I have a hard time getting invested in teams anymore.
The Astros are different.
My earliest memory of a pro sports event is when I was little kid in the mid-80s, clutching a Starting Lineup figure of Mike Scott after a game at the Astrodome. The little plastic pitcher is long gone, but I still have an even older Astros puppet (a dog… why a dog? why not??) in my dedicated 'stros cabinet. Nolan Ryan, Scott, Glenn Davis (whom I met many years later at the Trop). I think of my mom befriending Billy Hatcher’s wife at the park. Clay and me hassling the third base coach from the stands because his name was “Cubbage” and we thought it was fun to shout “CUB-BIIIIJJJJ!!!” at him for ten minutes at a stretch. Sneaking up to the closed upper deck, dodging security guards, and dancing in front of the Jumbotron during the last days of the ‘dome.
Watching the Astros close out a series for the ages tonight, I could imagine the excitement of the ‘stros fan in me going back, back to the beginning. From today’s cynical old man trying not to set myself up to be heartbroken, to that little kid marveling at the sheer audacity of a building like the Astrodome and its original animated scoreboard.
I remember watching live at one of my high school jobs while the friggin’ Braves put us out in the first round every. single. year. in the late ‘90s. The Killer B’s, from the now-Hall of Famers Big-gi-o and Baggy, whose autographs I treasure, to the half-forgotten ones like Derek Bell. My folks went to Biggio’s induction ceremony. I miss one-time heroes taken too soon… Cammy, Lima-time.
Sitting in every major section of MMP in its first season, from the Diamond boxes to so high in the nosebleeds I felt the burn from the lights. Walking the warning track. My family’s last night together in Houston was spent saying goodbye to my hometown with a ‘stros win at MMP.
The perforated-ulcer-stress of the ’05 postseason (tragically underrated) in my first semester of grad school. Driving down to Kissimmee for Spring Training solo or with a crew, and gaining a true brother and Astros devotee in Dr Dynamite. Watching my boys play in more cities than I can remember, from randomly meeting then-owner Drayton McLane (who called me Superman) on a cold and rainy night in DC, to fist-bumping Hunter Pence and crew. About half of the photos of me in grad school feature an Astros hat, which I didn’t quite realize until digging through old pictures while writing this post. I wore one over my long, ratty hair every day I lived in Japan.
It was a lifesaver.
Watching these boys, #1 overall picks, come through my local low-A QC River Bandits squad. My Puerto Rican “mom” Judy bringing Carlos Correa to heel (who, as I write these words, just proposed to his girlfriend live on tv). Mean-mugging Ed Wade from two feet away in Florida, then keeping the faith in Luhnow’s Moneyball schemes during three 100-loss seasons of misery. The first time I saw Altuve in person was with Jillian at a poorly attended preseason game at Wrigley when both ‘stros and Cubbies were at rock bottom. I thought there was a kid out at second.
He is a tiny god.
My city needed this.
It’s hurt being away from my people. Seeing Harvey displace friends and family and random strangers who will always be MY PEOPLE still makes me feel sick months later. Seeing how we’ve rallied around this team, these Astros, has been beautiful. Schoolmates, from Harvey survivors to international diaspora, are all reveling in this win with me tonight.
Today is a day that I was truly afraid that I would never see. My cynical little heart has grown three sizes.
We are Houston Strong.
This team, this ridiculous squad of talented and hilarious kids who have never known when they weren’t supposed to win (see: damn near doing it back in ’15!), inspires me. This isn’t some joyless, moneypit empire. These are brothers on the field, and I couldn’t love them more. I’ve been blasting Houston rap to keep me fired up (Paul Wall has offered free grillz to the ‘stros for making it to the WS), and even the official Astros Twitter feed honored DJ Screw back in June. You can’t help but smile.
I love my city. It’s a glorious mess, a cosmopolitan gumbo of bullshit and hustle and heart.
This series was legendary, and I’ve grown noticeably more gray since the postseason began. Full respect and love to the Dodgers - this was probably the most evenly matched WS I’ve ever seen, and you acquitted yourselves extraordinarily well. You’re going to be good for a long time.
Race you next year.
Tonight is ours.
#astros #earnedit #hustletown #houstonstrong