HOUSTON -- Carlos Correa was introduced before the crowd at Minute Maid Park on Tuesday, getting the kind of roaring standing ovation you’d expect from a local hero. Correa, as usual, soaked up the moment, flashed his bright smile and joined with the fans in reliving some of his greatest memories of playing with the Astros being shown during a video tribute on the big screen.
“It feels great to be back, see the guys again,” Correa said earlier in the afternoon. “It’s a place I played so many games in my career, so many meaningful games. I just feel right, feels great.”
Correa made his first trip back to Minute Maid Park since he chose to sign with the Twins in the offseason, leaving the Astros after 6 1/2 memorable seasons. The shortstop went 1-for-4 in the Twins' 4-2 loss on Tuesday with a single in the seventh to break up a no-no bid started by Justin Verlander. The No. 1 pick by the Astros in the 2012 MLB Draft, Correa blossomed into a star and a franchise icon in Houston, leading the Astros to six trips to the playoffs, including three AL pennants and the 2017 World Series championship.
“I was definitely looking forward to it,” Correa said. “I have a great relationship with the guys in the clubhouse here in Houston, and that’s never going to change because I play for another team. I talked to them pretty much every day, we text a lot. We talk [about] hitting, we talk about the game, we talk about our families all the time. The relationship we built goes way past the baseball field. I was looking forward to seeing all of them.”
After the tribute video was shown, Correa received his 2021 American League championship ring from Astros manager Dusty Baker and pitcher Lance McCullers Jr., his closest friend on the team. Both were drafted in 2012 and came through the Minor League system together, making their debuts in ’15.
“I’m actually happy I don’t have to face him,” Correa said of McCullers. “There will be a lot of mixed emotions. He’s my best friend and my son’s godfather. Our relationship goes way back to 2012. We both got drafted and played every Minor League game together.”
When he came to bat in the first inning, Astros pitcher Justin Verlander took some time to stand several feet behind the mound so Correa could soak up the applause from the crowd. Correa tipped his helmet as his former Astros teammates clapped on the field and in the dugout. He shared a quick embrace with catcher Martín Maldonado, a fellow Puerto Rican.
“I think it’s going to be emotional for everybody, for us as his ex-teammates and him coming back here,” Maldonado said pregame. “I know the way he feels about this city, about the fans here, about us as a team. Hopefully, the fans give him enough ovation so we see some tears.”
No word yet on whether Correa shed a tear, but Verlander made sure he wasn’t on the field long. He struck him out looking on four pitches.
“My time here was great through all the great moments -- the walk-off wins and playoff wins and the championship, [Hurricane] Harvey and everything the city went through that year to bring a championship,” Correa said. “The fans have always been there for us, and I always say we’re grateful for the fans. They make you a better player. Their energy, you feed off of that and my time here was great.”