Houston watch party enjoys wild victory

Minute Maid Park draws thousands to view Astros in LA

October 26th, 2017

HOUSTON -- Despite a tough loss in Game 1 of the World Series at Dodger Stadium and a two-run deficit entering the eighth inning of Game 2, thousands of Astros fans at Wednesday night's watch party at Minute Maid Park were largely undeterred. And after dramatic home runs in the ninth, 10th and 11th innings from , , and , Astros fans young and old were rewarded for their patience in Houston's first World Series win in franchise history.

"Game 2 was the pivot game," said Mike Mitchell, a 32-year-old father from Tomball who attended with his 19-month-old son, Noah. "Game 1 would've been great, but it was a 'house money' game. The Astros didn't need it. With [Clayton] Kershaw pitching at home, and [the Dodgers] rested, that was the one game of seven when they were going to be most favored.

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"Now realistically you can take two of three at home," Mitchell said. "If you do that, you go back to L.A. up 3-2 with [Justin] Verlander on the mound in Game 6."

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Fans watched the game -- a 7-6 classic in 11 innings -- for free on "El Grande," the 54-foot-tall, 124-foot-wide high-definition screen inside the ballpark, as well as outside at a festival on Crawford Street. The Astros have offered those perks for all postseason road games, but crowds were at their largest and loudest for the World Series presented by YouTube TV.

For Mitchell, that experience was made even more special by taking it in with his young son.

"The watch party for us is about being around the fans and community we have here," Mitchell said before the game. "I'm a teacher, so we're priced out ... for game tickets. For Noah, I'm just hoping he gets a chance to feel comfortable around baseball. You can never start them too young for that. The hope is that he grows up and we come back here year after year, his whole life."

"Game 2 of the 2017 World Series will be an all-time classic," he added after the game. "I'm thankful Noah could have an indirect role in witnessing it, and we'll be talking about it when he's older."

In 2014, when the Astros were coming off three consecutive 100-loss seasons, Mitchell and his soon-to-be wife were living in Vermont and planning a family but debating on where to live. The current generation of Astros played a key role in their decision.

"We made a whole list of criteria, including cost of living, culture and sports," Mitchell said. "The biggest thing for me, I must confess, was baseball. Houston and Denver were our two finalists, and I said I'd love to move to Houston, because I have a good feeling about the Astros. This was right around the time the George Springer 'Sports Illustrated' cover came out [predicting a 2017 World Series title]. Now here we are at the World Series, and it couldn't have worked out any better."

Photo: Mike Mitchell of Tomball, Texas, attended the watch party for Game 2 with his 19-month-old son, Noah.

Another fan present Wednesday was Robert Wagner, a 26-year-old from Texas City. He has made the 45-mile trek to Houston for all seven watch parties so far -- starting with the American League Division Series vs. Boston.

"The crowds have been amazing," Wagner said. "I just love coming to Minute Maid. It's my home away from home, it feels like. I don't care if they win or lose -- even in those 110-loss seasons, I loved them."

Heading into Wednesday, the Astros were just 1-5 during those postseason road games. But true to classic baseball superstition, Wagner did his part to try to change their luck, wearing the same custom Billy Wagner jersey that he did during the Game 4 triumph in Boston -- the only prior road win of Houston's postseason.

Wagner finds it easy to be optimistic moving forward. After finishing up successful treatment for lymphoma this month, he's sticking with his Series prediction of the Astros winning in five games -- and based on his personal triumph, he says he might even splurge to take in a game in person.

"I'm hoping to treat myself to a World Series ticket," Wagner said.

Minute Maid Park will host watch parties for Games 6 and 7 (if necessary). Fans can guarantee admission in advance by claiming free vouchers.