Dubón providing versatility, comic relief for Astros

Utility man who's become a clubhouse favorite is taking it all in stride during spring camp

March 10th, 2024

WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. -- It’s probably purely coincidental, but it’s worth noting that the Astros player who can play almost every position on the field is also the one who seems to connect with the most people inside the clubhouse, too.

The on-field term is “super utility guy,” a concise way of describing a player who can play all over the field, with an ability to adapt to any situation, with little advance notice.

long ago established himself as that key component of the Astros' roster. But he’s channeled some of that adaptability out of the spotlight, too -- behind the scenes, where he spends some of his downtime between practices and games in conversation with just about anyone who happens to be standing within a few feet of his locker.

“I can talk to anybody,” Dubón said. “My wife makes fun of me; she says I can talk to a rock and I’ll find something in common.”

“And he’ll make that rock laugh,” Alex Bregman noted from a couple of lockers down.

Dubón began Spring Training this year with the added luxury of being able to relax a little bit. He’s not competing for a roster spot; his status as a key member of the roster was established soon after he arrived to the Astros in a mid-season trade with the Giants in 2022, and cemented last year with a breakout season that ended with him capturing a Gold Glove Award.

This spring is instead about preparation and pacing himself. With most of the Astros’ competition for jobs centered around the final few bullpen spots, Dubón has been able to fine-tune things as the season approaches, without any extra pressure.

“You’re working hard, but you’re taking a little bit more in,” he said, prior to the Astros’ 3-0 loss to the Marlins on Sunday afternoon. “I don’t have to worry about if I’m going to make the team or not. I get to work on the stuff that I need to work on to get ready for the year instead of trying to perform.”

That leaves extra time to fill. Dubón thinks of himself as a curious person who likes to talk, but he also likes to listen. And he can find common ground with almost anyone; some of that is based on his outgoing personality, but some of it could also be attributed to the simple fact that he was exposed to a wide array of cultures starting at a very young age.

If people find themselves relating to Dubón, it might be because he already knows a little bit about where they’re coming from.

“He walks in a room and the whole room just lights up, because of how funny he is, but also how much knowledge he has on so many topics,” manager Joe Espada said. “You could carry on a conversation with Dubón about anything and he’s just a very likeable guy.”

Dubón was born in San Pedro Sula, Honduras, and attended a bilingual school, which enabled him to become fluent in English. At 15, after meeting Andy Ritchey, the head of a mission group that supplied baseball equipment to underprivileged youth, Dubón moved to Sacramento to live with Ritchey as a foreign exchange student.

He played baseball for three years at Capital Christian High School, but here’s a fun twist -- Dubón may have been even better at soccer than he was at baseball. His single-season record of 31 goals over 19 games still stands.

Dubón never considered pursuing soccer professionally, but he remembers enjoying taking people off guard with his ability to play the sport at such a high level.

“When I got to the states for the first time, soccer season was first, and then baseball,” he said. “Everybody thought I was here for soccer. And then when baseball season came, everybody was like, ‘Oh yeah. That’s why.’”

Houston is nowhere near either Sacramento or San Pedro Sula, but it’s now home to Dubón, who grabbed the attention of Astros fans when he debuted in 2022 but captivated them in ’23, when he filled in more than aptly for an injured Jose Altuve to start the season. Dubón strung together a 20-game hitting streak in April, batting .341 with an .802 OPS.

As he was becoming more popular with fans, Dubón was gaining favor with his teammates, too. It’s a mutual admiration society that continues today.

“He has something -- he brings people together,” Altuve said. “He’s always happy. Plus he’s great on the field. When he came here, he was a good hitter with plus defensive skills, but now he’s a great hitter. He showed last year he can play every day. He’s a big part of this lineup, for sure.”