University of Houston head baseball coach Rayner Noble and Houston Astros pitcher Scott Elarton were named the 2001 Sportsmen of the Year by the R.B.I. Foundation of Houston at the organization's annual awards dinner Friday night, January 27, in Houston.
Noble, who is in his seventh season at the helm of the Cougar baseball program, was selected as one of the Sportsmen of the Year after an exemplary season on and off the field. He led UH to a stunning 2000 season where the team set a school record for wins and was ranked as high as sixth in the nation. His squad also achieved success in the classroom, where a 25-player roster recorded a composite 2.85 grade point average last fall.
Since its founding in 1992, the city of Houston's own Recycled Baseball Items Foundation (R.B.I.) uniquely donates baseball equipment, free of charge, to community organizations that work with inner-city youth. The non-profit organization has presented a positive and constructive alternative for area youth to choose over the problems of crime and drugs.
The foundation's previous Sportsmen of the Year honorees include Art Howe, Mickey Herskowitz, Doug Drabek, Larry Dierker and Bob Watson.
Houston Astros pitcher Scott Elarton, who led the team with 17 major league wins, was also a co-honoree with coach Noble. There was also special recognition for the Bellaire, Texas, little league team that won the United States championship and played for the little league world championship in Williamsport, Pa., last summer. Astros Hall of Fame broadcaster Milo Hamilton served as the dinner's Master of Ceremony.
As part of the evenings festivities, Noble and Elarton were both roasted before the awards presentation. Sterling Bank Vice President and former major leaguer Norm Miller, who also served as a volunteer staff member for Cougar baseball last season, quipped from the roasting podium that "the first time anyone had mentioned the words Rayner Noble I thought they were talking about the mountain up in the state of Washington."
Upon accepting the award Noble thanked the RBI Foundation and praised the organization for its valuable efforts with the city's young people. He gave special thanks to God, his wife Lisa and their two children, Hannah and Kelsey, his Cougar team and the support staff of the UH Athletics Department.
The Cougar baseball season begins Friday, February 2, against Baylor at Enron Field as part of the Astros College Classic Tournament.