Carlos Correa tips his helmet as the fans at Minute Maid Park give him a standing ovation in his Houston return. (Photo by F. Carter Smith)
Courages Uvalde survivor Mayah Zamora got to throw out the first pitch. (Photo by F. Carter Smith)
Carlos Correa made sure his young son Kylo and his wife Daniella were part of his Houston return moment too. (Photo by F. Carter Smith)
Lance McCullers Jr., little Kylo Correa, Carlos Correa and Dusty Baker created quite a ring scene. (Photo by F. Carter Smith)
Courageous Uvalde survivor Mayah Zamora got to throw out the first pitch with an Orbit and Mattress Mack escort earlier this season. (Photo by F. Carter Smith)
Carlos Correa gave Astros third baseman Alex Bregman a big hug. (Photo by F. Carter Smith)
Carlos Correa had plenty of people to hug in his return to Minute Maid Park. (Photo by F. Carter Smith)
Carlos Correa couldn't have been happier to be back in Houston. (Photo by F. Carter Smith)
Carlos Correa embraced being back in the Houston spotlight. (Photo by F. Carter Smith)
Carlos Correa is still beloved in Houston. (Photo by F. Carter Smith)
Carlos Correa still looks a little strange wearing Minnesota Twins gear. (Photo by F. Carter Smith)
Carlos Correa pointed to Astros fans holding up his jersey in the Minute Maid Park stands. (Photo by F. Carter Smith)
Carlos Correa is still getting his work in at shortstop for the Minnesota Twins. Still making highlight plays. (Photo by F. Carter Smith)
Carlos Correa knows all about creating big October moments. So does his buddy Jose Altuve. (@Astros)
Carlos Correa lifted little Anaiah Maldonado up high in the sweetest Astros celebration yet last October. (Photo by F. Carter Smith)
Talk about couples in baseball. Carlos Correa and his wife Daniella and Alex Bregman and his wife Reagan pose on the field after the Astros clinched the AL West title. (Photo by F. Carter Smith)
Justin Verlander is still the 1A ace who can carry a team. But that doesn't mean he's invincible. (Photo by F. Carter Smith)
Carlos Correa is the demonstrative heartbeat of these Houston Astros. (Photo by F. Carter Smith)
Carlos Correa was a lifeline of this Astros runs in many ways. (Photo by F. Carter Smith)
Justin Verlander is still a dominant force for the Houston Astros. (Photo by F. Carter Smith)
Carlos Correa changes games with his glove. (Photo by F. Carter Smith)
Trey Mancini is already getting help and tips from Houston Astros like Justin Verlander. (Photo by F. Carter Smith)
Astros shortstop Carlos Correa and his wife-to-be Daniella Rodriguez shared an on-field embrace in one of the many memorable Astros celebrations. (Photo by F. Carter Smith)
Some Astros fans did give Carlos Correa after he struck out looking against Justin Verlander in the first inning. (Photo by F. Carter Smith)
Carlos Correa soaked up the moment before his first at-bat back in Houston. (Photo by F. Carter Smith)
Many sports superstars look at homecoming games as something of a chore. The extra attention, demands and constant spotlight wears on some. Shaquille O’Neal certainly never seemed pumped to return to Orlando. But Carlos Correa is a different breed. He’s always loved when all eyes are on him. He’s always recognized and treasured the big moments. That’s part of what makes him so good in October.
But Correa’s grown too and you can see that in his Houston Astros homecoming on a busy, buzzing Tuesday night at Minute Maid Park. Correa goes out of his way to make sure others are part of his spotlight this time. He walks over to get his 9-month-old son Kylo from the arms of his beaming wife Daniella so that his boy can be part of his American League Championship ring ceremony.
