Altuve stopped growing in his early teens. Ever since, his ability on a baseball field has been second guessed. Along the way, he's silenced the skeptics.
Stories abound through the years about Altuve being sent home from a tryout camp only to show up the next day, or having coaches and stadium security guards mistake him for a bat boy. But he’s defied stereotypes and shown that he’s the real thing.
When Altuve's mother, Lastenia, went into labor, his father, Carlos, was watching a baseball game at a stadium next to the hospital in Maracay. People ran from the hospital to the stadium to tell his dad he had a kid on the way.
Jose has a real cult following among some hard core Astros fans. He is the ultimate underdog at just 5-feet-6. He is built like a fire hydrant.
In 2011, Baseball America rated Altuve as the 28th-best prospect in the Astros' organization.
Altuve's high-energy play is contagious to teammates. He is a team leader and impresses with his ability in all areas of the game.
Jose is a special type of person. Before games, Altuve can be seen chatting it up in the middle infield, flitting here and there with his cap resting high on his head and the bill at an upward angle, and displaying a joy for the game that can’t be faked. His enthusiasm makes him a natural fan favorite at Minute Maid Park and on the road.
During the winter months, following every offseason until after the 2013 season, Altuve returned home to play in the Venezuelan League. As the second baseman for the Navegantes del Magallanes, Altuve played with and against current Major Leaguers. His teammates included Rangers shortstop Andres Blanco, Blue Jays outfielder Juan Rivera, and Angels third baseman Alberto Callaspo.
"They help me with a lot of things," Altuve said about playing with big leaguers. "They tell me a lot and I watch the way they play. They've showed me you got to slow down the game a little bit; make one out before the second out."
If you include Altuve's numbers at both stops in 2011, he won the minor league batting title and hit .389/.426/.591 at Single-A and Double-A combined.
Jose's two favorite ballplayers to watch are Omar Vizquel and Marco Scutaro.
While attending an Astros camp in Venezuela, he was actually told he had been cut but still showed up the next day and proved himself to the scouts.
Altuve eats a Subway sandwich before most games.
Jose's two favorite things are sleep and music.
Altuve's favorite city to play in is Denver.
Jose's secret talent is Ping Pong.
Altuve's hero when he was young: Omar Vizquel.
And he says that Vizquel gave him great advice: "Omar Vizquel told me that whatever I want to do, do it hard."
Favorite movie: X-Men. "I love all of them," Jose said.
Actor: Angelina Jolie.
TV show: Two and a Half Men.
Music: "I like all kinds. It depends on my mood."
Biggest disappointment: "I don't have many. But when I do have one, I forget it right away," Altuve said.
Most embarrassing baseball experience: "When I was a rookie, my teammates took my clothes from my locker and left me with women's clothes that I had to wear on the plane ride back to Houston," Jose said. "I was so embarrassed I kept looking down. But we had fun with it." (Rick Sorci - Baseball Digest - Jan. 2015)
After the 2013 season, Jose skipped the Venezuelan winter league and returned early to Houston to dedicate himself to an off-season program that included cardio, agility training and heavy workouts for the legs, like running uphill.
"He understood he needed to be in better shape," says longtime Astros bullpen catcher and fellow Venezuelan, Javier Bracamonte. "It impressed me how much he changed in one year. And also he learned how to eat. In the minor leagues, he was used to eating (fast food); now he stays away from junk." (Emma Span - Sports Illustrated - 11/21/2014)
Altuve is almost maniacally modest. The only thing he will brag about is his Ping-Pong talent—he's easily the best in the Astros' clubhouse.
Altuve is 5' 5" tall. That makes him the shortest active player in Major League Baseball, and the shortest since Freddie Patek retired in 1981. (Spring 2014)
Inspired by broadcasters debating how many "Altuves" a particular home run traveled, Bryan Trostel created a simple web-based calculator to calculate distance in Official Standard Listed Altuves (OSLA). To match Altuve's listed height, one OSLA = 5.417 feet.
