Playoff baseball in Houston, Texas in 2015? At the beginning of the season, I (and the whole city too) would have NEVER EVER imagined it happening. I was thinking, let’s get back to .500 baseball, and I’ll be really happy. Oh, I love how baseball works. In April, the Astros started off FANTASTIC with an 18-9 start, leaving us in 1st place in the AL West. How’d they start off so good? A major factor was a TEN GAME WINNING STREAK which left me thinking, “oh, thank god, they’re finally going to have a good year.” What an understatement. The Astros ended up most of the season cruising in 1st place (wow!) until the end of the season when the Astros ALMOST collapsed. The Rangers ended up sweeping a 4-game series to take 1st place in the middle of September, but we battled until the last day, and were rewarded with the 2nd AL Wild Card spot.
I couldn’t believe it that they were going to be in the playoffs, even if at the moment it was only for one game. Watching the Wild Card game was one of the most nerve-racking experiences of my life, because I wanted them to win SO bad. Well, they pulled it off, with a 3-0 victory against the Yankees, and better yet, breaking their hearts in the process. They were now moving on to play in the ALDS against the Kansas City Royals. How confident were we? Well based on this picture taken right after we won the Wild Card Game, I guess you could say, VERY.
Now, in advance before the Wild Card game, we bought tickets to Game 4, so when they split the first two games in Kansas City, I knew I would be going, but I never thought that I would have gone to Game 3. We didn’t have tickets, and of course, the games would be sold out, but somehow, my dad got tickets from where he works, and we were set. I was stoked, and couldn’t wait. I was going to be at the first Astros playoff game in TEN LONG YEARS. I went to ALCS Game 2 in Arlington in 2010, and after that experience, even at ten years old, I couldn’t wait until the Astros could bring playoff baseball back to Houston. After the disastrous seasons of 2011-2014, and sticking through it all as a LOYAL Astros fan, this made it well worth the wait.
Finally, the day came of Game 3, we left the house around 9:30 in the morning for the 3:00 game time start. The gates were scheduled to open at 11:30, a full 3 1/2 hours before the game, which for me, was astonishing because that would be the earliest I would ever be getting in. The reason for that time? To accommodate the sell-out crowd, of course. There was going to be a street fest opening at 11, but I wanted NO part in it. The street included the left field gates, which during the regular season for some reason was HARDLY open. With that in mind, I decided to enter at the 3rd base/left field corner gate around 10 AM. I was there. First in line of course. (Thanks Snapchat, for the cool “filter” for this special game.)
Thanks Dad, for the awkward picture but I waited for 1 1/2 hours patiently and started figuring out my “game plan” in that time. One major problem with the gates opening so early, was that by the time I got inside, BP wouldn’t have even started already! The Astros tweeted out that day, that the Astros would begin BP at 12:15, a whole 45 minutes after the gates opened. I knew I was going to have to pick one spot and stay there with the massive crowd. I decided on my normal Astros BP spot in left-center, the only question was if I was to get there quick enough to claim it. As for my dad, I told him, that he NEEDED to claim the corner spot in Left Field. Finally, at 11:30 I got my absolutely BEAUTIFUL ticket scanned, like honestly, take a look at it.
*heart eyes* Thankfully I was the first one to my spot, and I was excited to be inside, and was very satisfying to see the scoreboard flashing all around the ballpark saying, “Welcome to the American League Division Series.” I was at a playoff game. Now, the hardest part was just waiting for BP to start. The Astros came on the field around noon to a big roar of cheers from the crowd, especially Colby Rasmus who had just been on FIRE during the first 3 playoff games. Right on time at 12:15, BP started. The small standing room area around me filled in pretty quick and I basically had no place to go. The ball basically had to come directly to ME, but I happened to be one of the only few with a glove, so I had a bit of an advantage. During the whole 45 minute BP, 3 balls came so close to me, and if they landed about 1-2 feet lower, I probably would have had 2 of them if they had not hit the sign above me. You can see the one I’m talking about after my dad just happened to catch a picture of me in my spot from the corner spot that he successfully got. He also got a REALLY nice panorama of the ballpark at the very beginning.
Very nice. Anyways, after the Astros were done, I headed out tor right field for Royals BP. It pained me to be stand out there in Royals gear (yes, I brought it, even at a playoff game), but it backfired on me tremendously, as players were barely tossing into the crowd. I thought for sure it would help me stand out wearing blue in a sea of orange, but to avail. Only one hit ball came my way, and I will admit, I totally messed up. The ball came to my left, and I had space maneuvering to it, but at the very last second, I guess I did something with my glove, and instead of an easy catch, the ball tipped of the top of my glove and into a kid’s glove right beside me. If I had a reason to blame, it had been about 3 weeks since my last game with BP (which was my 1st game back after having appendicitis surgery), so I was judging fly balls pretty terribly, I’m assuming. I felt like shit (emotionally) after botching that ball as BP was winding, and I started getting worried that my streak was going to be broken. Before that day, the streak for consecutive games attending with at least snagging one ball was at 49 games. I was really, really confident at the beginning of the day, that I could easily snag one, and finally extend it to 50 games (which to me, is a big accomplishment, as I keep progressing in my career) but I was panicking. I wasn’t watching my dad for the entire BP, and I didn’t know if he snagged anything so I was worried/anxious to catch one.
About 5 minutes before BP ended, a ball rolled to the wall in which a coach (who I couldn’t identify) who had a fungo came walking towards it. I believed my odds of getting the ball was slim since I saw that he didn’t toss anything up throughout BP, but it was worth giving it a shot. I waved my hands like crazy, and thank god that he saw my bright blue shirt. He picked it up, flicked it over the hands of people in the rows in front of me, and right into my glove. WHAT A RELIEF. Unfortunately, it wasn’t a playoff baseball, but I was on the board finally (in a way.) Thank you, unknown Royals Coach with a fungo!!!
