Astros roll out the red carpet for George Springer in return to Houston

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The Astros have produced plenty of talent over their 50-plus years of existence including Hall-of-Famers Nolan Ryan, Jeff Bagwell and Craig Biggio. The vaunted trio of Jose Altuve, Carlos Correa and Alex Bregman has had a similar impact while Cy Young winner Justin Verlander will assuredly join Bagwell and Biggio in Cooperstown whenever he decides to hang up his spikes. But in terms of performing in the clutch, has there ever been a more accomplished Astro in big moments than former World Series MVP George Springer?

Not only was Springer a playoff god during his memorable seven-year run in Houston, which included the Astros’ first world championship in 2017 (an accomplishment later tainted by a highly-publicized cheating scandal), but the three-time All-Star was also a fan favorite, playing with a childlike enthusiasm rarely seen in today’s game. Springer’s 19 postseason homers—with five coming against the Dodgers in the ’17 World Series—are the fourth-most in MLB history, trailing only Manny Ramirez and the Yankees’ duo of Derek Jeter and Bernie Williams.

The 6’3” outfielder ultimately left Houston as a free agent this offseason (he joined the Blue Jays on a six-year, $150-million contract), but that didn’t stop the 25,410 Astros fans in attendance from giving Springer a well-deserved round of applause upon his return to Minute Maid Park Friday night. Even a strained quad—an injury that has shelved the 31-year-old for all but four games this season—couldn’t stand in the way of Springer’s Houston homecoming, an event marked by video tributes, thunderous ovations from fans and plenty of laughs shared between former teammates.

It will be emotional for sure,” the Astros legend said ahead of his much-anticipated return to Minute Maid. “This is the place where I got an opportunity to play and an opportunity to grow as a big-leaguer and person. The fans will always have a very special place in my heart. They were great to me, were great to my family and [I’ll] always be thankful for the fans here.”

Drafted 11th overall in 2011 following a standout career at the University of Connecticut, Springer contributed a .270/.361/.491 batting line with 835 hits, 176 homers, 461 RBI and 49 steals across 799 games as an Astro. The Jays could have used his bat in the lineup Friday night, falling 10-4 in their series opener. For the Astros, coming home to Houston must have been a breath of fresh air after being ruthlessly heckled by fans at Yankee Stadium earlier this week.

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