There was a baseball game in Houston last night. The Astros beat the Phillies 5-1, temporarily stalling the Phillies' division-clinching march. Shortstop Jimmy Rollins returned to the starting lineup for Philadelphia, and Houston pitcher Brett Myers got the best of his former team.
But just recounting the score, the hits and the runs doesn’t tell the whole story of this night.
There is another story to tell. It’s a story both powerful and poignant.
It's a story about coming home.
Yes, I know that they say you can’t go home again, but don’t tell Roy Oswalt and Hunter Pence. They returned to Houston last night, the city where they both got their starts.
For Oswalt, it has been over a year since he left the Astros to join the Phillies, and most of his former teammates are now gone. But Houston will always be the place where it all began:
“The team is a little bit different but it’s still Houston. They gave me a chance coming out of junior college to play, so it’s kind of special to go back.”
Back to the place where Oswalt started his career in 2001 and developed into one of the best pitchers in baseball, winning 143 games. Oswalt still leads all Astros pitchers in winning percentage and remains second in wins and strikeouts. But after 10 years in Houston, Oswalt wanted one more chance to try for a ring and the Phillies were happy to oblige.
For Hunter Pence, the departure was much more recent, the feelings closer to the surface. He was an extremely popular player, a rising star in Houston, where he spent his entire career before being traded to the Phillies just six weeks ago.
“The whole thing was weird, coming in and saying, ‘Man I’m playing against these guys.’ It’s an eerie feeling," Pence said.
Pence hasn’t missed a beat since joining the Phillies. His .320 batting average, eight homers and 24 RBI has quickly made him a fan favorite with his new team as well, but Pence still has friends, family and a home in Houston.
“I love Houston, and I get to go home and see some of my family," Pence said. "I think the reason I was appreciated so much by the fans was the way I played on the field. I’m going to give you everything I’ve got. I’m going to continue to do that. I’m grateful for the opportunity I had there in Houston and I’m just going to go enjoy it.”
In the end it was the Astros who enjoyed last night’s game more than Pence and his Phillies, but the Houston fans did welcome him back with a warm standing ovation and he slept in his own bed for the first time in quite a while. Pence is happy with his new team and excited about his first chance to play in the postseason, but for both Pence and Oswalt, it’s nice to be home again, if only for a couple of days.
Yes, I know that they say there’s no place like home, but here’s the deal: Roy, Hunter—we hope you have a nice time in Houston, but don’t miss the team’s return charter to Philadelphia! And when you get back here, we promise that the city of brotherly love will make you feel right at home.