Ready to harvest the fruits of urban Houston
Crowds at Astros FanFest celebrate title, look forward to the new season
Tens of thousands of fans swarmed Minute Maid Park on Saturday for another chance to celebrate the Astros’ 2017 championship.
Attendees at FanFest enjoyed a long list of activities, including running the bases, touring the locker room, pitching in the bullpen, video games and photo opportunities.
Stars like Justin Verlander, Carlos Correa and Jose Altuve met fans and signed autographs.
While opening day is still months away, it felt like spring with the sun shining through the open roof of the ballpark, despite chilly temperatures, as a record 42,000 admission vouchers were issued for the annual event.
The Cardenas family has lived in Houston for more than 40 years and has cheered on the Astros since the ’80s.
“My parents took me to the Astrodome as a kid,” said father Jesus.
With his wife, Kristine, and two young sons, Jesus and Matthew, he paid for the privilege of getting their picture taken with the World Series trophy.
Going to playoff games and watching the Astros win the
championship was an experience of a lifetime.
“This is just the ultimate,” said Jesus. “To have the boys experience this, to see that and all this, it’s like living a dream.”
When asked who he was the most excited to see, the younger Jesus hopped from one foot to the next, unable to contain himself. “Altuve, Altuve, Altuve!” He wasn’t the only one with stars in his eyes for the popular second baseman.
One fan, JJ Escobar, 10, held up a sign she made for Altuve.
“Altuve made my believe I can dream BIG even though I’m small,” read the sign.
Family friend Derrick Wood lifted JJ up so she could see Altuve as he signed autographs.
To her delight, Altuve turned to her, read her sign and gave her a smile and a wave.
“Altuve! Woooo,” shouted JJ and her best friend Elissa.
Moments later, tears in her eyes and a beaming smile on her face, JJ tried to describe the moment to her mom, Cindy.
“I just can’t explain it. It was just so amazing,” she said.
Over at the first free autograph session of the day, first baseman Yuli Gurriel was signing memorabilia for fans.
Dori Leyba, her daughter Natalie and her niece Mikaili were overjoyed with seeing one of their favorite players.
“He’s actually my husband’s favorite,” Dori said. “He’s going to be mad he missed him.”
Dori told Natalie to take her phone and get a picture of Gurriel.
“Text Daddy that Yuli’s here,” said Dori.
“Mom, I don’t want to seem like a stalker like you,” Natalie responded.
“I’m not a stalker,” she said. “It’s just fun!”
They had been waiting in the cold since 9:30 a.m. to get into this year’s event. Doors opened at 11 a.m.
“We were iffy about coming with so many expected to attend this year but I’m glad we made it,” Dori said.
It wasn’t just about fans meeting their heroes.
In an upstairs suite, auditions were held to find people to sing the national anthem before games next season.
Kristene Vilela was there with her 7-year-old son, Alex.
“I used to sing a lot before I had a family,” Kristene said.
“You were a choir girl!” said Alex. She nodded with a smile.
Kristene used to do vocal auditions when she was in college. This time, she ducked into the bathroom to practice before she went on. Moments later, it was all done. “I think it went well,” Kristene said.
Alex was proud of his mom and excited he got his picture taken with center fielder George Springer and utility player Marwin Gonzalez earlier in the day.
Basking in the glory of a championship makes the seasons of 100-plus losses seem far away.
Byron Alexander has followed the Astros for the last decade. It was harder to watch when the victories were hard to come by.
“I used to go to maybe one or two games a year,” Alexander said. “Now it’s six or seven games a year at least.”
Jeremy Han, 3, of Sugar Land waits in line with his family’s purchase during Urban Harvest’s 18th Annual Fruit Tree Sale on Saturday. People waited in line for almost an hour to score at least one of more than 100 varieties of trees that are suited to grow in the climate and soils of Greater Houston.
Astros first baseman Yuli Gurriel and fan Mikayla Harrison stick their tongues out for a photo in the social media photo booth during the Astros FanFest at Minute Maid Park on Saturday.