You’ve probably heard of Daniella Rodriguez: from her trickling first pitch before an Astros game last August or from Carlos Correa’s momentous proposal after winning the World Series. Despite retiring from her pageant life after winning Miss Texas USA in 2016, Rodriguez has stepped into the spotlight once again. Not only is she more than willing to laugh at herself, as she did after her botched pitch at the Astros game — showing off that endearing pageant attitude Texas fell in love with — but her list of talents makes it easy to see how Correa could fall head over cleats for this Mexican-American sweetheart.
As if winning Miss Texas USA on her first try at the age of 19 wasn’t impressive enough, Rodriguez did it all while working for her family’s business, studying teaching and early childhood development at Texas A&M International University and supporting organizations like St. Jude’s Children’s Research Hospital, Pink Ribbon Awareness, Best Buddies and the Special Olympics. This giving attitude has also been her motivation for chasing her dreams.
Rodriguez aspires to be a successful actress in the hopes that one day she can repay her family for all they have sacrificed to help her get this far. Family has always been one of the most important aspects of Rodriguez’s life. In fact, it was Rodriguez’s mother who convinced her to become involved in beauty pageants in the first place. “I started pageants through my mom,” Rodriguez explains. “She was the person who encouraged me because at the time, I wasn’t really sure if I wanted to. She’s always been my number one fan and always has supported me, so that’s what inspired me.” They say mothers know best for a reason, which probably explains how Rodriguez had such a natural talent in pageants that she became the youngest Miss Texas USA crowned beauty in history.
When asked about being crowned, you can immediately hear the wonder and excitement in her voice: “That was a completely amazing part of my life that I absolutely adored and feel that it has definitely shaped me to who I am now. It helped me to be more outspoken. And the funny thing is, if I had never won Miss Texas, I never would have met Carlos.”
It turns out that a few of the Astros boys, Puerto Rican shortstop Carlos Correa included, had been sneaking a peek at the Miss USA pageant on TV when Correa first laid eyes on Rodriguez. One might say it was love at first sight, because it immediately prompted Correa to reach out to the talented and beautiful Daniella Rodriguez. “It was the day after the pageant and I noticed he had reached out through social media,” Rodriguez says, laughing, “I know, your typical love story nowadays since everyone uses social media! He sent me a message congratulating me for my achievements. And that’s kind of when we first heard about each other. We didn’t really keep up with each other’s lives or anything. We didn’t follow each other back at the time so that was that.”
Little did they know that a month later, Rodriguez would be scheduled to throw the first pitch at the Astros home baseball game for her last Miss Texas USA event. Never having thrown a baseball prior to the event, Rodriguez’s pitch drew short and completely missed wide of the batter’s box. While most ceremonial first pitches are not thrown by baseball experts, this one was quite memorable. With a laugh and a shrug, Rodriguez walked off the field and straight into Correa’s heart.
Seeing her laugh off her little hiccup was so endearing that Correa had to ask her out to dinner after the game. The pair spent the evening at North Italia restaurant, and to break the ice, Correa immediately joked about her first pitch, asking, “Have you seen your first pitch? Because you should definitely take a look!”
After sharing a laugh about the pitch, the pair spent hours talking about anything and everything. “It felt like we had known each other forever. We just clicked and kept talking about my life, his life, my childhood, his childhood, everything. And it literally felt like we had known each other our whole lives and I felt comfortable talking to him.”
After that night, there was no denying the spark they felt for each other and started dating soon after. Coming up on two years of being together, the pair have plenty of memories to share —some of the best being the simplest.
“Honestly, our best dates are the simplest things in the world,” says Rodriguez. “Of course, we have our nice dates where we dress up and go to Steak 48, but the best times that we have are when we order in burgers, hang in the backyard with our dog, Groot, and we end the night relaxing with our favorite show on Netflix.”
The one thing that entices these homebodies to venture out is the restaurant scene in Houston, which never stops growing. Some of their favorites include hotspots like El Meson in Rice Village, Uchi, Steak 48 and Houston’s beloved The Burger Joint. Owner Matthew Pak describes what it’s like to have the pair visit. “The first time they came in was just after a playoff game before their World Series win. It was their first time in the restaurant, even though they order online all the time, and the restaurant was packed with Astros fans just after the game. We got them their Mexiburgers and they were just having a great time. Then, Carlos Correa stands up and just starts signing autographs for the kids and all the fans in the restaurant. So he and Daniella stuck around for a good hour after they ate hanging out with the fans. They’re such down-to-earth people, it’s amazing. For me, as an owner, it’s incredible to have World Champions coming to the restaurant or ordering online on a regular basis.” Not only are fans falling in love with the duo via social media, but it goes to show how much they care for their fans and the community around them offscreen, too.
With Rodriguez being so involved with social media, especially Instagram, the world could tell the pair was getting pretty serious. Yet somehow, Rodriguez was still completely taken aback by Correa’s proposal. Admittedly, the world was taken aback because who could have ever guessed that the Astros winning the World Series could get any better?
The momentous night ended with a live interview of Correa laying his heart out for the world to see, which is something that Rodriguez definitely did not expect. “We’re all going through this rush that we just won the World Series and everyone is so hyped that this just happened. And God blessed these guys to be the ones to do it. We finally get to the field with the whole park going crazy and one of our good family friends is standing next to me, motioning for me to jump the little barrier between us and the players on the field. The thing is I couldn’t cross because of the security and I was like, okay that’s fine, I understand, but everyone around me kept telling me I needed to be on that field. Anyways, so I couldn’t hear [Correa] that much during the whole interview because it was extremely loud, so it wasn’t until he looked up at me and said my name that I realized what was going on. Obviously, I started freaking out because it was the last thing I expected him to do! He was always so focused on all the games and all he would talk about was baseball … I never thought that proposing was even on his mind. When it was happening, I was in complete shock and that’s when I threw myself over that little fence because there was no way that fence was going to be in the way of my proposal! And it’s so funny because Carlos was telling the guys before the game, ‘Come on, we have to win this! Tonight is the night I’m proposing so don’t let me down!’ So everybody knew. If I could relive one day of my whole life, it would be that moment.”
