Culture / Sporting Life

Carlos Correa Grabs Another Big Astros Moment, Shows Just How Much He’s Worth in Home Opener Like No Other

Baseball's Ultimate Big Stage Player Relishes the Show Returning to Minute Maid

BY // 04.09.21

Giving Carlos Correa a MOMENT is like giving Andy Cohen a reality TV controversy to feast on. Like giving Vince Gilligan a crime world to create. Like giving Eric Andre unlimited reign on a prank.

Whether it’s the playoffs, a close late game situation or a home opener like no other, the Houston Astros’ shortstop (for at least this season) grabs moments like few other players in the game. Correa makes spotlight nights his, embracing them with a self-assured conviction. With fans back in Minute Maid Park for the first time in 526 days, Correa is at it again.

Houston’s jewel of a downtown stadium is alive again — and so is Carlos Correa. With the “Let’s go Astros!” chants ringing out even before first pitch, with the Oakland A’s getting the jeers for a change and with Correa drawing some of the loudest cheers of a special night, the free agent to be devours another moment.

He deposits a Cole Irvin sinker into the right field stands to get this Astros party started in the second inning. Two innings later, Correa laces a double to left to make it 2-0 and send the Astros rolling to a 6-2 win. This is how you grab a game. How you make a MOMENT yours.

There may not be a more entertaining player in baseball — and all those questioning whether Carlos Correa is really a $300 million player or even a $200 million player (including apparently, the Astros’ front office) seem to miss the fact that yes, pro sports really is an entertainment option in the end. Competing with Netflix and Disney as much as the NBA. Few players perform with as much natural showmanship as Correa. After turning on Irvin’s sinker, Correa cups his hand to his ear (or at least his batting helmet ear hole) as he rounds the bases, encouraging and soaking up the love from the stands.

“There’s nothing I could have asked for that we don’t have tonight,” Jose Altuve says. “Tonight was a perfect night for us.”

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All kick started by Correa. Maybe these last few games are the start of the truly monster season that Correa has been teasing since he was a 20-year-old helping push the Astros into the playoffs. Or maybe he’ll have another good year but not a spectacular one. Either way, you’d be a fool to take your eyes off him.

Wondering all season whether this will be Correa’s last season in Houston (which looks more likely than not at this point) is no way to spend a baseball year, though. With Correa, it’s best to go along for the ride and see where it takes you. Fretting over the future is one way to miss the moment. And Carlos Correa is sure to grab another boatload of them before the curtain falls sometime in October .

Besides, it’s not like this Astros team is a one man show. Jose Altuve looks like Jose Altuve again. He hits his first home run of the season in this home opener, seems energized by having his people back in the stands. And Yordan Alvarez keeps reminding everyone he’s one of the most devastating forces in the game at age 23 — and he’s still under club control until the 2026 season.

“I’ve never seen guys hit so much. They hit in the morning before practice. They hit during practice. They hit after practice.” — Astros manager Dusty Baker

No, these Astros are not going anywhere. Even if Carlos Correa does. All the national talk about the impending end of an era for the Astros looks like a lot of hot air. Dusty Baker’s team is 6-1 now. With 15 home runs in those seven games, more than any other team in the Major Leagues.

The Astros hosted the Oakland A’s in their home season opener at Minute Maid Park
Carlos Correa and Yordan Alvarez are powerful sluggers for the Astros. (Photo by F. Carter Smith)

If Alvarez was not limited to eight at-bats — and one majestic home run — last season, the Astros might be coming off three World Series appearances in the last four seasons rather than two. There are few cleanup hitters in the game who bring a more formidable presence than the hulking man who just keeps hitting moon shots.

“He’s feeling good,” Altuve says of Alvarez. “His swing. His stance. Everything about him is good right now. He’s a 100 percent. He’s just being the player he is.

“Swinging the bat, hitting homers, doubles. I’m happy that he’s healthy.”

Altuve is wearing a T-shirt with a bear wearing sunglasses on it as he talks to reporters over Zoom, most of them in the same building as him. Yordan Alvarez is the bear in the Astros lineup. The big man now has 90 RBI in his first 96 Major League Baseball games. That is more runs batted in over a player’s first 96 games than all but three men in baseball history — Walt Dropo (102 RBI in 96 games), Rudy York (95 RBI) and Joe DiMaggio (94 RBI).

Alvarez’s contributions on this party of a Minute Maid opening night are a soaring home run and another hard hit double. Afterwards, he changes into a plain white T-shirt and black jeans to talk to the media. Just another Astros workman going about his day.

“This team can hit,” Dusty Baker says. “And they worked hard in spring training. I’ve never seen guys hit so much. They hit in the morning before practice. They hit during practice. They hit after practice. Like today (catcher Martin Maldonado) was in the cage for two and a half, three hours with (hitting coach Alex) Cintron.

“These guys enjoy hitting.”

That’s part of why the Astros are one of the best shows in Houston, part of why they were missed so much. Fans are lined up down the street at all the Minute Maid Park entrances well before the 5 pm gates opening time. There is a real anticipation — and then some — for this long-awaited return to the ballpark.

A sellout, 50 percent capacity crowd of 21,765 does make Minute Maid look and sound pretty packed. Especially by the new coronavirus standards that have become second nature. Finding fans actually wearing a mask while seated is not easy. This is a crowd that’s come to let loose, cheer and scream. Virus or not. (And there’s no not, COVID-19 is still very real.)

The Astros hosted the Oakland A’s in their home season opener at Minute Maid Park
The fans returned to Minute Maid Park and the Astros feed off the energy. (Photo by F. Carter Smith)

Astros owner Jim Crane keeps putting money into improving Minute Maid Park, with another $25 million spent on upgrades since fans last roamed the concourses. And the Ultra Club in the right field upper deck with its sweeping views, the Orbit fist bump mural and Killen’s Barbecue all seem to be early hits. (Having both Killen’s and a Shake Shack in the same building make Minute Maid the envy of many food halls.)

Carlos Correa Owns Another Night

Still, on this home opener like no other, Carlos Correa outshines the food, the atmosphere and the joy so many feel about being back at a ballpark, watching baseball. Still don’t think he’s worth the money?

Altuve is wearing a T-shirt with a bear wearing sunglasses on it as he talks to reporters over Zoom, most of them in the same building as him. Yordan Alvarez is the bear in the Astros lineup.

Just watch Correa grab another moment, another game that is anything but ordinary. He shadow boxes with Yordan Alvarez in celebration. Wraps Jose Altuve up in their traditional postgame hug again. He even gets Astros coach Omar Lopez to mimic his “Do you hear me?” ear cupping celebration as he rounds third on the home run. Carlos Correa is made for the grand stage. He loves this stuff. And his teammates love him for it.

“It was a beautiful night,” Altuve says of the atmosphere in general. “Like a dream come true.”

You could say that’s priceless. But it’s actually worth a lot. A whole lot. Much like baseball’s ultimate big game junkie.

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