HOUSTON -- He's arguably the most popular Houston athlete this side of J.J. Watt. And if there was any doubt of Astros second baseman José Altuve's level of adoration in the city, the loud roar that erupted when he took the field prior to Sunday night's Houston Texans game served
HOUSTON -- He's arguably the most popular Houston athlete this side of J.J. Watt. And if there was any doubt of Astros second baseman José Altuve's level of adoration in the city, the loud roar that erupted when he took the field prior to Sunday night's Houston Texans game served as a reminder.
Altuve, wearing a blue No. 27 Texans jersey with his name on the back, served as the Texans' home-field advantage captain, leading the Texans onto the field prior to their game against the Colts at NRG Stadium. For Altuve, his first NFL game was an event to remember.
"I've watched the games on TV, but this is my first Texans game, and I'm excited," Altuve said.
Altuve, who made his fourth American League All-Star game this season and won his second AL batting title in three years, admittedly doesn't know much about football, even though he struck up a friendship with All-Pro defensive lineman Watt in the last few years.
Watt, out for the season with a back injury, is about a foot taller than the 5-foot-6 Altuve, who was awed by the size and athleticism of the players when he was on the field for warm-ups. Just as they would probably marvel at Altuve's hand-eye coordination.
"It's impressive to see how big and strong these guys are out here," Altuve said. "I'm looking forward to seeing the game, and hopefully we win tonight."
While Altuve was a guest on a pregame radio show on a plaza just outside the stadium, Texans fans chanted "MVP! MVP!" Altuve is expected to finish among the leaders in AL Most Valuable Player Award voting following a season in which he hit .338 with 24 homers, 96 RBIs, 30 steals and a .928 OPS. He led the AL in hits for the third year in a row.
"When they name you something like MVP, Gold Glove, Silver Slugger, when you do something like that, it means you had a good season and you helped our team," Altuve said. "If you're doing good individually, then you're doing something [good] for your team, and at the end of the day, that's what matters."
Altuve has heard roars like the one Texans fans gave him Sunday but a few miles away at Minute Maid Park, which has a massive likeness of Altuve hanging outside. The love he received on Sunday wasn't lost on him.
"I never played on another team before, but I know it's different to play here," Altuve said. "I can feel it when I go to another city or stadium. The fans are good, but I think Houston fans are the best in the league and they support the players. A couple of years ago when we weren't doing really good, they were out there supporting us and encouraging us to keep getting better. We're going in a good way because we're getting better every year, and I know a World Series is coming soon."
Altuve planned to take some time on Sunday to let the fan in him come out, too. He said he has big -- and somewhat ambitious -- plans for his new Texans jersey.
"It's a little big, but I don't care because I'm going to get it signed by every single player from the Texans," Altuve said, "and I'm going to frame it and hang it in my house."
Brian McTaggart has covered the Astros since 2004, and for MLB.com since 2009. Follow @brianmctaggart on Twitter and listen to his podcast.