From girlfriend to fiancée to wife, there is plenty that goes into being the other half to a famous athlete. “I feel like a lot of people don’t really see the side of the wife or girlfriend and I feel that our role is just as important because we do everything behind the scenes,” Rodriguez explains. Of course, the players we all know and love don’t arrive where they are without determination and hard work, but it’s a difficult life to lead without someone by their side to help lighten the load. Couples rely on each other for emotional support, motivation and inspiration. “It’s been absolutely incredible because every year [Correa] is just striving to get better. He never wants to be satisfied with what he has and is always striving to be better. Of course, he feels lucky and blessed with what he has accomplished, but it’s about striving to be the best version of himself and I think his mentality is just so inspiring, and not just to other people, but especially to me.” The pair have truly become a team of their own in addition to being such a huge part of a nationally renowned team. And not just any team, but the Astros.
Houston suffered one of its darkest moments this past August as Hurricane Harvey swept through and devastated the lives of thousands. But Houston answered back. Our city’s strength and hope were epitomized as the Astros fought for the World Series title and won. The team brought the city together in its time of need, and that is something the Astros are known for —creating a sense of family among its fans. It’s also something Rodriguez loves most, “I can honestly say that I am so lucky to be a part of the Astros family. And my favorite part about the Astros is just that — they are a family.”
Watching the Astros play is truly something special, especially watching within Minute Maid Park. While Minute Maid Park itself is fairly young, opening in 2000, it was built as a replacement of the Astrodome, which was the first domed sports stadium ever built in 1965. This hitter-friendly park is perfectly suited for the Astros big-hitters like Correa and Altuve, creating an atmosphere like no other as homerun after homerun is hit, and giving fans the experience of a lifetime.
Minute Maid Park is more than just a venue, it’s an experience in and of itself. One thing Houston is known for is its abundance of scrumptious restaurants and attracts visitors from around the world. Minute Maid Park capitalizes on this and is no exception.
“I practically live at Minute Maid,” Rodriguez says. “The other Astros girls and I really like to snack so we always roam around the park and try all the different options. We are all obsessed with Shake Shack of course, and don’t get me wrong, I try my best to stay away from it, but it’s just that good! After the season I’m going to have to hit the gym from all this yummy food!” And visitors can indulge now more than ever.
Houston is known for its Tex-Mex, barbecue and foodie mashups, which is exactly what you’ll find at Minute Maid. Many of the options provided at the park are from local restaurants, which makes a visit to Minute Maid equivalent to a gastronomy tour of Houston. New additions to the park this season include a Brew House Tiers funnel cake piled high with pulled pork, chopped beef, smoked sausage, and citrus kale and black bean salad with golden grain mustard BBQ sauce. If you have the munchies you can also try the new .45 Express, a ballpark-only hot dog from Torchy’s Tacos that’s topped with hot Cheetos, green chili queso, pico, pickled jalapeños and sour cream before being wrapped into a tortilla. Upscale spot Osso & Kristalla serves an Italian twist on nachos by using pasta chips, Italian sausage and formaggio blanco. Kids will enjoy treats like ice cream served in souvenir mini baseball helmets or edible gourmet cookie dough from Jane Dough. And of course, what is America’s favorite past-time without an ice-cold beer in hand to cheer with? Houston is home to some of Texas’ best craft breweries. A Houstonian favorite, St. Arnold’s, has set up a bar in the Atrium of Minute Maid Park to treat fans to happy hour and live music. For something with a little more kick, fans can visit various artist-crafted cocktail stands served in souvenir Astros themed mason jars.
Another thing that makes Minute Maid Park so unique is the fact that it is the only park to feature its own train, running from center field to left, conducted by an actual person and whistling a cheer for an Astros homerun. And that’s not the only thing that gets the crowd going. Orbit, the Astros’ mascot, is well known for his funny antics and killer dance moves, making him a favorite among fans and visitors alike. Just beware, he is known to silly string fans from the Visiting team!
If you would rather catch a bite to eat outside of the stadium, you’ll find plenty of options within walking distance of Minute Maid Park, including nationally-acclaimed Vic & Anthony’s, an upscale steakhouse directly across from the ballpark, or Texas-famous, mouthwatering brisket and ribs from Jackson Street Barbecue. Visitors can also venture to Discovery Green for the informal elegance of The Grove or the fast-casual fare of The Lake House, which both offer creations from award-winning chef Robert del Grande. Discovery Green is also the perfect location to spend the afternoon before the game. The 12-acre park features a one-acre lake with kayaks, children’s playground, interactive water features, and an amphitheater stage for live music and special events. The downtown location allows visitors to immerse themselves into the heart of Houston before a trip to the ballpark, making Minute Maid Park an essential experience to add to your Houston itinerary.
All in all, it’s no wonder that Rodriguez’s favorite place and second home in Houston is Minute Maid Park. For much of Houston, it has become the heart of the city that brings the community together and the center point for visitors to get a taste of everything Houston has to offer. Minute Maid is more than just a ballpark, it is a venue where memories are made.
For first time visitor, Daniella Rodriguez, it was even where her romance with Carlos Correa began. Now, the wedding is tentatively set for December of 2019, and you can bet that the social media guru and beauty pageant legacy, Daniella Rodriguez, will keep us involved the whole way.
Feature image courtesy of Andrew Hancock.