Almost exactly two years ago (May 8, 2013) I wrote an article here at Crawfish Boxes about hope, The Houston Astros Vegetable Garden - Buying seeds and nurturing growth. Go ahead, go read it. I'll wait here.
As fans, we were all in the thick of despair. We were screaming at our televisions during every game. We were throwing things. We were, in general, not a pleasant lot to be around. We'd already survived a 56-106 season, a 55-107 season, and when I wrote that article we were headed toward a franchise worst 51-111 season. They were desperate days.
But even then, as the national sports media beat up on the Houston Astros and the team on the field disappointed us at every turn, fans had a sense that some day, one day the team would improve. The idea that the Astros were in the process of a rebuild was readily known, but not readily accepted.
Doubters were everywhere - in the media, in the line behind me at Starbucks, in the seats in the row in front of me at Minute Maid Park, screaming at us on twitter and even in the comments here on TCB.
All the while, there were those of us who ended our tweets with #Astros2015 and #InLuhnowWeTrust. Neither sentiment was meant to be a sure thing. They were simply the fan's way of keeping hope alive during what was a terrible stretch of baseball in Houston.
Now it is 2015. The Houston Astros are 20-13 (.606), leading the American League West and making some noise. Now, I'm of the belief that there will be a little correction happening still (like we saw last night) and that Houston won't quite keep the winning pace they are on now, but despite that, I think we're going to see some fun baseball this season.
Because the Astros finally started to harvest some vegetables from that garden.
I was scrolling through the 40 man roster the other day to see how many of the guys that are a part of this great start spent at least some of their time in the minors with the Astros. Many names jumped out at me - ones we love to cheer for like Dallas Keuchel, Jason Castro, Brett Oberholtzer, Josh Fields, Preston Tucker, George Springer, Jose Altuve, Jake Buchanan, Domingo Santana and Max Stassi, Asher Wojciechowski, Vincent Velasquez, Jonathan Villar and Jon Singleton. The 40 man roster is full of homegrown talent now.
I'm sure I missed a few, but even still, it's apparent that the seeds that were planted on the farm a few years ago have finally grown into something that can be harvested. That harvest is happening before our eyes as players make their debuts in the majors and others that have spent a couple of years with the big club are shining brighter than anyone ever thought they would.
When you add to that list of homegrown guys the transplants, the guys who were brought to Houston to fill holes, the guys like Gattis and Rasmus, Neshek and Gregerson, Marisneck and Lowrie you start to see how the Houston Astros got from worst to first in just one season.
Well, many will say it took just one season. Those of us who have held on tight, and stuck it out during those drought years know that it took more than that. It took a rebuild of the farm. It took patience. It took 324 losses in 3 seasons. It took a few years off the lives of fans. It took a new front office and a couple of managers. It took a lot more than just one off season.
The most exciting part is yet to come. We're all anxious to see how the farm continues to grow and thrive; we understand how success in the minors is key to long term success in the majors. That's a big part of why Astros fans are waiting with bated breath to see Carlos Correa tackle AAA, and that when you ask an Astros fan today to name 5 players in the minors there are a fair number that can - more today than 3 or 4 years ago.
Even ME! I'm a known for not really paying attention to the minor leagues. My friend, Jayne Hansen, who writes the Astros minor league blog What the Heck Bobby, would tell you that most of what she talks about with me goes right over my head. But, I get it. We need those guys down there. They're the lifeblood of the team I do love to watch. So even I am paying attention.
2015 feels a lot like harvest time. It's the season where we, as fans, get to watch the game and players on the field ripen into something exciting and fun again. Will the Astros stay atop the AL West? Maybe. Maybe not. But from where I sit, either way, this team's come full circle and it's nice to know that there're plenty more vegetables where these came from.
What Astros minor league player are you most excited to see debut?