Culture / Sporting Life

George Springer Admits Part of His Heart Will Always be in Houston — Inside an Emotional (and Weird) Leadoff HR

Springer's Wife Charlise Just Makes It to Her Seat in Time to See Her Husband's Surreal Minute Maid Moment

BY // 04.24.22

Standing in the hallway outside the visitors clubhouse at Minute Maid Park, his back against a Toronto Blue Jays backdrop, George Springer uses the word weird four different times in trying to explain this experience. It just does not feel right to Springer to be in this clubhouse. To be in that dugout on the third base side of the ballpark.

It doesn’t feel right to Houston Astros fans either.

For Springer is a forever Astro to Houston sports fans no matter how many years he ends up playing in Toronto. Or anywhere else. As Springer talks and keeps dropping the W word — even when trying to describe hitting another leadoff home run at Minute Maid, his first as the very first batter of the game as a visitor — it’s apparent that Springer feels the same way.

Houston is where Springer first broke into the Big Leagues. It’s where he became a world champion. And a World Series MVP. It’s where he and his wife Charlise Castro (now Springer) first started making a life together.

“This is a obviously a place that’s very special to me,” Springer says. “It’s been very special to my family. And obviously I appreciate it. This is where I got my shot, where I got an opportunity to play.

“So I’ll always be thankful.”

Charlise Springer made it to her Minute Maid Park seat just in time to see Springer’s leadoff home run. She posted a smartphone video of the moment to her Instagram Stories, having fun with her lucky timing in the caption.

Of course, the first game George Springer played in as visitor at Minute Maid Park had to be a family affair. That’s how much Houston means to the Springers. And Houston gave the love back with a major ovation before his first at-bat.

Springer tried to keep his focus on the at-bat at the time. But the intensity of the cheers clearly meant something to him.

“It was awesome,” Springer says of the reaction.

This Saturday at the park was a bittersweet day for many diehard Astros fans. And not just because Dusty Baker’s team lost another gut punch of a one-run game to the expected title contender Blue Jays. (This one a 3-2 loss sealed when Aledmys Diaz smoked a sinker from Toronto’s talented sidearming reliever Adam Cimber — right into the glove of the defensively underrated Vladimir Guerrero Jr., who made a nice reach-out snag and completed a game-ending double play by stepping on first base.)

No, the real punch for the fans may have been seeing George Springer do George Springer things for someone else for the first time in person.

Springer and Alex Bregman homering in the same game couldn’t help but bring back visions of that 2017 title run. A run where Springer often served as the ultimate conductor, on the field and turning up the Club Astro celebrations in the clubhouse.

Now, he’s putting on the Toronto Blue Jays’ patch-filled Barrio home run jacket in celebration of taking the Astros deep.

And feeling a little weird every step of the way around the bases. Wearing that familiar No. 4 — in that still unfamiliar blue — Springer does his customary point both arms to the sky celebration before heading for the dugout. But little else feels exactly right.

“It’s pretty emotional,” Springer says. “I don’t really know how to explain it. It’s weird. It’s cool at the same time.”

Houston Astros faced former Astros George Springer, who hit a home run in his first at-bat for the Toronto Blue Jays, at Minute Maid Park.
Even Astros fans couldn’t help but smile as George Springer celebrated his home run — putting on the Blue Jays’ home run jacket — in his return to Minute Maid. (Photo by F. Carter Smith)

Springer’s current Blue Jay teammates just loved every minute of it. After marveling at how loud Houston got for Springer before the at-bat.

“That’s probably the coolest thing I’ve ever seen,” Alek Manoah, the Blue Jays’ young ace, marvels. “To be in the dugout for that — I think it was pretty awesome. They gave him a big round of applause when he stepped in the box.

“And then to hit a home run. . . I thought it’d happen on the first pitch. That’d be exactly what George would do.”

Springer actually waited until the fifth pitch to send a Jose Urquidy fastball rocketing into the Astros bullpen.

George Springer’s Strange Trip

It didn’t feel right to Astros fans. More tellingly, it also didn’t feel quite right to Springer. Little about the delayed day (Springer was hurt during the Blue Jays’ lone trip to Minute Maid Park last season and sat out the first game of this series too) did.

“The weirdest part of it was walking up to the batter’s box from the other dugout,” Springer says when I ask what felt so weird. “I don’t really know how to explain. Being on the third base side is something I obviously never experienced. It was obviously my first time playing here (as a visitor).

“It was just kind of a weird overall at-bat, but at the same time obviously pretty special to me.”

Anything George Springer does in Houston is going to be special. It can’t help but be considering what this place means to him. And what he means to this place.

You don’t leave part of your heart just anywhere.

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