard (2001-2002), who was among the first class of Cedarville undergraduates to earn a bachelor’s degree in sport management.
“One of the biggest things I learned at Cedarville was the way you treat people,” Howard said. “The importance of good character, choosing to do things the right way and building a strong foundation — that opens a lot of doors and makes a lot of things possible. I had good professors, coaches and friends. The life lessons I learned from them was one of the most valuable parts of my education.”
And those lessons started early. Howard’s parents, Lynn and Melinda, graduated from Cedarville in 1973 and 1971, respectively, and decided to settle down in the village seven miles south of Springfield. His mom's connections to Cedarville continued: She worked 14 years at Cedarville’s Centennial Library. Jason's dad, who was a Yellow Jacket baseball and basketball player, became a basketball referee in addition to his job as a school counselor at Parkwood Elementary School in Beavercreek, Ohio.
In fact, Howard grew up just a mile away from Cedarville University. Before attending Cedarville, he was a multisport athlete for Cedarville High School. His brother, Jeremy, and sister, Jennifer, also graduated from Cedarville High School, then the university — Jeremy in 1999 and Jennifer in 2000. Jeremy also played outfield for the Yellow Jackets baseball team.
“Cedarville shaped me; it’s such a big part of who I am,” Howard said. “There’s a misconception in the business world, that those who are calloused are the best. But those who are willing to put others ahead of themselves, who can help a group pull together in the same direction, have the opportunity to do great things. That was neat to see growing up in Cedarville – a small town full of people always looking out for one another.”
As part of the Astros organization, he sees that same kind of approach, and it’s resulted in one of the biggest turnarounds in professional sports history. “In early 2012, I met with then-new owner Jim Crane, and I heard his vision. He had just hired Jeff Luhnow as general manager, who had helped build the St. Louis Cardinals into a championship organization. They were committed to building the right way. At the time, we had one of the worst minor league systems and the worst major league record. They hit the reset button and rebuilt the team to championship caliber.”
And then, near the end of August, while something epic and amazing was going on inside Houston’s Minute Maid Park, something overwhelming and overpowering struck the United States’ fourth-largest city – Hurricane Harvey.
“These past two months, it’s been neighbors looking out for neighbors,” Howard said. “Our team was on the road when Harvey hit, and they really wanted to be back home. They are husbands, fathers and community members first, and they wanted to help. Ever since Harvey, there’s been a different energy in the stadium.”
When the Astros clinched a berth in the World Series, beating the Yankees in game seven of the American League Championship Series, there was celebration and rejoicing in the recovering city.
For Howard, the moment was made sweeter because his mom and dad had temporarily moved down to Houston. Lynn and Melinda watched grandkids Braelyn, 6, and Braxton, 3, so their son and daughter-in-law, Mandi, who also had a 10-year career in sports, could travel with Houston during road games.
“Mom and dad were at all the home games,” Howard shared. “I got to share a hug with my dad after we clinched in Houston to go to the World Series. That was pretty emotional.”
And while holding a World Series trophy aloft, on the field of victory, with his wife right next to him, is a memory of a lifetime, it’s been the response of family, friends and mentors that’s left an even bigger impression on his heart.
“Sports gives you a platform,” Howard said. “I didn’t pitch or hit one baseball, but I’ve heard from people all over the country – friends I grew up with in Cedarville, coaches, professors, colleagues from the Pacers and Diamondbacks. They’ve all been telling me how much this has meant to them, that they had a personal connection to this, and that’s been humbling. I’m very thankful.”
Located in southwest Ohio, Cedarville University is an accredited, Christ-centered, Baptist institution with an enrollment of 3,963 undergraduate, graduate, and online students in more than 150 areas of study. Founded in 1887, Cedarville is recognized nationally for its authentic Christian community, rigorous academic programs, strong graduation and retention rates, accredited professional and health science offerings, and leading student satisfaction ratings. For more information about the University, visit www.cedarville.edu.