Professional sports teams are infamous for “enhancing” the height and weight of their players in their media guides. For example, the Rockets listed Hakeem Olajuwon at 7 feet for years, even though he was actually closer to 6′ 10″. If you’re old enough to remember “Hakeem The Dream”, you know he played like a 7-footer and didn’t need any help building a reputation.
At the other end of the height spectrum, we find Jose Altuve. Even after he put up amazing numbers in the minor leagues and in his home country of Venezuela, the Astros second-baseman still had trouble gaining respectability. Altuve’s numbers were generally dismissed by the majority of baseball ‘experts’ who seemed to focus strictly on one number in particular — his height.
In 2011, when Altuve made the jump from AA straight to the big leagues, he hit the ground running. Despite collecting at least one hit in each of his first seven games, the 21-year old routinely found himself answering questions about his height rather than his on-field accomplishments. Such questions had to be an annoyance for Altuve, but it was something he had become accustomed to. Once he had established himself in the majors Altuve came clean about his height, admitting that the Astros had fudged the numbers by a good two inches.
Jose Altuve (Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports)
Having to constantly deal with the naysayers made Altuve work that much harder. Even after making it to the big leagues, Altuve continued to play winter ball in an effort to improve his overall game. After slumping down the stretch in his rookie season Altuve knew there was still work to be done. One of the criticisms of his game was his lack of patience at the plate. So Altuve headed to Venezuela with that in mind.
Altuve worked hard in the Venezuelan Winter League to become more selective at the plate. The hard work paid off. In his first full season in the majors Altuve tripled his walk percentage from the previous season. His new found patience at the plate also triggered an increase in Altuve’s overall numbers and helped him earn a spot on the National League All-Star Team.
But Altuve wasn’t ready to rest on his merits. He knew major league pitchers would continue to try and find ways to get him out , so he headed back to his homeland for another session of winter ball.
Jose is off to another quick start in 2013, hitting .364/.391/.477 through the first ten games. Altuve has solidified his role as the Astros leadoff hitter and catalyst with his hustling style of play.
Recently, Altuve told reporters covering the Astros that he is now 5′ 6″ tall. That revelation hasn’t fazed Bryan Trostel, founder of the website How Many Altuves? Trostel’s site, which features a calculator that converts standard measurements into OSLAs (Official Standard Listed Altuves), will continue to use the standard of 5′ 5″ until Altuve’s growth spurt can be confirmed.
Whether or not Altuve is indeed growing physically is still a point of contention. But one thing is for sure. Altuve IS continuing to grow as a baseball player.