Houston, a city once under water, is now unified after the victory of the Astros in the 2017 World Series, the first-ever championship win in franchise history.
In August, Hurricane Harvey devastated the Houston metropolitan area with the costliest hurricane that has ever hit the U.S., killing 89 people, displacing 30,000 and causing more than 70 billion dollars in damage, according to the Los Angeles Times.
The baseball victory came at an opportune time for the devastated residents of Houston.
“The World Series meant everything to Houston. Everyone I talked to back there, my friends and family, they feel in a disarray because of the mess that the hurricane left behind,” Jonathan Grant, junior kinesiology major, said.
“This was just something to take the tension off, something they could put their attention on in the midst of rebuilding.”
Grant lived in Houston for eight years and recalled many childhood memories watching the Astros at Minute Maid Park. “My dad had tickets to game five in the World Series in 2005 and it ended up getting swept in four games. It really bummed me out because I was going to get to go to a World Series and then it ended,” Grant said. “They have always been my team but I didn’t have much hope for them after that.”
After many years of rebuilding and three consecutive one-hundred loss seasons, the team came back years later as the MLB champions, and the comeback was anything but random. In fact, a cover of Sports Illustrated in 2014 predicted that the Astros, a team starting at the bottom, would rebuild and become “your 2017 world series champs.”
To a majority of baseball fans, this seemed like a pipe dream. When the article was published it was highly criticized and most still considered the Astros the laughing stock of the MLB.
“I saw the article and I just kinda laughed it off. The Astros had never been a good team,” Grant said. “Through the draft and international baseball, the Astros had a couple years to fine tune these skills and really become the perfect baseball team.
Nick Bockstanz, sophomore, lives in Houston and went to Minute Maid park last summer for an Astros game during the peak of their rebuilding period.
“It was one of the loudest games I have ever been to. I remember taking in everything from the smell of funnel cakes to the loud cheering of the packed crowd. The fans filled the stadium for every regular season game. They realized that this was a special team,” Bockstanz said.
In the months leading up to the World Series, the Astros flourished and secured its standing with the addition of Justin Verlander, an All-Star pitcher and future hall of famer.
With this final addition, the Astros headed into the World Series with high spirits, winning expectations, and ‘Houston Strong’ proudly shown on their jerseys.
The players were no doubt excited for the chance at a championship, but Hurricane Harvey added an extra incentive for the team to represent its city.
“When the Astros won, it fulfilled so many childhood dreams,” Grant said. “It was so exciting after all those years at Minute Maid stadium eating ice cream and watching baseball. It meant a lot that they were finally able to make it to the World Series and win it.”
Grant has family directly affected by the flood and recognized the need for hope during this time.
“My grandpa lived at the top of his street and he was trying to wait it out, and every day the water came closer and closer and eventually they had to leave and their house was flooded. Luckily they were fortunate and they didn’t lose everything,” Grant said.
The World Series was a boost for local moral and also brought about awareness for the flooding that might not otherwise have come to light.
During the live broadcast of the World Series, the network would cut to shots of Houstonians in their houses with nothing but a TV and some lawn chairs. In the midst of loss and devastation, the people of Houston pulled together to root for their beloved team.
“The World Series brought back hope, in a way. The morale livened up and Houston became a party again,” Grant said.