To the Houston Astros,
I want to thank you for giving my dad October baseball.
As a season ticket holder and lifetime fan, I am attending the World Series with my 87-year-old father.
In my family, the love for the game was passed down from one generation to the next. My grandfather used to play barnstorming leagues around South Texas, going from little town to little town to play baseball. He was a heck of a pitcher, and a scout wanted to sign him, but my great grandfather didn’t understand the idea of playing a kid’s game to make a living. So, he wouldn’t let him sign. But he continued to play in barnstorming leagues way into his 40’s.
My father watched him play, and that’s where his love for the sport began. As a child, my dad would ride his bike in town to hear the World Series on the radio from the barbershop window.
In 1959, my father was serving in the Army in Germany when rumors surfaced of indoor baseball being played in Houston, Texas. While still serving in 1960, the league announced that Houston would get a National League franchise. In 1965, when the Astrodome opened, he went with his father.
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My dad was a huge Astros fan by the time I came along, and I have pictures of me as an infant dressed in overalls and a jersey. When I was seven, my dad became my T-Ball coach, and on September 6, 1986, when I was ten years old, he took me to my first Astros game.
It was a Saturday afternoon, and it was raining hard. We drove two hours from my hometown of Victoria, Texas. I remember walking into the dome and seeing all the colors: the green turf, the grey wall with the orange stripe on top, and then those rainbow-colored jerseys. It was amazing to me.
Jose Cruz, a Houston legend, hit a two-out two-run walk-off home run in that game. The Astros won 7-6, and the big scoreboard lit up, and “Crruuuuuuuuuzzz” was written across it. I knew at that moment that, like my dad, I, too, loved the game.
As the years went on, sports remained the way I connected to my father, and he nurtured my love and passion for baseball. We talked about baseball at dinner time. We went to games together. When he picked me up from school, he’d tell me that I needed to get my homework done by 7:00 pm so that we could watch the game or listen on the radio together. Storytime, for me, meant Astros history. He told me how in 1980, the Astros and the Phillies played an epic playoff series – four extra-inning games. He said The Astros came so close to getting their first World Series. Every story he told, I just gobbled it up.
At a young age, while watching an Astros game with my dad, I decided I wanted to be an announcer. By age 16, I was calling little league games and working at a radio station. My dad always encouraged me.
As I grew up, left the house, and started my career, my father and I continued to go to games and travel the country, watching the Astros play. But ten years ago, in 2011, our lives changed forever.
My dad was visiting me in Houston to go to an Astros game.
It was around lunchtime, and I was going to get us some food. He was using a walker because of back surgery when he almost fell, and I grabbed him.
Then, I noticed he was limping, and I said, “Dad, raise your hand like a baseball pitcher.”
He couldn’t, and I noticed his lip started to droop. Immediately, I called 911. My dad had a massive stroke. He is now paralyzed and confined to a wheelchair. To this day, he still has cognitive issues, and speaking is difficult for him.
There are so many aspects of everyday life that my dad loved that he can’t do anymore. He is very much a people person, and he loved talking with people, hearing their stories, and then regurgitating their stories to other people. His favorite food is Mexican, but his throat has become weak over the years, so now we have to feed him through a tube.
He spends much of his days sleeping and lying down, as he has lost so much of his freedom. But, thankfully, he has not lost baseball. And it means so much to me because I am still able to share baseball with him. I am now an announcer for the Sugar Land Skeeters, the Triple-A affiliate of the Astros.
My mom will pop on one of my games when he’s lying in bed, and she’ll say, “Do you know who that is?”
And he’ll light up and say, “Gerald.”
All my life until 2017, my dad would tell me, “The Astros are going to win the World Series, and we’re going to be there.”
We had heartbreak after heartbreak. But in 2017, we were at a watch party at Minute Maid Park when you all clinched the series. The tears were flowing as I hugged my father.
All offseason, my dad was so happy. He’d tell his nurses, “Hey, you know, the Astros won the World Series.”
This year, you made it back to the World Series, and my dad and I have been there along the way.
When I wheeled him in for Game 1 against the Chicago White Sox, he said, “I missed this place.”
And when you turned a 6-4-3 double play in the series against the Boston Red Sox, my dad looked at me with a massive smile on his face and said, “Here you go.”
I cherish every single moment that I get to watch you play with my dad. As much as I can, I try to hold on to every second because I know this won’t last forever. I know you will have some bad years, and I know my father won’t be around forever.
If my dad gets to witness you guys win another World Series, it would bring him so much joy.
But even if you don’t, I am grateful for this season. I am thankful for each game you play. I am thankful for every inning and every at-bat. I am thankful to all of you for giving my dad baseball in October because when you give my father baseball, you give him life.
A lifetime fan and broadcaster,