Altuve himself has been receptive of the idea, saying "It's funny, man," he said. "When they told me how many 'Altuves' was a home run, I just laughed." Trostel, who published his calculator at HowManyAltuves.com, has expanded it to include speed (Altuves per second) as well as cubic and squared Altuves for volume and area. (January 2014)
When Jose saw his name penciled in as his team's cleanup hitter for a game in June 2014, he quickly snapped a photo of the lineup card and fired it off to his buddy, Tigers first baseman Miguel Cabrera.
"This is what a four hitter looks like," he wrote. Or a batting champion. Or a stolen base champion. Actually, it's what an impact baseball player looks like, a guy who makes the players in front of him better as well as the players behind him.
It's the look of a guy who examines himself and his game and dedicates himself to getting better. That's getting better physically by giving up burgers and fries, dropping 10 pounds and sticking with a new training regimen.
That's getting better mentally, too, by working relentlessly on his swing mechanics and studying enough video to walk to home plate with an idea of how he intends to approach the at-bat.
Altuve didn't really reinvent himself in his third full big league season. He was already a very solid player. He was on the 2012 NL All-Star Team. So this appearance in the 2014 All-Star Game is a validation of hours of hard work on and off the field.
"I remember my first All-Star Game when I went in there and looked around and couldn't believe I was there with all those guys," he said. "I think it helped that people doubted me. I thought I could get to the big leagues and be a good player." (Justice - mlb.com - 7/14/14)
In his breakout 2014 season, Altuve became the first player in history to reach 130 hits and 40 steals before the All-Star break. One reason is his physical conditioning.
"I feel 100 percent right now," he said. "In 2013, I had a couple of things in my legs that slowed me down. I feel really good right now. I feel a little faster. I've been getting a lot of hits with ground balls to shortstop, and I think that's been the difference."
He has a better idea what he's doing at home plate thanks to the regimen Astros hitting coach John Mallee got him to buy into. He studies each pitcher and walks to home plate with a better idea of what the pitcher is going to throw.
He also believes that having rookie George Springer hitting behind him helps with piling up stolen bases. "You can't throw him a fastball right in the middle," Altuve said. "He'll make you pay. You have to throw him more breaking pitches and pitch around him. I think it's been easier for me."
Altuve said the second time in an All-Star Game is a more comfortable experience. His first one went by in a blur. Asked what he remembered, he said, "My ground ball to second base that I was safe at first, that they called me out. Jim Joyce called me out. That's my memory." (Justice - mlb.com - 7/14/14)
Miguel Cabrera and Altuve both hail from the city of Maracay, and they’ve become pals in recent years. They spent some time last winter hanging out off the field and goofing around playing softball or basketball, with Altuve presumably playing the role of Spud Webb.
“We have a pretty good relationship,” Jose said. “He always tells me, ‘You’re a good hitter and a good player. Keep it going.’ For me to hear that from the best hitter in the big leagues means a lot. In the beginning, when he said that, I kind of pressed. I was like, ‘Oh my god, Miguel Cabrera.’ Now I appreciate all the support he’s given to me.”
Former Astros manager Bo Porter grew so tired of hearing Altuve referred to as “diminutive” or “pint-sized,” he opted for irony and anointed Altuve “The Big Guy.” If bald Harlem Globetrotters guard Fred Neal could go by “Curly,” why not?
Jose's wife, Nina, was his childhood sweetheart.
A crew from MLB Productions followed Altuve around for several months to gather footage for a documentary about him.
The movie was the idea of club owner Jim Crane, who wanted Altuve to get some publicity following a season in which he set a club record with 225 hits and led the AL with a .341 batting average and 56 stolen bases. The movie will run on MLB Network.
"He's the first batting champion we've ever had, and that's quite an achievement on his part," Crane said. "He's the spark of the team. He's got an infectious smile, he's a great guy and I think you'll see him step up to the lead a lot more this year."
