Culture / Sporting Life

Chas Chomp Mania Overtaking Even Justin Verlander Shows Why the Astros Are Now the Most Lovable Team in Baseball

Trying to Paint This Together Team as Villains Just Doesn't Add Up — Not On Chas McCormick and Martin Maldonado's Big Night Against the Yankees

BY // 10.20.22

Jose Altuve is doing it. Giddily. Yuli Gurriel is all in. Yes, this sensation is bilingual. Even Justin Verlander, the Houston Astros’ 39-year-old peerless sure Hall of Famer, is bringing his hands together in the exaggerated overhand motion with uncontainable enthusiasm. But Ryan Pressly, the four out save man, is drawing a line. Pressly will not do The Chas Chomp.

“Don’t get me started on that,” Pressly says with the Astros closer practically rolling his eyes at the mention of The Chas Chomp. “I’m not doing The Chas Chomp. I’ll watch everybody else do it. I just can’t do it.”

Pressly may be the only one not doing it at Minute Maid Park by the time Game 2 of this American League Series with the New York Yankees rolls around Thursday night. For Chas McCormick, the underdog, oft-dismissed, uber enthusiastic outfielder the chomp is built around is having an October moment. And his teammates are loving every single silly minute of it.

McCormick scored the Astros first run and smashed a home run into the right field stands for the third run in Houston’s 4-2 Game 1 win. The Yankees treated Yordan Alvarez, the Astros’ hulking superstar hitter, like a live grenade, refusing to have anything to do with him, walking him twice. They kept Houston’s leadoff lifeline Jose Altuve 0 for the playoffs. They held the dynamic four and five hitter combination of Alex Bregman and Kyle Tucker to a combined 0 for 7 clip.

And yet, Aaron Judge’s Yankees still fell into another early hole in another ALCS against the Astros that becomes an uphill climb for them. Again. In no small part because of a wild dude named Chas.

Ryan Pressly may need to rethink his stance. This Chas Chomp is more than deserved.

It also shows why these 2022 Astros are the most lovable team in baseball today, maybe the most lovable Astros team ever. When Justin Verlander is chomping in the dugout like a 10-year-old Little Leaguer for a 27-year-old scraper of an outfielder who’s often wondered what his place on these Astros would be, you know the good vibes and camaraderie are strong.

For those not yet converted to the mania, The Chas Chomp is the Florida Gator-like chomping motion — with one arm coming down overhand and one arm going up underhand to meet in an exaggerated chomp. It started with a then random fan going crazy for Chas at the end of a long extra inning game last season and breaking into the chomp.

But it truly became a thing during this October’s playoffs — and enjoyed its national TV moment with McCormick’s home run in this ALCS opener. Now, The Chas Chomp is getting almost as much TBS airtime as The Office.

Some people mistake The Chas Chomp for the Baby Shark — yes, the infamously annoying little kid’s song dance — which annoys the Astros to no end.

“That started with the fans. It wasn’t Baby Shark,” veteran catcher Martin Maldonado says, quickly correcting an out-of-town reporter. “It was like ‘Chas! Chas!’ ”

Maldonado shakes his head, which happens to be blue colored for this American League Championship Series. Getting everyone to understand The Chas Chomp is not easy.

But rooting for the guy who spawned it is. McCormick’s played in 227 games for the Astros over the last two seasons after debuting as a 26-year-old rookie. But he’s never quite been able to find a permanent spot in the lineup. In fact, the Astros front office often seemed determined to find a way to make anyone but Chas McCormick the regular center fielder. Jake Meyers clearly was the preferred option. But Meyers got hurt and struggled this season when he did return — and McCormick just kept finding his way into the lineup.

Now, he is 4 for 10 in these playoffs and the Astros are 4-0. And almost everyone’s doing that silly Chas Chomp.

“Chas has been grinding,” Maldonado says. “People like him here. People love him here. He brings that charisma into a team. He’s going to go out there and have fun.”

And then some. McCormick is the guy who jumped into one of those giant blue recycling bins filled with just finished (and largely sprayed) empty champagne and beer bottles and wriggled all around to the utter delight of his teammates in that series-winning celebration in Seattle.

If you’re throwing a party, you want Chas McCormick in attendance.

