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Thomas Avalos

Marine vet Thomas Avalos finds peace with Astros

After fighting depression, Thomas Avalos found purpose at Rice University

HOUSTON – Although he had a supportive family and a stable job as a roofer, Thomas Avalos struggled to find his purpose after leaving the U.S. Marine Corps in 2017. Like many veterans, he struggled to adjust to civilian life. 

Avalos fell into a deep depression. Thoughts of suicide roamed in his mind. Even after being accepted into one of the most prestigious academic institutions in the world, he couldn’t get rid of the emptiness he felt inside. 

“There was about a five-year period from the time I got out until two years ago, I did not feel sure of myself,” the Rice University graduate says. “For a long time I was roofing and I thought that was my life for the rest of my life.

“Going from flying in the Marine Corps to roofing as a civilian it felt like there was a big void inside of me. It led to depression, and I had issues with suicide.”

Astros ticket exec

Avalos is in a much better place now as a ticket account executive with the Houston Astros. Adjusting to civilian life after 10 years in the Marine Corps, though, was an arduous journey for Thomas Avalos. The former in-flight engineer spent a decade inspecting military aircrafts, resulting in 500 flying hours without incident. 

His job was a rewarding experience. Avalos had to be precise in his analysis because any mistake could lead to a mishap. Life after leaving the Marines was difficult, but he was excited to take on civilian life. 

A new world awaited as he transitioned from analyzing aircrafts to inspecting roofs for a roofing company in Houston. It was a great employment for the former Sergeant to support his family.

Thomas Avalos
Thomas Avalos spent 10 years in the Marines Corps.

Yearning to change the trajectory of his fate, he enrolled at his local junior college in Tomball, Texas, on the outskirts of Houston. After two years of managing a full-time job and going to night school at Lone Star College, Avalos received an Associate of Arts degree. 

Thomas Avalos gets call of a lifetime from Rice University

In his mission to further his education, Avalos applied to Texas A&M University, the University of Texas and Rice University. His dream school was Rice, but he knew it wasn’t easy to be accepted by the top academic school in the Southwest. He set his mind on the safe route, and he started choosing his classes at Texas A&M.

In the morning on the final day for admissions at Rice, they hadn’t replied. Avalos came back from work hot and tired, so he took a nap. When he woke up, he checked his email and received the news of a lifetime. Avalos received an acceptance email from Rice. 

It was a magical moment for Avalos, who was eager to take on a new challenge. The military took a physical toll on Avalos, but school took a mental toll.


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One night when Avalos was studying late he was struggling to understand geometry. After being flustered on a problem, he wept silently at his desk trying not to wake his wife and kids, who slept in the other room. 

With Thomas Avalos’ mind pervading in self doubt and imagining his life crumbling into pieces, Avalos’ wife Kristin and kids walked into the room. With his family surrounding him, Avalos knew his endeavor was greater than he. 

Crucial Rice mentors

“She walks in and says ‘What’s going on?’” Avalos said emotionally. “I’m like, ‘I suck, I can’t do this.’ She was sitting there and my kids came up too, and they said ‘Daddy why are you crying?’

“At that moment I wanted them to see what it takes. It’s going to be hard, but you have to keep going no matter how you feel about yourself. If you just keep driving and going, that determination will get you where you want to go.”

The father of three was 31 years old while sitting in a class with teenagers who were usually the top of their respective high school classes. Rice professor Tom Stallings took an interest in Avalos’ journey. 

Stallings discovered Avalos and his desire for a career in sports after reading an article published by the Rice student newspaper, the Thresher. The piece was titled, “Veteran Owls: Two students talk undergraduate life after the military.”

“I’m reading through and I saw a quote from him saying, ‘Yeah I am interested in studying sports management,’” Stallings says. “I’m like, ‘Whoa, who is this kid?’ I went to see if he was in the system, and I immediately emailed him saying I’d like to talk.

“And 10 minutes later I received a call from him. He was unlike any other student we’ve ever had.”

Childhood memories

Stallings connected Avalos to people who could help him get hired. As he worked for his sports management degree, he was bridging a relationship with executives in sports. The 2023 Rice University graduate is now an account executive for the Houston Astros. He is employed in ticket sales and is a ticket experience ambassador. 

Vivid memories of Barry Bonds hitting home runs for the Giants, and the impact that sports had in Avalos’ childhood still reside in his memory. That recollection of events persuaded him to pursue a career in sports. Avalos has filled his void by giving families moments they will cherish forever.

Thomas Avalos
Astros ticket account executive Thomas Avalos poses with his wife and three kids. Photo courtesy of the Avalos family.

“When I got older, I started to think of sports as an industry that I can work in,” Avalos said. “I thought about the memories that I have about my youth and how they stuck with me this far. Now I’m affording that opportunity to the people who I manage their tickets for. 

“I was just on the field and I was down there with a guy named Jaime Kilpatrick. He was with his son Benjamin. They are never going to forget this. That was the first time they’ve been on the field.”

Thanks to Rice University, the former Marine sergeant is now living out his own dreams with the Astros.

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