Astros advancing in postseason brings back baseball buzz in Houston
Thursday night, the Houston Texans take the field at NRG Stadium to face their biggest division rival, the Indianapolis Colts.
Normally, a divisional NFL game of this caliber would have the entire city’s focus toward the football field … instead it’s all about baseball in Houston this October.
The Houston Astros are in the playoffs for the first time since 2005. It has been 10 long years of baseball turmoil in the city since Craig Biggio and company stepped off the field after a four-game sweep at the hands of the Chicago White Sox in the World Series.
To put that length of time in some perspective, the last time the Astros were playing this deep into October, Facebook had just started allowing non-college users, George W. Bush was one year into his second presidental term, no one Tweeted about it as Twitter did not exist and iPhones were two years from debuting.
While the Astros are only Wild Card Game winners for now after defeating the New York Yankees, fans are buzzing about their hometown team being relevant again as Houston gets set to take on the Kansas City Royals in a best-of-five ALDS.
"I think both teams sense the opportunity might be there to make a run in October," Astros manager A.J. Hinch said, according to AP. "Certainly, they’ve been a year or two ahead of us in this, I guess, move to the middle of relevant baseball with their run last year. But both really good clubs."
From 2009, the year after their last winning season, through 2014, the Astros lost a total of 590 games, compared to 382 wins, including three-straight seasons of 106 or more losses.
In the offseason, fans mocked an innocent tweet sent out by the Astros’ official Twitter page notifying followers an October Taylor Swift concert schedule at Minute Maid Park would be "subject to change" if it conflicted with a Houston postseason home game. Little did they know, the Astros were on the verge of something special.
After bottles of champagne were sprayed around the visiting clubhouse at Yankee Stadium in celebration, sporting goods stores across the Houston area have been quickly running out Astros "Take October" playoff gear stock, sports bars have been packed with Astros’ orange and blue baseball jerseys and local radio stations can’t stop talking about the surprising "young team" that is well ahead of its rebuilding schedule.
"I told my guys to just get amped and get to it, because we have a lot of work to do. We need to have printed a total of 20,000 shirts by early Monday morning," Todd Longenecker, operations manager for Trademarks Promotional Products – who prints the ‘locker room shirts’ for the Astros, said according KPRC Houston.
It was a slow road in 2015 with Astros fans gaining trust. Used to being the laughing stock of Major League Baseball for the past six years, fans were slow to fill up Minute Maid Park on a daily basis, perhaps expecting the inevitable collapse they were "sure" would happen. The fall never happened, the Astros held up, as fan attendance and excitement starting building in late season games. Now Houston is being rewarded with a home playoff game on Oct. 11 — which sold out hours after tickets went on sale Wednesday.
"All season long it’s been an up and down season. At the end, I didn’t think they would make the playoffs." Astros fan Jose Puente told KPRC in Houston after purchasing his own ALDS tickets. "Right now we just excited for the playoffs and excited to see the Astros have for us."
While no one expected the Astros to be in this position in the postseason, Houston is already being dubbed this season’s "Kansas City" by many who are setting goals for the team: a World Series title.
"It kind of reminds us of us last year," Royals third baseman Mike Moustakas said, according to AP. "Young and hungry and out there trying to prove to everybody that we deserve to be here."
Fans would have been glad to see a winning record from this Astros team, but with a team jumping into the thick of the MLB playoffs, Houston has turned into a baseball town once again.
The Associated Press contributed to this article.
— Matt Sebek (@MattSebek) December 11, 2014
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— Evan Drellich (@EvanDrellich) October 7, 2015