I have a confession to make, I'm not a lifelong Astros fan. I was born in Saskatoon Saskatchewan Canada. I'm the son of a preacher who joined the National Guard and eventually ended up a Chaplin in the United States Army, so I grew up as an Army brat moving every two to three years. Soccer was the sport I loved to play. Baseball, however, was my true passion. In those days I didn't have a favorite team. I remember watching the Minnesota Twins play Game 7 of the 1991 World Series at three o'clock in the morning, Germany being seven hours ahead. In the early 90's, we moved to Leavenworth, Kansas and I got my first real taste of the big leagues as we regularly caught Royals games and watched the likes of George Brett, Wally Joyner and my favorite player, Brian McRae. Ricky Henderson and Ken Griffey Jr. were my other two favorite players.
It wasn't until after I played Ken Griffey Jr. baseball on the Super Nintendo that I really feel in love with a team named the Astros. The best two players on the team were Razor Sizemore and Slick Fitz and I destroyed people; you would know them better as Craig Biggio and Jeff Bagwell. Around that same time, a basketball player my Grandmother loved was traded to the Houston Rockets. I suddenly was sucked into basketball, as Charles Barkley was on a quest for that elusive NBA championship. This lead to my following of the 1998 Astros when my Grandfather keyed me in on a very big move the Astros had just made, acquiring Randy Johnson. In those days I never had the opportunity to watch Astros regular seasons games. I was resigned to checking box scores in the newspapers and getting story recaps via the internet. I did, however, get to watch the Padres taking it to the Astros in the 1998 NLDS series and the 1999 playoffs when Walt Weiss broke my heart. I finally had my baseball team.
I remember sitting in a waiting room, I think it was a MEPS (Military Entrance Processing Station), and casually picking up a sports magazine. In it was a review of the top prospects for all the Major League Baseball teams. I flipped to the Astros section and there staring back at me was a right-handed pitcher who was currently tearing it up in AA. Roy Oswalt was the name and he was the future of the Astros. Before starting his professional big league career, Roy would win a gold medal in the 2000 Olympics for the USA team, as the number two starter behind Ben Sheets. In 2001, while I was going through Tech Corp and C-School, the Astros called up their young pitcher and he proceeded to post a 14-3 record with a 2.73 ERA in 141 2/3 innings. He was second that year in the Rookie of the Year voting to the one and only Albert Pujols. He also finished fifth in the Cy Young Award voting and 22nd in the MVP Award that year. In 2003 I was stationed in beautiful San Diego, where it rains two weeks out of the year and the temperature hovers around 70 degrees. That was also the year I discovered MLB TV, and my world changed. I could finally watch the Astros play all season long. I'd get home from work about 5 P.M. flip on my computer and there were the Astros. There is no better way to relax after work. I could finally watch the exploits of Biggio, Bagwell, Berkman and the man they called the Wizard.
I caught my first live Astros game in San Diego on July 7, 2004. Roy Oswalt went 7.1 innings and I believe Jose Vizcaino hit a two-run home run to right field [ed. note: he did.]. I was sitting in the upper deck down the right field line and I remember a group behind me trying to distract Roy by yelling out "ROOOOYYY". Obviously it didn't work as the Astros won that game and I cataloged, with my camera several times, the Astros flooding the basepaths.
With the trade Thursday afternoon, I had a gut check. I thought it may have been because of the underwhelming return the Astros received. I felt that if this is what the Astros were getting they should have waited until the offseason to make a trade or at least asked for one more prospect. I had a sickening feeling. I kept constantly updating Twitter for something more. I drifted through the rest of the day trying to figure out why I felt sick to my stomach. I eventually realized pushing off the trade was just me wanting to keep Oswalt an Astro. I believed we could compete in 2011.
The reality though is that Oswalt deserved better. He deserved to compete this year, especially after having to suffer through the last few years. I'm not upset he wanted out, nor am I upset he tried to manipulate his way to the Cardinals. I was upset because this was the player I had grown up with. Biggio and Bagwell were my favorites but they were in Houston well before I started following the team. Roy and Lance are the two iconic players I've had the pleasure of seeing blossom into the players that they are. Roy got his wish. He's heading to a contending team in Philadelphia and I wish him the best. I look forward to rooting for him, even though he's considered only a number two type of starter with injury concerns. Being underrated seems to fit the man, drafted in the 23rd round, from the small town of Weir, Mississippi.
I'll remember Roy getting so close to 20 wins in 2002; the stretch when he and Wade Miller attempted to out duel one another in each start; the no-hitter he started against the New York Yankees; The 12-3 record he had in the second half of 2004 to help the Astros clinch the wild card in the final game of the season; the smirk he had getting Michael Bartlett all riled up after coming to the plate for an at bat; the back to back 20 win seasons; and Game 6 of the 2005 NLCS shutting down the Cardinals, when everyone had thought Pujols had turned the series.
Fair Winds and Following Seas.