A look at what 2017 meant for Astros fans after Hurricane Harvey.
At the time of this writing, it’s been exactly 434 days since Hurricane Harvey made landfall and brought with it the heavy rains and heavier hearts. It’s also been 365 days since the Houston Astros raised the commissioner’s trophy, too. I would venture to say if you’re a baseball fan and lived in Houston in late August of 2017, both of those days were pretty memorable. Although separate events, they can most assuredly be thought of in unison for the rest of our lives. This piece you’re reading here is about that time. Moreover, it’s not because we need a constant reminder of the rain and the pain, but because as we sit here a year removed from it all, in it lays a story of identity.
When Hurricane Harvey planted itself on top of the city last Fall, it poured more rain onto our makeshift city of asphalt than any before it; 60.5”. That’s an inch less than the distance between the pitcher's mound and home plate. It flooded over 200,000 homes. It destroyed almost a million cars. It cost over $125 billion worth of damage. Yah, with a “B.” The flooding that covered the state was the size of New Jersey. It was historically, one of the worst hurricanes in history. That is to say; it was going to take an equally historic moment in the lives of affected Houstonians everywhere to gain some sort of healing from it all.
Enter, the Houston Astros.
As these Astros approached the postseason in 2017, they did so with hearts burdened from a city under water. They were forced to play a home series in Florida because the city was still reeling with devastation. Moreover, because the Texas Rangers wouldn’t swap a home & home. However, the team, as somber as they were in returning, took on an identity. They became healers. After the hurricane, the team went 20-8 in September as the hottest team in baseball, and finished the year with 101 wins; good for third in the American League.
They were healthy, they were hot, and they realized pretty quickly they were playing for a community that was desperate for a good story. While the Astros were playing their games in September, homes were still under water. While the Astros were tearing up opposing pitchers on the road, Houstonians were tearing off drywall back home. While the Astros were running around the bases, Houstonians were running around the city registering for FEMA aid packages and making stops at church triage centers. As the Astros were pouring champagne down each other’s backs for their first division title in over a decade, tears were pouring down the faces of thousands and thousands of Houstonians whose homes were classified as “uninsurable” and were damaged beyond repair.
However, then October came.
As the Astros sewed on their, “Houston Strong” patches, there was a “we need this” kind of expectation for the team. Because we did. The city had been through so much. We had been slugged in the face. A big fat black eye that was going to take years to recover from. Our homes destroyed. Entire families trapped in houses only to never get out. Baseball seemed so far off, but it wasn’t. The city needed the true character of the city to emerge from below the flooded streets. The city needed someone in a position of opportunity and authority to show the world who we really were. We needed people to see somehow what was inside the hearts of over 5 million people. All eyes were on Houston; how would we respond? How would they react?
Well…did they ever. Altuve homered three times in Game 1. Bregman launched balls over The Monster. Off belly-button Chris Sale. Justin Verlander went 4-0 heading into the World Series, and Lance McCullers threw 157 straight curveballs against the Yankees (actually it was 24). Marwin hit the most clutch home run in Astros history off Kenley Jenson, Derek Fisher scored the 13th and winning run in the best playoff game ever played during game 5, and George Springer catapulted baseballs into the deep California sky in Game 7.
Just like that, as Seager grounded the last ball of 2017 to the league MVP at second base, the Astros became a group of healers. They took on the heartache of millions of people and if only for a moment, turned it into hope; into tears of joy.
It’s been a full year.
I can still feel the sensation of seeing Yuli’s hands raise to his hands in disbelief. He couldn’t believe they did it. None of us could. None of us could believe that 25 guys could spend three weeks in the cold Fall of South Texas, of Boston, of Southern California and give us hope from a round white ball and brown wooden bat. None of us could believe that after five feet of rain leveled the city, a five-foot something Venezuelan righty could lead a team from disparity to glory. From 100 loses to 100 wins. But he did. Moreover, we will never forget it. The 2017 Astros won the division. They won the pennant. Moreover, they won the World Series. But raising the trophy on Fire Engine 69 meant only one thing to them, and to the city of Houston: we won’t be backed into a corner, we won’t be beat and we will rise up from the challenges that face us and come together as a community to overcome anything that could possibly come our way.