The Houston Astros are less than 24 hours away from opening the 2018 season.
For nearly 50 years I’ve had the same general feeling about this day, a feeling of anticipation for what might happen with the major league club and hope for the promise of youth on the farm. It was the day that led to my annual emotional response to the sight of green grass, blue skies, kids seeking autographs, runners going from first to third on a single, a nasty slider for swinging strike three – in a way, life for this baseball fan was renewed each spring.
Anticipation of the season in the decades gone by was always coupled with at least a measure of doubt. Many years, some not-so-distant years, it was with a great load of doubt. I knew the Astros would not be competitive but it was baseball season and I love the game. There’s always a chance! If Pitcher X remains healthy and Player Y fulfills his promise while Prospect Z comes up and lights the world on fire Houston can pull off a miracle, right? Even if delusional, you gotta believe!
Other years, particularly those of the great pitching teams of the 80s and the Biggio and Bagwell-led teams of the 90s and 00s, there was a more confident anticipation. I felt as though we had a chance to compete with the best. Would this be our year? Could this be our year? GO ASTROS!! Sadly, though there were many successful years, Houston never reached the top of the heap. I was among those sad-sack fans that had to find succor in thoughts of next season.
Opening Day 2018 in many ways is the same as always. The grass will be green, the skies will be blue and men will be playing baseball in a Houston Astros uniform. Yes!
For me, though, Opening Day 2018 began to be changed when Charlie Morton struck out Chase Utley for the first out in the ninth inning of Game 7 in the 2017 World Series. In that moment a sense of transcendent calm came over me. I knew in my soul right then and there the Astros were going to be World Champions. The 50 years of anticipation coupled with hopes and doubts and the cries of “wait ‘til next year” were over. The sense of calm about the Astros I experienced near the end of Game 7 has not left me and it is a big part of what makes Opening Day 2018 different from every other.
The Astros did not rest on their laurels this off-season. They made the team stronger via trades (Gerrit Cole) and free agent signings (Joe Smith, Hector Rondon) to shore up what weaknesses they had and, perhaps most importantly, they made the biggest financial commitment the team has ever made to a player. A player who is beloved by the fans and loves playing for Houston – Jose Altuve.
I know the Houston Astros are the best team in baseball. Not last year, this year – 2018.
I believe I can speak for all of die-hard Houston Astros Nation when I write this is what we have wanted. This is what we have dreamed about though the horrible years, the lean times, the good times and near-misses. This is what we envisioned when we defended #theprocess.
It is not only a World Series title we wanted. Obviously winning was incredible and we all want them to do so again and again. What I believe we have all wanted to say at the beginning of the season is that the Houston Astros are the best. The best in every way.
The Houston Astros are a model franchise with supportive ownership, an innovative front office and great field management coupled with a roster of players that is the envy of every team in the sport. It is a team that is built not only to compete but to win for years to come.
It is the eve of Opening Day 2018, Astros fans. “Never Settle” is the theme the marketing department chose for this season.
My calm, reasoned and knowing response this day is, “Not a Chance.”