Astros having fun
Thanks to homer celebrations, fun returns as defending champions surge down stretch
A few weeks ago when the Astros were in Anaheim, Julia Morales — field reporter for the Astros on AT&T Sportsnet broadcasts — noticed something different about the camera placement at Angel Stadium.
“The cameras were on the opposite side of the dugout than most stadiums,” Morales said.
She took a few minutes to mull a decision she needed to make quickly. She had never really chatted with any of the Astros about where cameras were in the dugout, but in light of the team’s recent dugout celebrations, she figured it might be best to give them a heads-up.
The Astros were going strong behind Alex Bregman’s newest viral sensation — the dugout stare.
Morales tipped off Bregman so the Astros would know where to look if a home run celebration took place that night.
“I didn’t want them to look the wrong way,” she said. “So I decided to help keep it going.”
The dugout celebrations fueled by Bregman have gone viral in the last several weeks and have prompted fans to do their own dugout stares and share them on social media with the hashtag #dugoutstarechallenge.
“It’s been a lot of fun to see the response,” Bregman said. “I love seeing what people are coming up with. And we have a good time coming up with more.”
In the midst of a pennant race, the stress of getting back to the postseason and the hopes of making another bigtime run, the seemingly silly celebrations that consist of Bregman and his teammates finding new poses as they stare into the camera after home runs are an important part of the Astros’ success.
“Being loose, having fun,” Tony Kemp said. “It’s really important. This game is really hard and the season is long, You have to be able to enjoy it.”
Beating the slump
The Astros had a small slump after the All-Star break. They garnered a lot of negative attention soon after that for trading for pitcher Roberto Osuna, who had just served a 75-game suspension for violating MLB’s domestic violence policy. There was a stretch where several players were injured, including stars George Springer, Jose Altuve and Carlos Correa.
It wasn’t gloom and doom, but it was a low point for the World Series champs. They weren’t the same easygoing, happy-go-lucky group that won the championship last season.
With the celebrations, the Astros just seem more like themselves again.
“It’s a small thing, but it’s good for us,” Kemp said.
Kemp was one of the first on board with Bregman’s budding idea. Kemp was the first to get a viral celebration going this season as he started hugs for homers in the dugout every time one of his teammates hit one.
That originated in Class AAA for Kemp and he brought it with him. Bregman’s celebrations came soon after and involved Kemp early on.
“I always just noticed the red light on the camera when we scored (a home run), so I decided to stare it down one day,” Bregman said. “After that, I got some teammates involved and it has evolved from there.”
Astros team photographer Alex Bierens de Haan set up a camera that would face the dugout soon after the celebrations started. He wanted to get them from different perspectives.
One of the first ones he caught was when Jake Marisnick held Kemp up by his arms. His legs set on a bench across the dugout. Bregman limboed underneath.
There was also the one where the team was looking one way and all turned to stare into the camera at the same time. Soon after that, a few of the players imitated curling, then bobsledding.
“They are actually having to be creative and serious about it,” Morales said.
She said they discussed the bobsled act on the team bus a few days before doing it.
At the rate Bregman and his teammates are hitting home runs, there are going to be a lot of stares and a lot of hugs and who knows what else in the dugout.
And the fans will continue to eat it up. From high school volleyball teams to airplane passengers to little kids in their living rooms, fans are participating and sending their best stare challenge videos to Bregman. He loves every second of it. The dugout stare is his recent gimmick, but he’s had several this season. He shaved a mustache between at-bats this season. He bleached his hair at one point. The other night, he mimicked a James Harden gif and rolled his eyes and walked away while Morales was interviewing him postgame.
Morales said that what fans are seeing is a geunine side of Bregman.
“He always has something going,” she said. “What you see is what you get with him.” She’s seen the team like this. “This is the way last year’s team was,” she said. “They like to have fun. They have great chemistry. It’s what helped get them to the World Series last year.”
Bregman and his teammates seem loose again. And it’s the perfect time for it. It’s a crucial stretch of the season and Bregman is playing the best baseball of his young career. But the pressure doesn’t seem to get to him.
“I’m having fun,” Bregman said. “You have to. It’s an important part of the game.”
The Astros give the Bregman stare after third baseman Alex Bregman (center, holding batting helmet) homered in the eighth inning of a victory over AL West rival Oakland on Aug. 27.