So there’s Kylo Correa happily squirming in Correa’s arms as the former Astros homegrown star stands between Astros pitcher Lance McCullers Jr. and manager Dusty Baker. McCullers, a young dad himself, gently tugs Kylo’s leg. Earlier, Correa calls McCullers his “best friend.” Having his other boy, the guy he got drafted with, the guy he came up through the minor leagues with and won that 2017 world championship with, be part of his ring ceremony clearly means plenty to Correa.
But Correa pulls Mayah Zamora, the little 10-year-old girl who survived the Uvalde school shooting after undergoing 20 surgeries and spending 66 days in the hospital, into his spotlight too. It is Correa’s idea to honor Zamora and the Astros help make it happen, inviting her to throw out the ceremonial first pitch.
Mayah Zamora shows up in her pink shoes and orange Astros Correa jersey, a blue compression splint still completely covering her left arm, and has a moment with Correa too.
“It’s so nice to meet you,” Correa says, lowering his 6-foot-4 frame to wrap Mayah up in a hug. As Correa spends time with the Zamora family, Mayah’s brother Zachary volunteers that he plays first base himself.
It’s a lighter moment on a touching day. One that Carlos Correa could have made all about him if he wanted. Instead, the now 27-year-old Correa — 10 years removed from when the Astros drafted him with the No. 1 pick in the MLB Draft at age 17 — uses the spotlight of his Houston return to spread some joy.
Carlos Correa’s foundation is helping to build a brand new home for Mayah Zamora’s family too. The Zamoras now live close to the house of the 18-year-old gunman who massacred 19 of Mayah’s classmates and two teachers. Being that close to such a reminder is too hard for Mayah. So Correa and his foundation are stepping in with the house. And a more fun day like this one. Correa Day turned Mayah Day.
“It’s an important day for me, but I wanted to make it extra special for her,” Correa says of Mayah.
Yes, Correa’s talk about expecting to remain a Minnesota Twin for a long time will dominate the baseball conversation — and sports talking head show mentions. Even if the words mean little, considering Correa will still all but assuredly use his one year contract opt out after this season.
“I’m with the Twins now,” Correa says. “And the goal is to build something special with this organization and hopefully be here long term. Right now, I see myself playing for the Minnesota Twins for a long time.”
What is Correa supposed to say? Especially when he’s currently cashing checks from the Twins that will add up to $35.1 million by season’s end?
If you think those comments close the door are anything — including a very unlikely return to the Houston Astros anytime soon — you’re probably as deep of a thinker as Herschel Walker is when it comes to trees.
One thing is certain. Correa could not be happier to be back in Houston. You can’t fake this kind of enthusiasm without winning an Oscar.
And the loves goes both ways. Make that many ways. For not only do the fans at Minute Maid Park give Correa a rousing standing ovation before his first at-bat. Astros catcher Martin Maldonado also steps out of his crouch behind the plate and takes a little walk before Correa’s first at bat. Just to give the fans more time to cheer. As all the Astros who aren’t out in the field stand on the top step of the dugout.
The Astros organization has gotten good at these return games. No team may do them better. And this one is as classy as ever. Correa gets the video tribute on the big scoreboard. Plus some major jewelry delivered in the most touching way possible.
It’s enough to make a man tear up. But Carlos Correa isn’t much for that. Before the game, he notes how he’s not much of a crier. He is, however, a frequent texter. With McCullers, Jose Altuve, Martin Maldonado. So many of the Astros really.
“I was definitely looking forward to it,” Correa says. “I have a great relationship with the guys in the Houston clubhouse and that’s never going to change because I play for another team.”
It is Carlos Correa’s day in many ways. At least until the game starts and Justin Verlander puts up six no hit innings before departing after 91 pitches. And the Astros continue to show Correa the dominant winning that he is missing, pulling out a 4-2 win without the services of their top relievers.
But Correa always wanted to make this day, this return, about more than just him. He pulls his son Kylo and wife Daniella into it (giving her a hug and a kiss right after the pregame ceremony). He makes a seriously courageous 10-year-old girl from Uvalde part of it too.
It has to be about more than him to be really special.