The production crew was in Japan when Altuve participated in a tour of Major League All-Stars in December 2014, and it traveled to Altuve's native Venezuela in January to get more footage. Altuve was wearing a microphone as he participated in the first day of full-squad workouts Wednesday at Osceola County Stadium while cameras followed him.
Altuve even joked he's leading man material. "I feel like Brad Pitt, like a movie actor," he said. "This might be my start in Hollywood, don't you think?" (McTaggart - mlb.com - 2/25/15)
When the 2013 season ended, Altuve was unhappy with himself. He'd hit .283 that year, but he was convinced there was so much more for him. So he went to work. He did some basic things. He paid more attention to nutrition. He got leaner and stronger.
And with the help of then-Astros hitting coach John Mallee, he worked harder at both his physical and mental preparation. He spent hours studying opposing pitchers and went into each at-bat with an understanding of what he wanted to do.
He also amped up a pregame routine that included indoor batting and video study prior to the normal round of batting practice. Late last season, Mallee, blown away by Altuve's success, choked back tears as he discussed the transformation.
"I feel like he's one of my sons," Mallee said.
Mallee will be the first to tell you that, apart from the preparation and the work, Altuve has remarkable physical skills. "You may never see someone with quicker hand-eye coordination," Mallee said.
That is, Altuve has the ability to adjust to almost anything. If he's looking for a fastball, he can still get the bat on, say, a changeup or breaking pitch.
"The ability to kind of make those quick adjustments as pitchers were trying to adjust to him and try new things is pretty impressive," Astros catcher Jason Castro said. (Justice - mlb.com - 3/9/15)
- Players who accomplish enormous feats or have record-breaking seasons that draw a lot of attention often say that it isn't until much later that the impact of their achievements really sink in.
Altuve, who set an Astros record with 225 hits, received his GIBBY [Greatness In Baseball Yearly] Award at Minute Maid Park as the 2014 Breakout Everyday Player of the Year lauding his record-setting season.
"Obviously, last year was a great year," Altuve said. "I think there were a lot of guys here that had really good years, so that makes the season better. I got a couple of awards, and that's good. It means you're doing a great job for your team, and that's what you're working for."
The GIBBYs are presented by MLB.com and represent the ultimate honors of the industry's awards season. The votes are based on input from broadcasters, reporters, front-office personnel, MLB alumni, fans at MLB.com and the Society for American Baseball Research.
In addition to producing on the field, Altuve takes it a step further. In a game where some players think the more serious they look on the field, the more "locked in" everyone watching will think they are, Altuve manages to both play at an elite level and have fun too.
"By the time the game starts, I try to have fun," Altuve said. "Baseball is about having fun. You have to play hard and you have to do everything for your teammates. But at the same time, you have to have fun. That's what I try to do. It's really hard for me not to be smiling when I'm playing."
Altuve also received his award from the Houston chapter of the BBWAA as the Astros MVP for 2014. (Footer - mlb.com - 4/15/15)
- June 27, 2015: Correa is learning rapidly during his rookie year. In turn, he's pushing Jose Altuve, his double-play partner and locker mate. At least that's how Astros manager A.J. Hinch saw it.
"They feed off each other, they're developing a nice friendship, a nice trust in that second base-shortstop position and it's key to have," said Hinch. "I'm proud of how Jose is introducing Correa to the big leagues and how Correa is going to push Altuve to be great."
"It's really fun playing with that guy," Altuve said. "Great hitter, great defender. It's great to play up the middle with him.".
"We play good baseball, we play hard and we play until the last out," Correa said. "I feel comfortable, I have a great group of guys here and it's a great lineup." (C Rome - MLB.cpm - June 27, 2015)
Altuve was selected to start in the 2015 All-Star Game.
