Astros fan who came away with Yordan Alvarez’s World Series home run

Jim Rice loved his seat in the front row above the batter’s eye in center field at Minute Maid Park, but he didn’t think it would give him much of a shot to grab a home run ball. He’s a smart man. There’s no reason to think anyone would hit a ball over the batter’s eye that looms 40 feet above the warning track.

Then, Yordan Alvarez launched one 450 feet to dead center for one of the biggest home runs in Astros franchise history, providing what proved to be the winning runs in the sixth inning of Game 6 of the World Series, which earned the Astros their second championship.

“I saw it coming right at me, but I thought there was no way a ball could carry over this wall; it’s way too high,” said Rice, slamming his hand on the concrete barrier that separates him from the batter’s eye. “I’ve watched a lot of games and I’ve never seen a ball carry up here.”

Alvarez is known for his mammoth home runs, but he hadn’t hit one up there this season although he did hit one ball further inside Minute Maid Park, when he launched a homer 464 feet against the Athletics in September. That ball went deeper, but was hit to the right of where the World Series ball landed. After the win, Lance McCullers, who has played in Minute Maid Park since 2015, said the only other player he’s seen hit a ball there is Joey Gallo, adding, “Guys don’t even hit the balls there in (batting practice).

The ball that Rice was clutching was no batting practice homer. Rice — as luck would have it, wearing an Alvarez jersey — tried to get a hand on the incoming missile, but failed. The ball hit the ground and bounced off a railing behind him, coming up just short of the pack of fans in the standing-room only section. From there, the race to the ball was on.

“It rattled around back here,” Rice said pointing to a railing separating his row, which comes with a table in front of it, from the second row. “I saw a bunch of people coming, and I said I’m not going to just try to pick it up, I’m going to treat it like a fumble and cover it up. I dove on top of it and still wasn’t sure if I was going to be able to come away with it.”

The football trick worked as Rice, who is a lifelong Astros fan and drove in from Dallas after his boss offered him the ticket and a chance to see his team win a championship, was able to cradle the ball close to his chest as he made his way to his feet and then triumphantly shot his arms into the air while holding the ball.

Previously, Rice counted a 1983 game on his 10th birthday as the greatest Astros game he ever attended, because Jose Cruz hit a home run and his name was on the Astrodome video board as a birthday gift.

“I’ve come to so many Astros games in my life, and I’ve never come away with a ball, not even a foul ball,” Rice said while the Astros were still batting in the bottom of the sixth. “Now, I have a World Series home run. Hit by Yordan Alvarez. That might win the World Series. Incredible.”

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