HOUSTON -- Walking into the Astros' clubhouse for the first time next spring, catcher Chris Herrmann should be a pretty popular guy. Herrmann, acquired off waivers from the Mariners on Nov. 2, sparked a celebration in September when he hit a walk-off homer for Seattle to beat Oakland and clinch the American League West title for Houston.
Astros players were gathered in a small conference room in a downtown Toronto hotel for a watch party when Herrmann hit the homer, and they celebrated as he rounded the bases thousands of miles away. The win clinched the Astros' second consecutive division title, and Herrmann was brought aboard to help Houston win another in 2019.
"This is really cool, man," Herrmann said. "I've always loved Minute Maid as a ballpark. I just know that the Astros are an organization right now that is making some big moves and is always a contending team over the past few years, and I'm really excited to be a part of that."
If his home run heroics aren't enough to endear him to his new teammates, Herrmann has had extensive online interactions with several of his new teammates while playing the popular video game "Fortnite." He's played with Carlos Correa, Josh Reddick, Tyler White and Tony Kemp, among others.
"It's kind of been a cool little way that I've been able to get to know those guys and play video games, and just know they're going to be my teammates is pretty cool," Herrmann said. "I get to go into Spring Training actually knowing some guys and their personalities and stuff without even being their teammate yet."
Herrmann grew up in the northern Houston suburbs and played junior college baseball at Alvin Community College, about 30 miles south of downtown. He was an Astros fan and has fond memories of watching Craig Biggio, Jeff Bagwell, Lance Berkman and Brad Ausmus -- his favorite catcher -- while he was growing up.
Among his best Astros memories is watching Biggio collect his 3,000th hit in 2007, the year after Herrmann graduated from Tomball High School. He hung on every pitch when Houston reached the World Series in 2005.
"I've always loved baseball, and even though the Astros didn't get a World Series championship until last year, I feel like the fans have always been really supportive, and I'm just excited to be a part of that and help this team win," Herrmann said.
Herrmann, 30, appeared in 36 games for the Mariners in 2018, hitting .237 with four doubles, two triples, two home runs -- including his AL West title-clincher for the Astros -- and seven RBIs. He played in parts of seven seasons in the Major Leagues with the Twins (2012-15), D-backs ('16-17) and Mariners ('18), and Herrmann joins Max Stassi as the only catchers on the Astros' 40-man roster.
With veterans Brian McCann and Martin Maldonado free agents, the Astros will bring in another catcher this offseason, likely to start. Herrmann figures to be in the mix to provide depth at the position. The chance to play for his hometown team is a dream come true.
"I'm really excited to get to Spring Training now, to get to know the pitchers, and just try to be the best catcher I can for these guys," he said. "[Astros manager] AJ Hinch was a catcher, and I hope I can pick his brain. It's going to be awesome. I'm super excited for this opportunity. I never thought in a million years this would happen. You can only dream about something like this, and just knowing the possibility is going come to life is pretty amazing."