Plenty of camaraderie exists between players who hail from the same country, but in the case of Astros second baseman Jose Altuve and Royals catcher Salvador Perez, their Venezuelan mutual admiration society began long before they were Major Leaguers.
The two played together as youngsters, when they were around 11 or 12 years old. Their travel team took them to other countries, where they represented Venezuela with as much pride as they do as adults and professional athletes today. Perez said Altuve was superior even way back when.
"He played," Perez said. "Leadoff, he threw hard, he stole bases, made some plays. Always. Whatever he's doing here—200 hits this year again—nothing is a surprise to me. I know where he comes from and I know what he's about."
Altuve remembers his youth baseball days a little differently.
"I was on the bench," he deadpanned. "I played second when we were winning by 10 or losing by 10."
And his memories of Perez?
"All I remember is he played first base because our manager said he couldn't catch," Altuve said. Looks like things have changed.
Asked if Altuve ever got picked on for his small stature, Perez shook his head with an emphatic no.
"He was better than everybody on the team," he said. "Nobody could say anything. "I'm 6-4, and he's like 5-1. And he's way better than me." (Alyson Footer - MLB.com)
Altuve facts in 2016: Altuve was established not only as one of the best "short guys" in big league history, but among the greatest stars through age-25. Let's look at 10 facts that highlight his excellence:
1. Among players listed at 5-foot-6 or shorter, only Altuve, Willie Keeler and Billy Hamilton (of the 19th century) have multiple 200-hit seasons.
2. By pacing the American League in hits in 2014 and 2015, Altuve joined Keeler (1897-98, 1900) as one of only two men at 5-foot-6 or under to have led the league in hits multiple times.
3. Among all position players in baseball history to be listed at 5-foot-6 or shorter, Altuve ranks sixth in cumulative Wins Above Replacement through age-25.
4. Altuve is one of five second basemen since 1901 to lead the league in hits in back-to-back seasons, and his 830 career hits are seventh most among all keystone men through age-25.
5. Dating back to 1901, Altuve is one of eight under-age-26 stars, regardless of position, to lead the league in hits in consecutive years. The previous seven: Ty Cobb (1907-09, 1911-12); Shoeless Joe Jackson (1912-13), Rogers Hornsby (1920-21), Ducky Medwick (1936-37), Stan Musial (1943-44), Harvey Kuenn (1953-54) and George Brett (1975-76).
6. Among second basemen, Altuve is ahead of where 3,000-hit club members Paul Molitor (735), Pete Rose (723), Nap Lajoie (721) and Rod Carew (675) were through their age-25 campaigns. He is also ahead of the pace of a host of Hall of Fame second-sackers like Billy Herman, Frankie Frisch, Nellie Fox, Ryne Sandberg, Tony Lazzeri and Charlie Gehringer.
7. Altuve is also one of 13 players to have multiple campaigns with 200 hits and 40 doubles through age 25. The previous dozen: Hall of Famers Lou Gehrig, Hornsby, Paul Waner, Chuck Klein, Herman, Hank Greenberg, Musial and Ducky Medwick; and non-Cooperstown residents Jackson, Pinky Whitney, Hal Trosky and Don Mattingly.
8. Altuve and Jackson are the only players to have multiple 200-hit, 40-double, 30-steal seasons before entering their age-26 campaigns.
9. Altuve is also one of just 10 players in the modern era—with Cobb, Tris Speaker, Roberto Alomar and Alex Rodriguez among them—to accumulate at least 800 hits, 150 doubles and 150 steals through age-25.
10. Altuve is one of four players since 1901 to lead his league in both hits and steals in the same campaign before age 26. Altuve accomplished the feat in both 2014 and 2015, joining Rickey Henderson (1981), Snuffy Stirnweiss (1944) and Cobb (1907, '09, '11). (Schluetter - MLB.com - 3/11/16)
May 5, 2016: Jose met a boy with terminal cancer on the field before the game who asked him to hit a home run. Altuve delivered and then some, walloping a homer in his first at-bat to spark a 4-for-4 night.
