Something just hit me. The Astros 2013 season is a lot like my childhood.
For those who don't know, I grew up as an Army brat. Every two to three years, my family would uproot and move to not just a new city but a new state. Every two to three years, it was a new house, new school, new town, new stores, new friends, new enemies, new etc. I attended three different high schools starting after my freshman year. I never got used to the moving, I just learned to deal with it.
Leavenworth, Kansas, was sort of my renaissance as a baseball fan. At the time, I was an Oakland Athletics fan because of Rickey Henderson but I also liked Ken Griffey Jr., which made me more of a general fan. One of the benefits of living in Leavenworth was being an hour away from Kansas City. I spent a few summers of my youth in the early to mid-90s at Kauffman Stadium watching George Brett, Wally Joyner and Brian McRae, my favorite Royals player, play baseball.
Usually, we got seats in the upper-deck, but one time we got seats at field level, down the third base line. I specifically remember that game because it went into extra innings. Unfortunately, for me, it was a school night and we had to leave early. Of course the Royals won, and I remember being both happy and disappointed. Happy because the Royals won, and disappointed because I got to watch the fireworks from the back seat of our Ford Escort station wagon instead of along that third base line.
I never really hooked on as a Royals fan, probably because the team was dreadful and because Rickey Henderson had my admiration. I remember my parents taking me to a Royals game against the Toronto Blue Jays to see the recently acquired Henderson play. He wasn't in the lineup that day, and I remember grabbing my dad's binoculars and running to the other side of the stadium to see if I could just catch a glimpse of him in the dugout. I never saw him in the dugout that day, nor did I ever see him play. I was disappointed, of course, but had to move on.
I may have never gotten to see Rickey play, but I did get to see George Brett play, and do so on a regular basis. I don't have any real memories of George Brett playing baseball but I do have one story, the one I was teasing for a while on the podcast.
In 1992, the year before Rickey was traded to Toronto, we had just moved to Leavenworth, and started going to Royals games.* We had just moved there after six terrible months in New Jersey. It was terrible because I had no friends, we lived in smaller-than-usual housing, and there wasn't a whole lot to do. Thankfully, we were only stationed at Fort Monmouth, N.J., for six months. Prior to that, we lived in Germany for three wonderful years.**
* Most Army families move during either the summer or winter, or at least mine did, because of school. Ripping kids in and out of school can get hectic and messy (my GPA dropped and rose from one school to the next) so to make transitions easier it seemed like Army families always moved during Winter break or Summer break.
** I'm pretty sure I'm the only person in the World to have lived in Germany when the Berlin Wall fell, in Minnesota when the wrestler/actor Jesse Ventura was elected governor and California when body builder/actor Arnold Schwarzenegger was elected governor.
Anyways, back to the George Brett story that I, to this day I, apparently, continue to tease.
It was 1992 and George Brett was on his way to 3,000 hits. My parents snagged two tickets for the Oct. 2 game at Kauffman Staduim. On Sept. 27, Brett needed four hits to get 3,000 meaning there was a good chance he would do it on Oct. 2 when the Royals returned home. Who was going to go?
Surely, it would be neat to take the kid -- who actually had an interest in baseball -- to see baseball history being made.
The selfish bastards were going to go to the game themselves and leave me and my brother with a babysitter. My mom, the tennis fan, and my dad, the football fan, were going to go see baseball history being made while leaving their son, who organized all his baseball cards by team, at home. Ironically, Brett got his 3,000th hit during a 4-for-5 night in Anaheim on Sept. 30, the game before the Royals returned home to Kansas City.
They still went to the game and saw Brett collect his 3,001st hit while leaving me at home with my brother and the babysitter. I actually wasn't upset at the time (I wasn't a big Royals fan), but thinking back on it, I find it curious I wasn't taken.
So that's why I am not writing for Royals Review. On to finally why I'm writing for the Crawfish Boxes, and why I feel sorry for the general population of Astros fans.
After our three wonderful years in Leavenworth, it was time to leave my friends and the place where I actually stopped playing baseball but still followed it regularly. We moved back to New Jersey, but this time to Picatinny Arsenal, which wasn't as bad as my previous stay in New Jersey. I found some friends, the base was small (I could ride around the base on my bike in hours), I could walk out my back door and fish, the locals said "coffee" funny, and it was where the military tested weapons. Despite it still being New Jersey, I had a lot of discovery in my time there, two of those discoveries were computers and the Houston Astros.
Near the housing we had been assigned was a youth center where I frequently hung out. It looked like a storage facility that had been converted into a youth center. It had a stage, a ping-pong table, a pool table, a fridge, TVs, bathrooms and a computer lab.
They also let us bring in our own consoles and games. One of those games being Ken Griffey, Jr. Presents Major League Baseball. What made this game unique was that they changed the names on all the baseball players in the game. Jeff Bagwell was Slick Fitz and Craig Biggio was Razor Sizemore and I owned kids with them. With Sizemore's speed and Fitz's power, I was unstoppable.
After taking on all challengers and destroying them, I started paying attention to Houston Astros box scores and any sort of baseball material that included the names Bagwell and Biggio. In the mid to late 90s I spent many hours devouring any material I could find on the Houston Astros, including box scores, Nationally televised games when they were in the playoffs, magazine articles and eventually anything I could find on the internet.
I have moved six times since becoming an Astros fan, prior to my Astros fandom I had moved eight times. Change is nothing new to me. The move to the American League hasn't bothered me, the roster turnover hasn't bothered me, the new media members haven't bothered me, the new uniforms and return of Orbit have been non-existent to me, the new owner hasn't bothered me (but he's starting to), the new general manager hasn't bothered me. The loss of Jim Deshaies and Alyson Footer has bothered me, but I've learned to deal with it.
I've been through this before and after nearly 1,300 words, I'm finally getting to the point I've been trying to make: This article isn't really about me, it's about you. I'm sure many of you have been with the Astros a long time and haven't seen this much change in a short period of time. Jeff Bagwell and Craig Biggio were mainstays for two decades, so was Drayton McLane. Heck even Shane Reynolds and Lance Berkman were with this team for more than a decade. You will have to excuse my ignorance, but it seems like this much change is unprecedented in the 50 years existence of the Astros.
I'm sure most of you have learned to deal with it by this stage or else you wouldn't be reading this site.
It sucks, it really does. Sometimes change is good and sometimes change is bad, but baseball remains the same, and that's even if there is a designated hitter for the pitcher.
How are you dealing with the change? How have you learned to deal with it? Are there certain changes that you are still learning to deal with?