Altuve makes diehard fan's day with special gift

February 17th, 2024

WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. -- Longtime Astros fan Donna Hopkins has a house full of Astros memorabilia that she’s accumulated through decades of Spring Training trips and attending games at Minute Maid Park. She’ll have to make room for her most cherished item yet.

After signing autographs for fans following a workout on the back fields at CACTI Park of the Palm Beaches on Saturday, Astros star second baseman removed his shoes and sat them on the ground, motioning to Donna that they were hers. Altuve said the shoes were too white.

“I said, ‘If you’ve got to get rid of them, I’ll take them,’ and he just took them off and gave them to me,” said Donna, still in disbelief at the gesture. “It pays to be a familiar face.”

Indeed. Hopkins and her husband, Jimmy, both retired teachers in the Houston area, have been Astros fans for as long as they can remember. Jimmy’s fandom goes back to his childhood and attending games at Colt Stadium to watch the expansion Colt .45s.

Donna, who is a staple at Spring Training in her straw hat, has gotten to know many players through the years, but Altuve has become her favorite.

“He’s always very nice and stops and talks and chats and this is just something really special,” she said.

When asked if she would consider selling the shoes, Donna was aghast at the thought.

“Oh, God, no. I don’t sell anything,” she said. “Ask him.”

“Come to our house and find out,” Jimmy groused.

Jimmy often asks Donna what he should do with the Astros memorabilia if she dies before him. She tells him to find an Astros fan who would appreciate it and give it to them.

“I have a lot of memorabilia,” she said. “Actually, Craig Biggio, when he was a rookie, was the first autograph I got in Kissimmee (former site of Astros Spring Training) and we’ve been coming every year for 25, 26, 27 years. I’ve gotten a lot of stuff and this is by far the best. Jose’s my guy. He replaced Nolan Ryan for me, and that’s pretty big. The first day he came up at Minute Maid, I was there.”

Donna is such a huge Altuve fan that she votes for him multiple times each year during All-Star Game balloting. Back in the days of paper ballots, she once punched out the tab by his name nearly 200,000 times.

“The top 10 [fan voters] always got to go to a meet-and-greet with him so I always made sure we were in the top 10 so we could visit with him,” Donna said. “He asked me once, ‘How many did you do?’ And I said ‘195,000.’ He said, ‘By yourself?’ And [Jimmy] goes, ‘By herself.’”

Donna was understandably thrilled when the Astros signed Altuve to a five-year, $125 million contract extension earlier this month, making sure he will finish his career in Houston. The contract will take him through the 2029 season, giving Altuve a shot to get 3,000 hits in an Astros uniform.

“He’s a really special person to me and I’m so glad he signed that contract because I want him to be here for life,” Donna said. “My hope is I’m alive when he goes to the Hall of Fame because I want to go see that.”

After talking to a reporter, Donna hands the shoes to Jimmy so she can head back and try to get more autographs. Jimmy tucked them away at the bottom of a bag.

“Guard them with your life, please,” she said.