In five year’s time, the Astros have been transformed from a laughingstock to a champion. That’s a pretty cool story.
Five years. How life has changed in five years for all of us. In the past five years, I have experienced plenty of the good and bad in life. An identity check, if you will, also ensued. Not surprising once you consider the magnitude of changes. Heck, the Astros have experienced an indentity check themselves in the past five years.
You could actually call this past five years a major identity change for the Astros.
In a strange way, this identity check has altered my Astros fandom.
Like most that I assume read this blog and follow the Astros, your fandom story is probably a lot like mine. Someone close somehow in someway got you interested in a silly game known as baseball.
Personally, my maternal grandfather is that someone close who got me hooked on this silly game and up-and-down baseball franchise.
The first season I truly remember being caught up in the Astros was the summer of 2001. My parent’s house in Deer Park flooded during Tropical Storm Allison. Six or so inches of water throughout our home. I was eleven years old at the time. Needless to say, we needed a place to stay for a while. My grandfather lived in Deer Park as well. Thankfully, his home did not flood. So, he graciously offered to let myself, kid brother, Mom and Dad live there while the repairs on our home took place.
As my parents were busy with repairs and my Dad was out of town for work from time to time, we were with Grandpa quite often over the next few months.
But Grandpa didn’t mind.
He never seemed to mind.
One of the byproducts of the time spent together was watching the Astros in the midst of their playoff pursuit in 2001. Up to this point in my life, the Astros fandom was a small bud. I remember watching the 1999 team celebrate their NL Central title in the last regular season game ever in the Astrodome. I felt some sort of attachment there, but it wasn’t the same feeling I would later develop in 2001. The 2001 season, in essence, is when my fandom came into full bloom.
Looking back, I remember peppering Grandpa with numerous questions.
For example, a player’s backstory. Their history. Vinny Castilla only spent one season in Houston, which was 2001. I remember specifically asking about him. Orlando Merced was another. I also inquired about the greatness on the baseball diamond that was Jeff Bagwell, Craig Biggio, Moises Alou and Lance Berkman. The promise of Roy Oswalt. The hope for Wade Miller, Tim Redding and Carlos Hernandez. The consistency from Billy Wagner and Octavio Dotel. Hoping that the 2001 season was just a single down year for Richard Hidalgo.
Lots of baseball discussions ensued that summer and each following year for quite some time. I was inquisitive about baseball and it’s history. It became a near-daily conversation. By courtesy of these baseball-related conversations, I learned more about Grandpa and his life. How he had grown from a farm kid in Missouri into a knowledgeable electrician in Pasadena, Texas. His thoughts on the early years of the franchise starting with the Colt .45’s up to the precipice of the Astros grand rebuild.
By the way, he absolutely despised that the Astros traded Rusty Staub and Joe Morgan in their prime seasons. Grandpa also thought a good slider was Craig Biggio’s kryptonite. He even wondered what could’ve been if J.R. Richard remained healthy. His thoughts on other teams were another common talking point. The Braves and Cubs were also two common talking points. Thank you, TBS and WGN.
While I never advanced beyond T-Ball as a kid in terms of actually playing the sport, these conversations would lead me to obsess over baseball in my pre-teen years.
In a way today, I’m still that inquisitive kid always yearning to learn more about baseball. The sabermetric movement, for example, has intrigued me greatly over the past decade. WAR, wRC+, xwOBA, launch angles and spin rate are just a few of the new-age metrics that have only enhanced my understanding of the game and my own fandom. While this interest in baseball, and the Astros, may not amount to anything in terms of status, jobs or money, it is something I enjoy. Sometimes you can’t place a value on enjoyment. My Grandpa was the same way.
Unfortunately, Grandpa was not around when the Astros won their first World Series championship in November. He actually passed away five years ago today on December 9th, 2012. That is why I am writing this post today. This day actually means something to me.
Anytime I watch or analyze the Astros, or baseball in general, I wonder what his thoughts would’ve been about the game today and advanced metrics. His feelings towards a World Series champion in Houston? Without a doubt, he would’ve been ecstatic. And probably grumbling why did it take so long.
While advanced metrics have broaden my understanding of baseball, I still have the same feeling about the game when I was a kid. And the Astros. I have attribute this feeling to summers long past that were full of watching baseball games in conjunction with other favorite activities like fishing or video games. Life as a kid when the mystique surrounding a sport is sometimes bigger than the sport itself.
In a way, my fandom is a combination of these old-school and new-age principles. And this approach has affected my fandom plenty in the past five years since Grandpa’s passing.
Grandpa was simply the biggest Astros fan I’ve known. And he was there from the beginning. He also was the primary influence in my fondness for this team. Anyone else, including myself, is a distant second when compared to his fanhood. No offense. That may come across as biased, but I am allowed to be biased. He was my Grandpa, after all.