Mike Trout first played against Altuve in Double-A in 2011, when Altuve torched the Texas League with a .361 batting average.
"They couldn't get him out," Trout said. "I knew he was going to be good." The two have since sparred as division rivals and have played together on four All-Star teams, growing a little closer each time.
"He hits everything," Trout said of Altuve, who is 15 months older and eight inches shorter. "I was talking to a couple of the pitchers. You try to switch up your approach, the way you want to attack him, but he hits it anyway.
"He stands really far from the plate, so people think you can just throw a fastball in the outside corner and he won't hit it. But he gets to it, and he can drive it. And he's hitting for power." (A Gonzalez - MLB.com - July 22, 2016)
We all know Jose knows baseball. But he knows soccer, too? Growing up in Venezuela, Altuve had no choice but to try his hand at soccer as well as baseball, though he certainly appears to have picked the right sport.
Altuve probably could have been a decent soccer player considering his speed and coordination. In fact, he likes to still dabble in the occasional soccer game in the offseason to keep in shape. But don't worry, Astros fans—it's more about running wind sprints down the field than tackling, so Altuve's friends know to take it easy on him.
"I actually still [play soccer] in the offseason," Altuve said. "When I don't feel like doing cardio or something, I'm going to go out there and play soccer with my friends. They know they have to be careful with me, but we have a lot of fun playing soccer."
Altuve keeps himself in incredible shape. He made a commitment prior to the 2014 season to shed some weight in an effort to add more speed and possibly beat out some infield hits. It paid off. Altuve set a franchise record with 225 hits and hit .341, winning the AL batting title.
He has been "speedy" in other ways, too. On August 16, 2016, Altuve notched career hit No. 1,000 in just his 786th game, reaching the milestone faster than anyone in team history. Among active Major Leaguers, only Ichiro Suzuki achieved the feat in fewer games (696).
Altuve said he plays soccer for an hour once or twice a week in the offseason, which is enough cardio for him when added to his running and other activities. That being said, the All-Star couldn't imagine trading in his baseball career for a soccer career.
"I don't know," he said. "I'm happy to play baseball."
Altuve, who often challenges his teammates to games of soccer video games in the clubhouse, is a huge spectator fan for the sport and cheers for Spanish power Real Madrid. "The two biggest sports in my country are baseball and soccer," he said. "I played baseball all my life, but actually played soccer for a while."
While Altuve has the speed to play soccer, he says he doesn't necessarily have the skills. He can put the bat on the ball as well as anyone and he hits the ball hard, but he's not sure he could make that same kind of contact in soccer.
"You have to be fast with strong legs," Altuve said. "I don't think I can kick a ball that hard like they do." (McTaggart - MLB.com - 8/17/16)
Oct 1, 2016: Altuve's second AL batting title in three years was a cause for celebration for the Astros, who held a champagne toast for their all-everything second baseman in the clubhouse following the 2016 season at Angels Stadium.
In the next-to-last game of the season, Altuve went 2-for-4 to raise his average to .338. This was far out of the reach of Red Sox teammates Mookie Betts and Dustin Pedroia—both of whom were hitting .320 entering the final day of the season. Altuve won the 2014 batting title after hitting .341.
"I wanted to make sure that he got recognized in front of our team," Astros manager A.J. Hinch said. "Very rarely do you get a batting champion in front of you. He's been excellent all season. The team was excited to celebrate him, so we raised a glass to a really remarkable season that continues and can get even better tomorrow. But even if it stops, it's one of the best seasons I've been around."
As usual, Altuve credited his teammates with helping him reach the milestone.
"It's great," Altuve said. "I feel really happy. I think I have to thank all the guys on the team. They really made my job easier this year—Georgie [Springer], Carlos [Correa], Marwin [Gonzalez]—every single guy that was in the lineup did something to help me win the batting title.