ALCS 1 Astros vs Yankees_0001
Game 1 of the American League Championship Series was quite a scene at Minute Maid Park. (Photo by F. Carter Smith)

That’s the thing about this particular Astros team. While guys like Justin Verlander, Jose Altuve and Yuli Gurriel have been there and done that, they’re still not above getting a little silly for a teammate. This is a true together team, one where everyone is made to feel like an important part of the clubhouse.

No matter how big or small their role may seem. Everyone matters in this Astros world. Because everyone can help the winning.

So hell yeah, Justin Verlander is going to break into The Chas Chomp barely 10 minutes after he finishes a guts-out, six inning, 11 strikeout, get-much-better-as-the-game-goes-on pitching gem. Because Verlander is having fun with these guys too.

“Even Verlander was doing it, so it was cool,” McCormick grins.

Justin Verlander, Chas McCormick and The Chas Chomp

Just because Justin Verlander is baseball royalty doesn’t mean he’s above The Chas Chomp. Not on this team. Heck, he wants in on the joy too. In his comeback from Tommy John surgery, Verlander’s made it part of his mission to soak in the moments more.

That’s how these Astros roll. That’s a together team. It’s getting harder and harder for the rest of the baseball world to cast these Astros as the villains they’re supposed to be. Those same New York fans who once threw beer on former Astros manager A.J. Hinch’s family long before the electronic sign stealing scandal came out will still curse Altuve and Co. mercilessly in the Bronx this weekend.

But real baseball fans around the country should start seeing the truth.

“Don’t get me started on that. I’m not doing The Chas Chomp. I’ll watch everybody else do it. I just can’t do it.” — Astros closer Ryan Pressly

Five years removed from 2017, these Astros are winning with class, often in the most fun and together way possible. Take this Game One against the running-on-fumes Yankees. Judge and Co. are supposed to be the bashing home run force, having hit nine long balls in their five game win over the Cleveland Gurdians in the division series. And the Yankees add two more home runs on this night.

But the Astros counter with three solo shots of their own with Gurriel and wonder rookie Jeremy Peña joining McCormick in going deep. And Maldonado, the superb defensive catcher and No. 9 hitter whose bat is sometimes ridiculed by even Astros fans, hits a booming double to send McCormick speeding home with that first run.

In Game One of this star-studded ALCS, Astros v. Yankees Playoff Round 4, the Astros win with Verlander and The Other Guys.

“I feel like from the beginning — from Altuve to me — you know, I think we have to get good at-bats,” Maldonado says. “That’s the bottom line. We have to get good at-bats. Be ready. Keep grinding at-bats. Put the ball in play.”

These Astros are at their best when they play as a team, passing the chance to be the hero back and forth as routinely as everyone passes the gravy at Thanksgiving. Well that and rely on the most complete pitching staff in baseball.

Verlander labors through the first two innings like a car struggling to get up a hill. He needs 45 pitches to get the first six outs of the game, gives up a home run to Yankees speedster Harrison Bader, hits Anthony Rizzo with a pitch, gives up another single. But somehow, someway, the Astros ageless ace only gives up one run through it all.

And then Verlander finds something and takes off like a Rocket (that’d be a in-his-prime Roger Clemens, who threw out the first pitch on this night, rocket). Verlander will give up only one hit in his last four innings and strike out nine.

Then he’ll break into The Chas Chomp not long after he throws his 103rd pitch of the night. That’s just what these Astros do. Support one another. Pull for one another. Get silly for one another.

“Everyone just roots for each other on this team,” Peña says.

“Chas has been grinding. People like him here. People love him here. He brings that charisma into a team. He’s going to go out there and have fun.” — Astros catcher Martin Maldonado

Pressly may not love The Chas Chomp, but he’s a big fan of more Chas.

“He’s putting together some good at-bats,” Pressly says when I ask him about McCormick. “He’s making quite a name for himself right now. And I’m pretty proud of him going out there and staying within himself, just taking everything in stride and not letting the game get too big for him.

“It’s fun to watch for sure.”

Well, except for The Chas Chomp part. Ryan Pressly is definitely still not down for that. But you get the idea if these 2022 Astros end up winning the World Series, this no-nonsense closer just may change his mind.

For his teammates’ sake, of course. That’s what these Astros do.

Part of the Special Series:

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