Ready to har­vest the fruits of ur­ban Hous­ton

Crowds at Astros FanFest cel­e­brate ti­tle, look for­ward to the new sea­son

Houston Chronicle Sunday - - CITY | STATE - By Matt Dempsey

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.”

El­iz­a­beth Con­ley / Hous­ton Chron­i­cle

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.

Karen War­ren / Hous­ton Chron­i­cle

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.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from USA

© PressReader. All rights reserved.