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The Deer Park Community

DP resident has best seat for historic Astros season

Written by J. Stokes.. Posted in Community

Bobby train paradeIN OUR COMMUNITY
It was a historic year in the Houston area. Soon after the Gulf Coast experienced a record-setting hurricane and flood, the Houston Astros lifted spirits across the Bayou City when they won their first world championship. One Deer Park resident not only had the best seat in baseball to witness history and its subsequent celebration.

AstrosTrainBobby Vasquez has seen virutally every pitch thrown at Minute Maid Park for the last 17 years. This year, Vasquez, a Deer Park resident, had the best seat in the house to witness the Astros' historic run to a World Series title. Photo provided by Deer Park Photos.While everyone in the Houston area enjoyed the Astros historic run to a World Series Championship this fall, one Deer Park resident witnessed the home games – every pitch, every out, every win – from the best seat in the house. Bobby Vasquez, know to Astros fans as “Bobby Dynamite,” drives the train at Minute Maid Park, a position he has held since 2001.

Vasquez is a Deer Park resident and graduated from Deer Park High School in 1996. He joined the Astros in 2000.

Save a handful of extenuating circumstances, Vasquez has driven the train at every Astros game over the past 17 years, with previous highlights such as the NLCS in 2004 and the World Series in 2005, and lowlights including those 100-loss seasons of 2011-2013. However, no season will be as memorable as 2017.

The road to their first World Championship included consecutive series against the Boston Red Sox, New York Yankees, and Los Angeles Dodgers. Vasquez has favorite moments of each. Against the Red Sox, “The last out of the series was the most exciting part.” Astros fans may recall the last out of the series took place in Game 4, in Boston.

Next came the vaunted New York Yankees, in the exciting and competitive ALCS where the home team won every game. “The crowd was exciting and got louder and louder each inning in Game 2,” said Vasquez.

The loudest he had ever heard the stadium followed Game 2’s final at bat, when Astros shortstop Carlos Correa doubled, scoring second baseman Jose Altuve on a sprint from first base. Admittedly, Vasquez’s new unofficial high decibel count record was short lived. “When (Astros outfielder George) Springer caught the final out in Game 7, the crowd exploded. It was the loudest I’ve ever heard the ball park.”

Then came the Los Angeles Dodgers in a legendary seven- game World Series. Houston hosted Games 3, 4, and 5. “I loved walking into Minute Maid Park for Game 3 and seeing the World Series logo on the field – it’s what you’re there for. Everything that we played for and the heart and soul our fans put in, we were going to see them pay off in front of our eyes.”

Through the Astros media department, Vasquez, conducted so many media interviews he lost count. Most of those took place on the train. “Everything was fun, but a total blur,” he said. Game 5 of the series, which ended after 10 innings in a 13-12 Astros win, may be remembered as the Astros greatest game ever played in Houston. In the bottom of the seventh George Springer launched a 382 foot home run to deep left field, which landed on the train tracks. Vasquez retrieved the ball and made sure it was returned to Springer after the game – an act greatly appreciated by Springer and his family. Game 5 ended with a single from third baseman Alex Bregman which scored right fielder Derek Fisher. This prompted yet another auditory assessment from Vazquez, “That was the loudest I’ve ever heard it in Minute Maid.”

While Game 7 took place in Los Angeles, over 20,000 fans watched it live in Minute Maid, with Vasquez driving the train for the Astros faithful. “I’ve never felt that much energy before walking into the ballpark,” said Vasquez, “the fans were excited with every single pitch.” When the game ended and the Astros had secured their first world championship, the smaller crowd was just as loud and excited as they had been with a full house at the end of Game 5. No one celebrated harder than Vasquez. “Yeah, I’m an employee, but I’m also a fan.”

Two days later, the City of Houston and the Astros held a victory parade through downtown Houston. Some area schools canceled classes and and estimated crowd of more than one million people made their way downtown to see the parade.

Vasquez was told to be downtown that morning dressed as Bobby Dynamite to participate in the parade. Unbeknownst to him, the Astros had a huge surprise in store. Upon arrival at the staging area, he learned he would lead the parade on a float designed to replicate his train. Waving to all parade goers along the route was surreal, he said. “It felt like a scene from a movie. The epicenter of pure joy. I kept thinking, ‘I’m getting to live this but it’s just me, a regular guy from Deer Park.’ I may never realize how cool that actually was.”

Also touching was having the parade route go through portions of Houston that had flooded during Hurricane Harvey, just weeks before, and seeing fans hold up pictures of deceased loved ones who were not had not lived long enough to see an Astros World Series victory. “It was very moving, and put a lot of things in perspective, witnessing the emotional connection fans have to our team,” he said.

While he has long been a favorite of Astros fans, following the World Series Bobby Dynmite’s ‘Q Rating’ is off the charts. Vasquez became a celebrity, and graciously signs autographs and poses for pictures when recognized at the grocery store or local restaurant. He is also available on Twitter, Instagram, and Infield Chatter under the handle @AstrosTrainGuy. Especially when it comes to interacting with kids, he makes sure fans’ experience in meeting or interacting via social media with Bobby Dynamite leaves them thinking, “That’s just as cool and just as nice as I’d hoped it would be,” Vasquez says.

In some cases, parents have even dressed their kids up as Bobby Dynamite for Halloween and sent Vasquez pictures of the little trick-of-treaters. “It blows my mind. I’m just me,” he says.

While Vasquez never got to ride in the actual Union Station train that departed downtown Houston at the site of what is now Minute Maid Park (it ceased operations a few years before he was born), he will be back again next season in his familiar conductor’s seat.

Driving the Astros train in left field, sounding the horn with another Springer home run, and delighting fans and kids that stop him to say hello. And if all goes as planned, the 2018 season will conclude next November with Bobby Dynamite leading his second parade through downtown Houston.