After an instant classic that went late into the night on Wednesday, the Houston Astros are headed back home for a 3-game stand, with their World Series matchup against the Los Angeles Dodgers tied at 1-1. Behind an excellent game from Justin Verlander and–finally–an awakening of their fearsome bats in the late innings, the Astros were able to win their very first World Series game…of all time. The team now returns to the warm and fuzzy confines of Houston, where they have been undefeated in these playoffs.
After struggling for several years, the Astros have put together a strong core of likable young players and, no matter what happens in games 2 through (possibly) 7, the team should be in the conversation for champion every year for the near future. ‘Stros fans have seemingly made it out of the darkness, and are hoping that their squad becomes the first Texas team to win the World Series. That passion is surely going to pop up at Minute Maid Park this weekend, so for those uninitiated, here’s what you can expect from the diehard Astros fans looking for that sweet Houston victory.
Going to EaDo to Pregame the Astros Way
Whether you got tickets to the game or just want to be around Astros fans in the middle of a surreal run, the bars on St. Emanuel in East Downtown Houston are always the place to be. The up-and-coming neighborhood offers a lot of spots to drink at before the game, since tailgating at the ballpark is not “technically” allowed. Ahead of games 3, 4, and 5, streets are already being block off, because Houston fans know that you have to be near your orange-clad brethren on big game days.
If you walk a few blocks down from Minute Maid Park, you can find more fans grabbing a few beers–and a collectors glass, for all your memorabilia needs–at 8th Wonder Brewery, aptly named for the Astros’ previous home, the Astrodome. Enjoy a Dome Faux’m and don’t forget to pay tribute to the portrait of DJ Screw made of screws that hangs in the back wall. Yeah.
Rocking the Juice Box With the Killer B's
Right in downtown Houston, you’ll find Minute Maid Park–dubbed The Juice Box by fans– which has been the Astros’ home since 2000. The retractable roof allows for games to be played in any weather, which comes in especially handy when temperatures go well above 100 degrees in July and August. The closed roof also makes it one of the loudest ballparks in the league, something that is true year-round but will especially be true during the World freaking Series.
Something else Astros fans love about their team’s newest digs: the design of the stadium allows for great viewing from any seat. The recent additions of Shake Shack and Torchy’s Tacos surely won’t hurt; after all, sometimes you need something with more oomph than the traditional ballpark hot dog. And Houston fans know that no trip to the Juice Box is complete without snagging a photo next to the Jeff Bagwell and Craig Biggio statues.
The Home Run Train
A tribute to the old Union Station that stood where the Juice Box was built, the locomotive replica chugs along its tracks 90 feet above the field in the west side of the park. Any newcomer to the stadium is shocked to hear the blaring train whistle and fireworks anytime the Astros hit a home run, but for the hometown fans, the choo-chooing is a sign of good things. Since it only goes 2.5 miles per hour, the real occupational hazard for conductor Bobby “Dynamite” Vasquez is dodging homers that fly his way. Given that the Astros and Dodgers just broke the World Series record for home runs in a game–with 8 in Game 2–you can expect that Vasquez will be busy the next three games.
Throwing It Back, Tequila Sunrise Style
At most ballparks, you’ll see an array of throwback jerseys, but the Astros have made a lot of changes to their uniforms throughout the years, which makes those nostalgia shirts even more impactful. The most popular among true diehards appears to be the “Tequila Sunrise” jersey of the 70’s and 80’s, with its bright orange and yellow stripes from the chest down.
You’ll also see a lot of blue and golds and reds from the 90’s and early 2000’s color changes, which coincided with the Killer B’s era of Houston success. If you look closely, you’ll even see a few Colt .45 throwbacks from the team’s origins in the early 60s. Although you still mostly see the younger fans in the newer Altuve jerseys, I’m always happy to see the orange stripes with number 34 and Nolan Ryan’s name on the back.
"Deep In the Heart of Texas"
Singing “Take Me Out to the Ballgame” is a 7th-inning tradition in ballparks throughout the country, but Houston does things a bit differently. After the peanuts and cracker jacks, the Texans in the crowd will follow up that standard with “Deep in the Heart of Texas.” Everyone native to the Lone Star State is required by common law to know every word; if you sing “The stars at night, are big and bright” without immediately following it with 4 claps and “deep in the heart of Texas,” then you might be in enemy territory. Visiting Dodger fans, beware.
All Things Altuve
At this point, there is not much more praise left to say about the diminutive 2nd baseman that hasn’t already been said. Altuve’s bat has been on fire for several seasons now, as he’s hit over .300 since 2014. What’s scary is that he’s stepping it up from his MVP-caliber season during these playoffs. His 3-dinger game against the Red Sox, and his game-winning slide into home plate against the Yankees are both in the pantheon of Astros moments, only they might have been topped by his 10th inning go-ahead slam on Wednesday night.
Aside from his bat, the Venezuelan’s glove work is airtight, especially when turning double plays alongside his partner, Carlos Correa. If Houston is to celebrate its first beisbol championship ever, it would not shock anyone to find Altuve hoisting the World Series MVP trophy at the end of it all. He’s a bonafide superstar, and as the face of the team, he’s likely the most popular Astro of them all.
Always Houston Strong
There is a lot to love about this team and the way they play the game; offensively, there’s no team scarier, and they have a certain joy that’s perfectly encapsulated in Altuve and Correa’s post-homer handshakes. However, the real heart and soul of the team is the city rooting for them.
When Hurricane Harvey made landfall in Texas on August 25, there was simply no preparing for the amount of devastation the storm would bring. For four days, the south of Texas was showered with heavy rains, with as much as 60 inches of water falling on the region. Tens of thousands of Houston residents were displaced or lost their homes.
However, the legacy of Hurricane Harvey isn’t just that of destruction and loss, but of compassion and strength. While many watched in horror, so many in the city jumped into action. People with trucks or even boats were out navigating flood waters, rescuing anyone they could. A network of communications was connected by churches and community groups, quickly finding those who could help with those who needed aid. Shelters popped up anywhere dry enough to hold goods, while makeshift kitchens made thousands of meals for both volunteers and the displaced. When the waters rescinded, volunteers spent weeks helping with demolition and clean up work. Simply put, Harvey could not stop Houston.
The Astros were on a road trip when the hurricane hit, and have since spoken about fearfully watching the news while thinking of their families, neighbors, and fans struggling back home. Unfortunately for players like Carlos Correa and Carlos Beltran, that pain was doubled when Puerto Rico was hit by Hurricane Maria less than a month later. Like the city of Houston, this team is resilient and strong. A week after the hurricane, the Astros returned home to face a different Harvey on the Mets; from that game on, the team began wearing a Houston Strong patch on their uniforms, and they swept their next two series.
Many Astros fans have a lot more important things going on than beisbol, and many may not even be able to watch these games. We try to elevate sports, hoping that the outcomes fit a narrative of uplifting success. An Astros win in the World Series would be a capstone on a season of devastation. While the team stands behind those affected by Harvey, the city stands behind the team’s rise to the Fall Classic. That’s what Houston Strong truly means.