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Anthony Rendon's college coach saw early greatness in Nationals star

It didn't take long for former Rice head coach Wayne Graham to see he had something special in Anthony Rendon.
Credit: Eric Flack-WUSA

HOUSTON — A whole lot of Houstonians are rooting against the Washington Nationals in the World Series. But there is one Nationals player who has a fan club that stretches from one corner of Houston to the other.  Houston native Anthony Rendon.

“Well you hate to say this because people think you are bulling them,” said Rendon’s college coach Wayne Graham. “But it’s true, he was a great teammate.”

At Reckling Stadium on the campus of Rice University the walls are covered with major leaguers who have grown up in the program to become baseball superstars. Graham says none may have made a more of a lasting impression than Rendon.

“And I think he kind of has humility. And empathy,” Graham said. “These are ideal qualities in people, and I think he has some of those ideal qualities.”

Credit: AP
Washington Nationals' Anthony Rendon celebrates in the dugout after scoring on a single by Juan Soto during the sixth inning in Game 5 of the baseball team's National League Division Series against the Los Angeles Dodgers on Wednesday, Oct. 9, 2019, in Los Angeles. (AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill)

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Graham was Rendon’s baseball coach when he was an All-America and National player of the year at Rice in 2010. Graham says Rendon ranks right up there with some of the all-time greats he’s seen.

“Hank Aaron. Because he and Ernie Banks had that lightening in their wrists just like Anthony does they can get to the ball quick.,” Graham said.

Rendon’s gifts on the baseball diamond well known around Houston even before he got to Rice. The Houston Native was a star player at nearby Lamar High School, just minutes from Minute Maid Park where Rendon will play in his first ever World Series.

“The ah-ha moments were he would do it every day,” said Rendon’s coach at Lamar David Munoz. “The Ah-ha moments were he would play every day at though it were his last.”

But Munoz said Rendon was always about more than just baseball.

“He took care of business in the classroom,” Munoz said. “And is very much a direct, indirect inspiration to a lot of kids on our campus.”

So, who will Rendon’s old coaches and friends here in Houston be rooting for?

The Astros? Or Rendon?

Coach Graham says, both.

“Oh 100 percent,” Graham said. “I want him to get a hit every time and I want them to play 7 games and I want the Astros to win.” 

Anthony Rendon is well known for his desire to stay out of the spotlight. But at World Series media day Monday he told reporters he loves playing in a World Series in his home because of all the support and love he will have in the stands.

As for the number of ticket requests he’s received, Rendon would only say, “a lot.”