Hey reporters: Seeking poignant Astros follow-up stories? Hang around for Sunday in Houston

Game seven of the World Series was played in Los Angeles.

But the real story was in Houston.

After a flood of biblical proportions, people in Houston finally got to celebrate -- as in big time, Texas-sized. This emotional explosion was, of course, linked to suffering and pain as much as it was to joy about a historic win.

Thus, I would like to make a suggestion to reporters who are looking for follow-up story angles with these Houston Astros.

The national media will cover the giant civic celebration and parade on Friday, in downtown. I expect spectacular images contrasting what the parade route looked like during the Hurricane Harvey flood with the same streets during the celebration. Look for the Astros to organize some kind of charity effort that takes the celebration into Houston's worst-hit neighborhoods. Cover all of that, please.

But then it would be wise to hang around for Sunday in the city that Christianity Today has called the "megachurch capital of America." Trust me, stuff will be happening.

Yes, few of these church celebrations will feature splashes of beer and champagne, but there will be lots of hooks linked to efforts by real Houstonians trying to get on with their lives.

In particular, according to a Christianity Today feature, reporters might want to seek out the Rev. Juan Jesus Alaniz, the Astros chaplain who works with the team's many Spanish-speaking players. He is the pastor of Houston’s First Baptist Church’s Spanish campus.

CT noted that his ministry, with the team, includes "Venezuelans José Altuve and Marwin González; Puerto Ricans Carlos Correa, Carlos Beltrán, and Juan Centeno; Cuban Yuli Gurriel; and Dominican Francisco Liriano." Also note that Alaniz’s wife, Josie Ban-Alaniz, leads a ministry focusing on the players’ wives and girlfriends. The English-speaking chaplain is Kevin Edelbrock, of the parachurch group called Young Life. I'll add this question: Is there no local priest whose job includes ministry to Catholics on the team?

Will the players show up for church festivities? Who knows, but some of the most outspoken BELIEVERS on the team are also LEADERS on the team. Like who?

In pre-series coverage, CBN pointed readers toward earlier Houston Chronicle remarks by Altuve, the emotional spark plug for the Astros.

"To achieve success wasn't to get into the major leagues or have the best season in the world. The best success is to live your life the way God wants you to," he told The Houston Chronicle. ... 
"We need to not just ask God but thank Him for everything like our health, our family.  And ask Him to bless our homes and to always be present in our daily lives. And to keep us safe is most important," Altuve continued.
Altuve credits his family, not only for believing in him, but for giving him the ulitmate gift -- his faith in God. "I grew up in a family that always believed in God. And I feel like every morning when you wake up you have to thank Him just for another day. I do it every day," he told CBN Sports.

When the young leaders on the team talk about leadership, however, they talk about 40-year-old slugger Carlos Beltran -- who was weeping on the field after the game. Newsday talked to him:

When asked if he planned to retire, to go out on top, Beltran just smiled and replied, “We’ll see.” As for the first ring, well, that was a long time coming.
“I believe in God and I believe God has reasons why we wait as long as we have to wait sometimes to accomplish things in our career,” Beltran said.

On camera, he added:

“It only took me 20 years to get to this position, but you know what? I’m happy, I’m blessed and I want to give the glory and honor to God for this moment,” Beltran told Fox Sports’ Ken Rosenthal.

World Series Game 7 set us up for a moment of redemption. It just never came.

Now, anyone who knows baseball and knows Houston would expect a certain amount of Godtalk after this kind of game.

My point here is that, because of the Harvey disaster, and because of Houston's strong megachurch culture, it is highly likely that post-championship Sunday events will be worth covering -- for the simple reason that they will touch on key themes that make Houston the city that it is. Let Texas be Texas.

Meanwhile, the coverage of the final game did draw some other rather interesting "baseball gods" language and imagery.

I mean, check out this SBNation headline: "World Series Game 7 set us up for a moment of redemption. It just never came." Who knew that there were people across the nation looking for the World Series to give them a shot of joy to help them survive Donald Trump?

The Washington Post, to its credit, covered the throng that turned out to watch game seven in Houston's Minute Maid Park. Out of all the people in that vast baseball congregation, the Post found a woman with an amazing story of suffering and strength -- yet she was also gifted in a kind of Oprah-sermon lingo that probably appealed to Beltway editors. Check this out:

HOUSTON -- Strangers embraced, jumping and screaming at the sky in tearful hugs, shedding happy tears from a place that so recently emerged from its greatest grief.
Less than nine weeks ago, the city of Houston hung its head for the tens of thousands who lost their homes to floods and high water brought by four days of record-breaking rain from Hurricane Harvey. ... For Houston, the Astros’ run couldn’t have come at a better time.
“It’s almost as though somewhere out there the universe is saying, ‘Sorry about that,’ ” said Zannah Sykes, who lost her home to flooding. “Like an apology.”

Sykes showed up again later in the piece, as the Post offered amazing details of her trials and tribulations post-storm. But baseball came through for her:

Money is tight. Harvey also washed her office away so she’s been out of work. She hasn’t eaten out in weeks, but as the crowd gathers in Minute Maid Park she savored a Chick-fil-A sandwich from her stadium seat.
“It’s a wonderful distraction from the source of pain that all of us feel,” she said, choking back tears at the memory of her loss. “It’s medicinal. It’s almost spiritual.”

At the Los Angeles Times, baseball faith had more to do with the rituals of personal and communal superstition. On this night, the La-La baseball gods blinked.

Back at the stadium, Momo Rodriguez thought he had done his part for the Dodgers during Game 7. Like so many baseball fans, he’s superstitious. So he came to the last game of the Fall Classic on Wednesday wearing the same clothes he’d worn to Game 6, which the Dodgers won.
He repeated everything he did for Game 6. He brought four SmartWaters to Dodger Stadium and half a bag of Cracker Jack. He bought a bag of pistachios, but since the one he’d brought Tuesday was half full, he dumped half out in his car before Game 7. In the end, it wasn’t enough.

One more thing. Remember all of those news stories last year focusing on diehard Chicago Cubs fans who didn't live to see their team beat its great curse? Remember the people going to cemeteries to drink toasts, or wave the W flag, on the graves of their Cubs-crazy loved ones?

The Houston Astros had never won a title -- period. They lost, of course, in the 2005 series. So, sure enough, the Houston Chronicle did find readers one dose of angels in the outfield imagery:

Mark Aleman poured beer all over himself and looked to the heavens. He wiped his face. The tears came naturally. ... His mind immediately turned to his father Sidney, who died shortly before his beloved Astros' first chance at greatness.
Aleman was at that 2005 turn, too. This one was much sweeter.
"If he was here, he'd be doing the same thing," Aleman said of his father and the beer bath.
Aleman's older brother, Sidney Cortez, did some of the pouring. So did little brother Nino Cortez.
"We waited," Aleman said, tearing up again. "He's watching us. We won."

Ladies and gentlemen, there are all kinds of folks in the Church of Baseball (click here for the classic Hollywood monologue). It's part of the story.

Reporters might want to hang around in Houston for Sunday morning.

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