My October Love Affair with the Houston Astros

Houston Astros Jose Altuve and Yuli Gurriel share a high five during their game against the Baltimore Orioles earlier this year. (Photo courtesy of Keith Allison on Flickr)

I found my baseball purgatory in the form of a never-ending Uber line against the callous blue backdrop of Dodger Stadium. Personally, game six of the 2017 World Series was a disaster in every imaginable way. From the beginning, I nearly missed my Union Station-bound train and later watched my buddy’s Astros jersey being used by Dodger fans as target practice for mustard-splattered hot dogs.

The game itself was a frustratingly dull outlier of the previously bizarre, yet exhilarating series. There was no hint of extra-innings or a “juiced ball.” I had spent my savings on a ticket to a game which the Dodgers quickly routed my beloved ‘Stros 3-1, taking the lead with a gasping dinker down the right field line.

The game sucked.

As I walked out of the stadium, I could hear the Dodgers’ newly-found momentum echoing from the crowd’s cheers. With no more Verlander and game seven in L.A., the journey seemed over. But it wasn’t until the the two-hour wait in the Uber line that I really began to internalize the loss. This was our year, I thought.

Nostalgia was a large part of what made it hurt. Standing outside Dodger Stadium, I replayed a series of memories tied to the Astros. I remembered playing catch with my dad in the backyard, pretending like I was Roger Clemens pitching for the Astros in the bottom of the ninth of the World Series. I was reminded of riding to school every morning with my mom and brother and hearing about the previous night’s game on the radio. I thought about reading the Sunday morning box scores with my grandparents, asking them the question I was now asking myself: “Do you think the Astros will ever win a World Series?”

It still feels weird that I cared so much. Over the years, I had somehow lost my passion for baseball. I could blame it on boarding school, my newfound interest in basketball, or possibly the fact that the Astros were just historically miserable and not fun to watch. However, this year’s World Series somehow rekindled my love of baseball.

The epic games had everything I originally enjoyed about the sport: the intense strategy, jaw-dropping plays, and the mental game within the game. I was also surreally watching my childhood team, a team with no World Series championships in my lifetime, play in late October with a chance to win it all. But it was the pride for my city and the love for my family that made the game mean everything to me.

About two months before the World Series, I flew home from school to an apocalyptic scene of floating furniture, totaled cars, and infinite piles of sheetrock in my grandparents’ Houston neighborhood. Hurricane Harvey had unleashed unfathomable destruction on the entire city with piercing winds and endless flooding. So many Houstonians had nowhere to live as the inside of their homes had been sitting in four feet of water.

But despite the devastation, I noticed a special quality, a 'can-do' spirit among everyone I interacted with during recovery efforts. Strangers offered to help move furniture and take a load of trash. Neighbors were cooking meals or buying a warm Whataburger for their friends who were stressed. Brave young people spent their mornings in fishing boats rescuing elderly people trapped in their underwater homes. Amidst tragedy, I felt a sense of hope that the city would rebuild.

For a few days in October, the Houston Astros embodied that sense of hope. They gave the entire city something to finally cheer about. They helped us make celebratory, long-distance phone calls to our college-aged siblings and 80-year-old grandparents. They ignored late-inning deficits, height disadvantages and baseball lore, reminding us that anything is possible. Twenty-four hours after game six, the Astros won the first World Series in franchise history. The final play was a feeling of pure euphoria as my childhood came full-circle at a time when my city needed it the most.