LOS ANGELES – When the management of the Astros needed someone to stand near home plate and speak to the crowd at Houston’s Minute Maid Stadium on the afternoon of Sept. 2, before the team’s first home game since Hurricane Harvey made landfall and ravaged the region, the choice was obvious. A few minutes before first pitch, A.J. Hinch, the manager with an uncommon gift for connecting with people, took the microphone and after a short pause told his fellow Houstonians, “It’s good to be home.” The speech, short and heartfelt, ended: “Stay strong. Be strong.”
“We needed someone to come out and address the crowd, and I started thinking, ‘Who is the best person to connect the players to the fans?’ It was clearly A.J.,” Astros President Reid Ryan said. “He nailed it.”
On Thursday, when Hinch and the Astros returned again to Houston for the final time in 2017 – two months to the day since their emotional return after Harvey — they were bringing the World Series trophy with them. With a 5-1 victory over the Los Angeles Dodgers on Wednesday at Dodger Stadium, in Game 7 of the World Series, the Astros secured the first championship in the franchise’s history and fulfilled their promise to their wounded city.