BP ended, and I caught up with my dad. Turned out that he managed to catch TWO baseballs in his corner spot. A toss-up from Alex Gordon, and a home run too, so my ball from the Royals coach was actually the 3rd ball of the day. Thanks for the 2 baseballs, Royals! Of course, at a playoff game, he would out-snag ME. I needed some time to relax (and change back into my Astros jersey for the game) so I headed to my ticketed seat in section 108. What a view it was.
The matchup was going to be good with Edison Volquez starting for the Royals, against Dallas Keuchel who had been unstoppable at home all year, with a 15-0 and an ERA below 1.50 at Minute Maid Park. With those stats, I was very confident that we could get the win today, and go up 2-1 in the series.
On a sidenote, in the days leading up to the game, the Astros kept advertising/tweeting for everyone who was attending to wear orange, and keeping that in mind, as I was looking from my seat at all of the fans, I was amazed to see nothing but orange. It was an amazing sight to see that everyone was ready for this. Ten long years, in the making.
As the ceremonies came to a wind-down, and George H.W Bush throwing out the first pitch, it was time for the actual game. The Astros came out onto the field with a thundering roar from the crowd, and nobody was sitting down. The “giveaway” if you want to say, was that every single fan received a pair of ThunderStixx (popularized by the Angels during their 2002 championship season) and they were LOUD. Immediately, I loved them, especially in unison. It made the crowd even louder. ALDS Game 3 had officially started.
The game began with a mini-pitching duel as the game remained scoreless for the first 3 innings. In the 4th, Lorenzo Cain of the Royals hit a MOONSHOT to left field on the 11th pitch of the at-bat, to give them a 1-0 lead. The crowd kept getting more, and more anxious waiting for something to happen, as Volquez was dealing and looked like he was going to have a really good start, until the 5th inning. The Astros managed to get runners on 2nd & 3rd, with one out and Jason Castro at the plate. During the season, he batted in the low .200’s, striking out A LOT. There was two strikes on the count, I thought to myself, “Here comes another strikeout.” He proved me wrong. After going 0-9 in the postseason, he shot one up the middle to drive in both runs to give the Astros a 2-1 lead. The crowd went crazy, it was the first big thing to cheer about finally! I remember jumping up and down ,and everybody was giving anybody high-fives. There was so much love in the building, and I was totally pumped. They added another run in the 6th from a Carlos Gomez RBI single, giving them a 3-1. Finally, the crowd was buzzing going into the late innings, sensing a victory. C(HR)is Carter added another run with an absolute BOMB to left field, extending the lead to 4-1 headed into the 7th inning stretch. In the meantime, I was lucky enough to snag a t-shirt during the t-shirt toss, which was a very bright orange with the words, “Hustle Town” on them, which had become the Astros’ slogan for the postseason. Very, very cool. I put it on for the rest of the game.
As the game started to wrap up, I knew my only chance for a postseason ball was at the Umpire tunnel, it was either a make or break chance. Sure, I was going to be back the next day, but I REALLY felt the need to get it out-of-the-way. Luke Gregerson came on in the 8th, for a 4 out save, and managed to work out of a jam in the 8th. In the 9th, he surrendered an Alex Gordon home run, making the score, 4-2. A base runner was able to get on, to put the tying run at the plate with 2 outs, creating some drama. At this time, I headed towards the umpire exit in hope of finding an empty edge seat, and thank god I did. I had a great view. I was cheering like mad, I wanted this victory badly (along with the sell-out crowd too), and I just wanted Gregerson to finish him! That’s exactly what he did, striking out Lorenzo Cain swinging to give the Astros a victory, a 2-1 series lead, and ONE win away from the ALCS!
As soon as the game ended on that pitch, I bolted myself as fast as I could, to the front of the umpire tunnel. I was conflicted in those few seconds to maybe go more towards the side of the exit, and not at the top of it, but I decided to stay put. Holy moly, I’m lucky I did. Home plate umpire, Mike Everitt approached, and I spoke as loud (because the crowd was still yelling in joy) as I could and said, “Excuse me, Mr. Everitt! Can I please have a ball!!!” He was almost gone, when he stuck the last ball he had into my awaiting glove. Thank you so much, Mr. Everitt!!! That was our 4th, and final ball of the day. I was so happy as I took it out of my glove, and saw the Postseason logo/stamping on it. I HAD SNAGGED A POSTSEASON BALL. What a way to end an amazing day, for my 2nd playoff game ever, but of course, I enjoyed this one way more better. I couldn’t believe it, and of course, the Astros were in perfect shape to win the series, and to possibly see a clincher the next day, and I would be there to see it, if it did happen? I was pumped for Game 4, and the city of Houston was too.
On a sidenote, I would really like to thank my dad’s boss, for hooking us up with the tickets for this game (and lots of more games throughout the past few years), and it was really a pleasure to be his guest, to have been able to enjoy this special game. It means quite a lot, as this game provided me memories, in which I will never forget. Sunday, October 11th, 2015. Oh boy, what a fantastic day.
- 4 balls at this game
- 144 balls this season in 29 games (4.97 average)
- 50 (!!!) consecutive games with at least one ball
- 418 lifetime balls
- 2nd Playoff Game Ever Attended (ALCS Game 2 in Arlington)
- # of high fives given that day: too many to remember.
- Attendance: 42,674