Church of Baseball

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

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 team's 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?

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Another vague WPost story on Stephen Strasburg's soul

Once again, spring has arrived here in the land of the two Beltways — after snow showers yesterday, if you can imagine that — and it is time for baseball. One of the realities of sports journalism is that, year after year, the newspapers that cover professional teams have to find some kind of hook that justifies a feature story on each of the local superstars. This is not easy work. Think of it as the sports equivalent of the annual challenge faced by religion-news reporters who are asked to find fresh, valid angles for news reports linked to Christmas, Passover, Ramadan, Easter, etc.

Yes, we can also assume that for many people baseball is a religion in and of itself (Cue: Annie Savoy).

Thus, the team at The Washington Post is required by the unwritten laws of journalism to produce an annual feature story about pitcher Stephen Strasburg until he fades, is traded or pops his elbow again. From the very beginning these stories have been haunted by a religion ghost, as shown in this passage from his first year, when he was the most analyzed rookie in baseball:

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