LOS ANGELES -- In the lead-up to the World Series, in a moment shared between father and son, George Springer III watched a rerun of one of the Astros' postseason wins and saw the camera pan through the crowd, showing the faces of the Houston faithful, who had been hit hard by Hurricane Harvey and were now pouring their heart and soul into their hometown team.
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"Dad, you know what I really want to do?" the younger Springer said to George Jr. "I really want to win this for them."
There is real resiliency, and there is baseball resiliency. Springer knows something about the former, having seen Harvey's effects firsthand and having heard the horror stories from his mother's native Puerto Rico after Hurricane Maria. And he also knows something about the latter, having gone 3-for-26 in the Astros' American League Championship Series win over the Yankees and then begun the World Series with an 0-for-4 with four strikeouts.
The Astros gave the people of Houston something to feel good about when they finished off their franchise's first World Series title with Wednesday's 5-1 victory in Game 7 at Dodger Stadium, and, as was often the case in this epic struggle between two great teams, Springer was the igniter. With another double and a huge two-run homer that broke open the game for good, the dynamic center fielder was a fitting recipient of the first Willie Mays Most Valuable Player Award presented by Chevrolet.
"I used to go in the backyard with my dad, and he would hit me fly balls and I'd pretend to be Willie Mays," Springer said. "To earn this is great. It's an honor. But it's not about me. It's about the team and what the team has done. And I'm just ... I'm extremely happy for the team."
The team would not have done this without the 28-year-old Springer's enormous impact from the leadoff spot. He went 11-for-29 with three doubles, five homers and seven RBIs, becoming just the third player to hit five home runs in a single Fall Classic, joining the Yankees' Reggie Jackson in 1977 and the Phillies' Chase Utley (now with the Dodgers) in 2009.
What's more, Springer set records for extra-base hits (eight) and total bases (29), and he became the first player in World Series history to homer in four straight games within a single World Series. (Jackson and Lou Gehrig had done it over multiple World Series.)
By the time it was all over, the struggles from earlier in October were a distant memory. Springer had sprung to life.
"When he got going," said his manager, A.J. Hinch, "it gets pretty scary."
Springer had three moments that were particularly elemental to the outcome of this Fall Classic.
Springer hit the final go-ahead home run in the top of the 11th of the Astros' 7-6 victory in that epic Game 2. In the equally epic Game 5, he made a costly misjudgment in the outfield -- diving at and missing Cody Bellinger's RBI triple in the seventh as the Dodgers took an 8-7 lead -- but almost instantly redeemed himself with a leadoff home run in the bottom of the inning, as the indefatigable Astros charged toward a 13-12 win. And in the Game 7 clincher, it was Springer who opened the onslaught against Yu Darvish with a leadoff double and run scored in the first, and the one who then chased Darvish from the game with a two-run homer in the second.
"When my slider is not that sharp," Darvish said, "he's not going to make mistakes."
Springer scorched those two hits off Darvish, and that became his Series standard after the early 0-for-4. In his next 25 at-bats, he had 17 hard-hit balls (95-plus-mph exit velocity, per Statcast™). Nobody had more hard-hit balls in this Series, and Springer's Game 5 homer (110.3 mph, 438 feet) and Game 7 homer (111.9 mph, 448 feet) were the two hardest-hit and two longest homers of the record 25 hit in this Fall Classic.
"After the first game, I had a talk with Carlos Beltran," Springer said, "and he told me to just go out and kind of enjoy the moment, because he's been playing for 20 years and this is his second time here. He told me to go out and be who [I am] and kind of enjoy it."
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Springer was a hero to many before he turned the World Series into his personal Home Run Derby. Though he has had a speech impediment his whole life, he wore a microphone during the broadcast of the All-Star Game, serving as an inspiration to stutterers everywhere. Springer has learned to manage his stutter through therapy and concentration, and he has championed the awareness of speech disorders as well as support for those who deal with them through charity events and his role as a spokesperson for the Stuttering Association for the Young.
So Springer didn't need this World Series showing to validate his place among baseball's young stars. But if a national audience was perhaps more familiar with the work of AL MVP Award candidate Jose Altuve and 2015 AL Rookie of the Year Award winner Carlos Correa in that Houston lineup, Springer demonstrated his importance to the Astros with one of the more dynamic individual Series in history.
Springer's status as the Astros' sparkplug extends beyond his leadoff duties. Before Game 7, he kept things loose in the clubhouse in his role as resident DJ.
"The jams today, I can say, were on point," Springer said with a smile. "I went with my '80s playlist. I got the boys right."
Springer got them right, and he did right by the people of Houston, who were emotionally invested in this team and were rewarded with a run for the ages -- a run very much marked by his amazing output. It was something he envisioned in that pre-World Series conversation with his father.
"He was really reflecting on the experience people had with Harvey and, most importantly, the resilience, dusting themselves off and starting over," the senior Springer said. "I think he recognized that he could be part of the resiliency."