Astros Thoughts: The Real Losers of the Lockout

Mandatory Credit: Paul Rutherford-USA TODAY Sports
Mandatory Credit: Paul Rutherford-USA TODAY Sports /

Without baseball and without the Astros, there are losers in today’s world, and some aren’t even the ones playing.

The text messages have become part of our daily routine. After a couple of weeks, I could tell you what time of day they would arrive within 15 minutes either way.

They almost always come in spurts, usually twice per day, three or four in a row. I’ve grown to realize the initial wave comes during  “advisory” period and the second during his lunch.

The texts are about the lockout and a 15-year-old grappling with the complexities of a multibillion dollar business and what that means for him, and for us, this summer.

A lot of fathers and sons mark events in their lives by the year it happens or their ages and then work their way back to the event. In this house, we do the reverse.

We start out with a baseball game and work our way back to the year, because the year’s not so important, the event is what bonds us.

“Remember that time we went to Corpus to see Seth Beer and Chas?”, I ask. He remembers and can tell you the year, date and probably the weather.

That day Taylor Motter tossed him the ball at the end of an inning and he knows where Motter went to school, who he’s played for in the Major Leagues and wonders how he ended up with Midland in Double-A on this day.

That’ll be his research project when we get back to the hotel.

I remember that trip, too, but more than the game, I remember the three and a half hour drive home the next day when we talked about God and girls, school and friends and everything in between.

It’s undoubtedly one of the favorite conversations of my life, and it never would have happened without baseball.

We’ve seen minor-league games from Charleston to Corpus, major-league ones from Arlington to Tampa, and it’s an annual ritual to make a trip to Houston to see a few games each year.

Since the night it happened, the lock screen on my phone has been the image of the pure joy on his face when Yuli Gurriel hit a walk off bomb at Minute Maid Park.

Then there was the night we were in the nosebleeds to get our replica rings, and we saw back to back to back home runs by the Houston Astros against the Rays.

One night, we saw Nori Aoki pitch, and there was a series against the Yankees where we sat in three different areas of the ballpark on three consecutive days for the different views. Good times, lifetime memories, with baseball being the conduit.

It’s cliche, but they’re more than baseball games to me and I’m sure that those with children understand, as do those who as children shared similar experiences with a parent.

So, I’ll happily pay the steep prices to get into the games, cough up too much cash for a lukewarm beer and buy him a small, cold pizza for the price of two at home, if it means I get one more  opportunity to bond before he’s grown and gone.

I’m not important in this vignette, I’m no longer the target demographic for Major League baseball and if I never step foot in a big league ballpark no one would care.

But, there’s a 15-year-old boy with decades of purchasing ahead of him that loves baseball so much he texts questions I can’t answer. Questions about why millionaires are arguing with billionaires over who deserves more.

Questioning if either side cares about the fans and why should he continue to care if they’re going to do “this”.

I’ve tried explaining it in non-baseball terms, about being taken advantage of by management, for example, and understanding the value you bring to your employer. I’ve also made points on the owner’s side.

It doesn’t make a dent because for him, at least at 15, it’s mystifying. We want to give them money and they won’t take it.  We want to cheer and pull for them while they become rich and that’s not enough.

He has hope that it’ll all get worked out in time to start on schedule, hope that this isn’t like the summer of 2020 when the pandemic shut down baseball till the end of July and there was an emptiness in our summer.

My son represents younger fans in those texts he sends, questioning the owners “true priorities” and being “on the fence” about continuing to be a fan with “revenue at an all time high”.

There may be no trip to Houston this year, no road trips to share and I’ll make sure we find another avenue to ponder life’s big questions. My disposable income will end up somewhere else, likely in Sugar Land, Round Rock or Corpus, or maybe all three.

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When this gets settled, people will write about winners and losers. The owners will win some and the players will win some.

The real losers, though, are those like my son. Those who just want baseball.