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Fans flock to Minute Maid for G1 watch party

Special to MLB.com

HOUSTON -- Minute Maid Park has been a symbol of resiliency for the Astros all postseason, as evidenced by their 6-0 home record and punctuated by a win in Game 7 of the American League Championship Series. For many Houstonians, some still seeking a return to normalcy after Hurricane Harvey, the spirit of that building continued to play a vital role on Tuesday, even with the team more than 1,000 miles away.

So as the Astros played Game 1 of the World Series presented by YouTube TV at Dodger Stadium, a 3-1 loss to the Dodgers, thousands of fans back in Houston took advantage of the opportunity to come together and watch the game on the biggest available TV in town -- that, of course, is "El Grande," the 54-foot-high, 124-foot-wide high-definition screen at the ballpark.

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HOUSTON -- Minute Maid Park has been a symbol of resiliency for the Astros all postseason, as evidenced by their 6-0 home record and punctuated by a win in Game 7 of the American League Championship Series. For many Houstonians, some still seeking a return to normalcy after Hurricane Harvey, the spirit of that building continued to play a vital role on Tuesday, even with the team more than 1,000 miles away.

So as the Astros played Game 1 of the World Series presented by YouTube TV at Dodger Stadium, a 3-1 loss to the Dodgers, thousands of fans back in Houston took advantage of the opportunity to come together and watch the game on the biggest available TV in town -- that, of course, is "El Grande," the 54-foot-high, 124-foot-wide high-definition screen at the ballpark.

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"I'm just proud that there's so much spirit for Houston here," said 23-year-old Cameron Shekari. "This team is one of my favorite teams of all time. Just because we've been through so much, especially with Harvey. The diversity of support is impressive, too. Everyone is supporting this team, no matter what."

Despite the loss, which offered little in the way of offensive highlights other than Alex Bregman's home run, fans cheered throughout and seemed relatively undeterred by the series-opening defeat.

"I'll say Astros in seven," Shekari predicted. "I think the Dodgers are really, really good. I think the first two games will be a split."

"Once you get past [Game 1 starter Clayton] Kershaw, I think anybody else matches up just fine for the Astros," added Miguel Molina.

Molina was 21 in 2005, when the Astros first played in the World Series in their only other appearance in franchise history. Though he was a fan then, he said watching this iteration of the franchise built from the ground up has made this postseason run even more memorable.

"I loved [Craig] Biggio and [Jeff] Bagwell, but that group was already established when I really started watching," Molina said. "We've watched these guys grow. I was at [George] Springer's first game. I was in Detroit for his first home run. I was at [Carlos] Correa's first game. Being able to see them from their beginnings is pretty special."

Also in attendance was 38-year-old Leslie Mullin, who lived in Houston for much of her childhood before moving to Oklahoma. When she and her husband moved back to Houston for work reasons in August 2015, the Astros played a key role in mitigating the stress of the transition.

"Within a week or so of us moving down here, Mike Fiers threw the no-hitter against these Dodgers," Mullin said. "And now look at where we're at. As hard as it was to leave Tulsa, if you had told me that we would get to be doing this right now, I'd have been like, 'Let's go!'"

In the aftermath of Hurricane Harvey, celebrating the 2017 run with other Houstonians was a strong lure for many at Minute Maid Park on Tuesday.

"It's amazing," said Mullin, who has already attended four Houston postseason games. "Bregman's walkup song, 'I Won't Back Down,' it's like an anthem for the entire city."

In addition to airing on "El Grande," the game was shown outside at a festival on Crawford Street. The area opened two hours before the first pitch, with perks including live music, food trucks, face painters and mascots.

The Astros hosted similar watch parties for each away game this postseason, but the crowd on Tuesday was undoubtedly the largest, with many fans finding value in being at the ballpark alongside thousands of other diehards to take in Houston's first World Series game in 12 years.

"Doing the watch parties is a great idea, because you're at the stadium, you're with fans, and it feels like you're in the baseball environment," said 31-year-old Houstonian Matt Robison, who attended with several friends. "Everybody is so hyped and excited, and you've got the food and the big screen. So it does feel a lot like you're at the game, and it's cool to be around that energy."

"Throughout the whole thing, there's stuff going on," added Molina. "Everybody is cheering, clapping. It's a fun time. And it's a huge freaking screen."

Minute Maid Park will be open for watch parties for each road game of the World Series, including tonight's Game 2. Fans can guarantee admission by claiming a free voucher.

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

Houston Astros