MEXICO CITY -- A young Jeff Luhnow had finally gotten the chance to play on the same Little League team as his older brother, Chris, who was considered the best athlete in the family. Jeff was eager to prove he belonged with the big boys, so when he hit a
MEXICO CITY -- A young Jeff Luhnow had finally gotten the chance to play on the same Little League team as his older brother, Chris, who was considered the best athlete in the family. Jeff was eager to prove he belonged with the big boys, so when he hit a shot into the gap in his first at-bat, he turned on the jets.
"He came around second, and the third-base coach held up the stop sign," younger brother David Luhnow recalled. "I thought, 'It's good enough you got a triple in your first at-bat.' But Jeff was not going to stop. He wanted the inside-the-park home run and ran all way to home plate and was called out by a mile. My oldest brother had to come out to the dugout and sort of set him straight."
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Thus was life in the sports-mad Luhnow household in the Lomas de Chapultepec neighborhood of Mexico City, where the Luhnow boys grew up. Who could have ever fathomed Jeff -- the same determined kid as he was in Little League -- would return to their hometown as the general manager of the Astros?
Luhnow's parents moved to Mexico City for work from New York City in 1965. His father, Chris, worked for an advertising agency on a two-year rotation and wound up staying in Mexico. He still lives and works there in the real-estate business. His father had a publishing business that included an English-speaking guide book to Mexico, so the family traveled all over the country to tourist areas and visited hotels and restaurants so his parents could write about the experience.
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"I mean, I never imagined when we were kids watching the Dodgers-Yankees World Series on a black-and-white TV that eventually Jeff was going to end up helping run one of those teams," said David Luhnow, who was among a handful of Luhnow friends and family members in attendance Saturday at Estadio Fray Nano.
Jeff Luhnow spent part of Saturday morning walking around his old neighborhood and recalling the good memories. Later in the day, the Astros' GM spoke proudly about his club to a group of Mexican reporters.
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"It's exciting for me to be back," he said. "When I became general manager of the Astros, I wanted to bring the Astros here. … This is a great time for us to be here, because the Astros are on the rise and had a good season last year. We have a great young team, and we have several of the young, budding stars in our game, including two from Latin America -- Jose Altuve and Carlos Correa. This is a nice opportunity for us to get exposure for the Astros. … One of our goals is to be known as Mexico's team."
They were on this night, at least if you looked in the stands. In addition to his brother, David, and his two sons, also in attendance were their father and step mother, as well as group of Jeff's former classmates. He attended school in Mexico City from kindergarten through 10th grade, and later graduated from a prep school in California.
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David Luhnow, who's worked for The Wall Street Journal for 16 years, said sports were a huge part of their upbringing. All three boys played Little League, but it was Chris who was the star athlete. He was the starting pitcher, the starting point guard and the school's No. 1 tennis player as a freshman in high school, but he blew out his shoulder in college. Chris also set the tone when it came to rooting for sports teams.
"We always loved sports," David said. "We loved baseball. I loved American football. We loved basketball. That was the years of the Lakers-Sixers rivalries, and Jeff was a Lakers fans and I was a Sixers fan. ... He was a Dodgers fan, and I was a Reds fan. Then he liked the Rams, and I liked the Raiders.
"We always had sort of different teams. Chris told us when we were little he was a Yankees and Cowboys fan because he liked the winners, and he announced to us one day it wasn't cool for his little brothers to like the same teams as he did, so he made us choose other teams."
These days, they're all Astros fans. Dad watches every game and sends text messages to Jeff after each one. They live and die by the Astros, and having them in Mexico with the team Jeff put together is surreal, but fills them with pride.
"We knew Jeff had a plan, we had faith in it, but there were some tough years there," David said. "We'd sent him text messages saying, 'Hang in there, don't get your head down, we're still pulling for you.' It was really fun last year watching it start to come together."
Brian McTaggart is a reporter for MLB.com and writes an MLBlog, Tag's Lines. Follow @brianmctaggart on Twitter and listen to his podcast.