More than a game: A Venezuelan celebrates an Astros victory

By Jose Lezama Mendoza – Horizon Contributing Writer

Minute Maid Park is the home of the Houston Astros. Photo courtesy of Google Images.

It’s the bottom of the 9th, no men on base, and the Astros are up 5 to 1 against the Dodgers in Los Angeles.  

There is no place for anyone else in the stadium as 56,000 people scream and cheer for their team.

It all comes down to this moment. All the work put in – from the off-season through this very pitch – none of it matters anymore. As long as they win.  

Everyone is feeling the pressure, and there it is: A ground ball to Jose Altuve that puts an end to the 2017 baseball season.

The crowd erupts. And I erupt with them.

Last week a student asked me, “Why are you so happy about Houston winning? You are not from Houston. You are not even American.”

That comment made me wonder: Does we see baseball differently based on where we are from?

I remember talking about my little league experiences with my American friends, and I can tell our experiences were very different, especially when it came to the amount of sacrifices we had to make. I started playing baseball when I was 10 years old, but it wasn’t until I was 16 that I started taking it more seriously. That meant practice every morning with my coach. I would wake up at 5 a.m. every morning, arrive at the gym at 5:30 a.m. and stay until 7 a.m.

But getting to the field was a story in itself.

Since none of us had a car, we would take public transportation, which was extremely dangerous because they get robbed everyday, in order to get to the field.

Then the fun would start.

From 8 a.m. to noon all of our problems were gone. There was no space for sadness or stress in our minds. There was only space for passion, fun, hard work, and dreams. A lot of dreams.

Baseball has given me some of the best experiences and deepest emotions of my life, but following this path wasn’t always easy. As a teenager, you start experiencing new things: Parties, friends, having a crush. These were things that I couldn’t enjoy as much because of the next morning’s game or because I was just too tired to go.

But I’m not the only one. A lot of players went through the same or even worse situations.

Jose Altuve. Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Images.

Jose Altuve was one of them. At 5’5”, most  scouts won’teven look at you. Yet he worked harder than anyone every day under the hot Venezuelan sun, and he made it. Right now, he is one of the best players in Major League Baseball and a World Series hero.

Jose Altuve and Marwin Gonzalez have been through the same experiences that I have. These are guys that probably didn’t have money for a glove, guys that had to play on all-dirt baseball fields, guys that, without a contract, could have ended up in a gang. Seeing those guys succeed is fills up my chest with pride.

This year was full of tragedy. Hurricanes hit Houston and Puerto Rico and a Civil War took place in Venezuela. For these guys to win the World Series means much more than just winning a championship. Carrying the Venezuelan flag or the Puerto Rican flag around, or even wearing the Houston uniform means more than just winning. It means unifying a country, a town. To shine a light in the darkness that people have to go through when those tragedies happen.  

That light shines for me as Jose Altuve and the Houston Astros took the World Series trophy home to Houston.

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