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Fans wait more than a day to meet Altuve

AL MVP: 'They are the biggest reason why we won the World Series'
Special to MLB.com

HOUSTON -- For Jose Altuve, 2017 was already an unforgettable year once the Astros won their first World Series title. But last week, he added even more to the legend by securing just the second Most Valuable Player Award in franchise history.

On Monday, thousands of fans celebrated all over again when Altuve signed autographs and posed for pictures at an Academy Sports + Outdoors store in nearby Katy. It was Altuve's first public appearance since winning the American League MVP Award, and fans greeted him with a hero's welcome and a slew of "MVP" chants.

HOUSTON -- For Jose Altuve, 2017 was already an unforgettable year once the Astros won their first World Series title. But last week, he added even more to the legend by securing just the second Most Valuable Player Award in franchise history.

On Monday, thousands of fans celebrated all over again when Altuve signed autographs and posed for pictures at an Academy Sports + Outdoors store in nearby Katy. It was Altuve's first public appearance since winning the American League MVP Award, and fans greeted him with a hero's welcome and a slew of "MVP" chants.

"I was surprised," Altuve said. "I wasn't expecting this. I really appreciate all the support the fans have given to me all the past seven years with the Astros. What can I say? I love my fans in Houston, they are the best. They are the biggest reason why we won the World Series. We wanted to bring a championship to Houston."

Tweet from @BenDuBose: These #Astros fans from League City have camped out two nights at the @Academy in Katy to be at the front of the line to meet @JoseAltuve27, and they���re pretty excited about it: pic.twitter.com/fA6ivAwbw5

Only 300 tickets were given out to guarantee free autographs, and fans began lining up early Sunday to ensure entry -- more than a full day in advance. By Sunday night, at least 100 fans were in line, according to Academy, which set up portable toilets outside. But even that lengthy wait didn't diminish the fans' enthusiasm.

Danielle Dunavant, a 17-year-old softball player from nearby League City, was first in line to meet Altuve along with her 53-year-old mother, Ali, and friend and fellow softball player Bella-Jace Moreno, 16. Though being first in line meant waiting more than 30 hours, including camping out overnight in cold temperatures, they said it was worth the wait.

"He's our role model," Danielle said of Altuve. "I just want to tell him how much he means to us."

"It's Jose Altuve," Ali added. "He's the energizer of the Astros. He got us started."

Colby Cameron and Tanner Shanks, both 16-year-old Houston natives and high school baseball players for nearby Houston Christian, joined the line about 24 hours before Altuve's emergence and spent the night in a custom Astros-themed Jeep.

"I think the true fans are the ones that come out and stay all night in an Academy parking lot," said Cameron, whose family has lived in a hotel for months because their residence flooded during Hurricane Harvey. "My dad wanted to get a car that would be powerful for the city, and it says 'Houston Strong' right there."

Though only 300 tickets were given out, hundreds more waited in line with hopes that Altuve would sign quickly enough to sign extra posters before his hour-long session ended. Not surprisingly, just as he did throughout the season, Altuve delivered for his fans.

"Everybody knows that Houston is big baseball city," Altuve said. "They love baseball and they've been supporting us for a long time, and I think they showed up today because they know we are a World Series champion."

Tweet from @BenDuBose: These high school baseball players from Houston Christian camped out overnight in a custom #Astros-themed Jeep for the chance to meet @JoseAltuve27. Their story: pic.twitter.com/Eov553VrD7

Since winning the World Series on Nov. 1, Altuve has been all over the map to celebrate, including a guest spot on the Tonight Show with Jimmy Fallon and a Saturday Night Live appearance. Along with being named AL MVP, Altuve earned a slew of other honors -- including Best Major Leaguer and Best Major Leaguer, Postseason, at Friday's Esurance MLB Awards. But Altuve says being with Houston fans remains most rewarding of all.

"For me, they are the greatest fans in the world," Altuve said.

A five-time All-Star, Altuve won this third career and second consecutive batting title in 2017, leading the Majors with a .346 average. He also led the AL with 204 hits, along with 24 homers, 81 RBIs and 32 stolen bases. But even with those numbers, the 5-foot-6 second baseman continues to credit his teammates for his success.

"It's hard to sit down and think that you are the American League MVP," Altuve said Monday. "I feel happy and very humbled about it. I think my teammates, they made me an MVP."

For now, Altuve believes the time is right to celebrate the team's accomplishments. But when preparations for the 2018 season begin, he wants the team to carry a blank slate.

"I think this is the right time to enjoy the World Series championship and the MVP because we are not playing," Altuve said. "We're in the offseason. But as soon as we start working for the next year, everything doesn't count. We have to do it again."

Ben DuBose is a contributor to MLB.com based in Houston.

This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

Houston Astros, Jose Altuve