"The way that these guys played this year, they went outside to the field and played hard, and that kind of encouraged me and pushed me to keep playing hard every day. It's really fun to play on a team like this. We're out of the playoffs, but it was a great season, a winning season. We know what we've got here and we're going to come back next year and I know we're going to make it."
Altuve, who is one of the front-runners for the AL Most Valuable Player Award, is perhaps the most popular player in the Astros' clubhouse, so his teammates were on board with toasting him.
"Coming into this season, he had a plan and executed well and did it every day," outfielder Jake Marisnick said. "Every day you come in, being one of the young guys, you get a chance to see him how he goes about his business every day and how he works. It's awesome. We're all pretty pumped for him." (B McTaggart - MLB.com - Oct 2, 2016)
October 2016: This month, Altuve will be among several MLB stars who'll appear in a World-Series themed episode of the Cartoon Network show "Uncle Grandpa" on Oct. 22. In the episode, the title character enlists Altuve, Rays pitcher Chris Archer, Orioles All-Star center fielder Adam Jones, Red Sox pitcher David Price and Mets pitcher Noah Syndergaard to help train his struggling Little League team on the brink of giving up.
October 27, 2016: Altuve was named the Sporting News' MLB Player of the Year, joining Jeff Bagwell (1994) as the only Houston players to win the honor. The award, originated in 1936, is voted upon by the players.
November 9, 2016: Altuve was selected as the AL's Outstanding Player for the 2016 Players Choice Award.
December 2016: Altuve committed to play for Venezuela in the 2017 World Baseball Classic.
2016 season: Altuve had the best season of his career with the Astros. He won his second American League batting title in three years, hitting .338 with career highs in homers (24) and RBIs (96) to go along with 30 steals, 42 doubles, a .928 OPS and 7.6 Wins Above Replacement. He led the AL in hits for the third year in a row and was named to his fourth All-Star team.
Altuve finished third in the AL MVP balloting, behind Mike Trout and Mookie Betts, and was named the Sporting News' MLB Player of the Year.
Altuve is the first second baseman to record 100 runs scored, 200 hits, 40 doubles, 20 homers, 95 RBIs and 30 steals in a season. He's just the sixth player in Major League history to reach all of those marks, regardless of position. By winning the batting title for the second time, Altuve became the first second baseman to win multiple batting titles since Rod Carew won five from 1969-1975. (Brian McTaggart - MLB.com - Dec. 2016)
In 2017, Altuve represented Venezuela in the World Baseball Classic.
It is no secret that Astros second baseman Jose Altuve is idolized by multitudes of aspiring baseball players. They look up to him as the undaunted leader of a club that won 101 games on its way to a postseason run.
Those same kids also will pay close attention to the infield model he created for the 2018 Wilson glove line.
Altuve's A2000 JA27 is one of seven Game Model gloves that Wilson Sporting Goods sells in its new 2018 line, which is now available at MLBShop.com. These were all designed for and by the MLB players who use them, and that includes Altuve, who is in his second year with a Game Model in the Wilson line.
"I think it helps me to make double plays," Altuve said of his game glove. "It does a little bit of everything for me—double plays, backhand plays, one-handed plays. You have a deep pocket, and it's very firm. I really like it.
He not only has the luxury of being surrounded by one of Major League Baseball's most formidable teams, but also enjoys a substantial team backing from his glove-maker. Altuve has become one of the most valuable players on the Wilson MLB Advisory Staff. (Mark Newman - MLB.com - Oct. 2017)
In 2017, Altuve was Baseball America's Major League Player of the Year. Jose had just completed his fourth straight season with 200 or more hits, leading the American League each year. He won his third batting title, posting a career-best slash line of .346/.410/.547 and tied his career high with 24 home runs while stealing 32 bases—his sixth straight season with 30 or more thefts. And he helped lead the Astros to the 2017 World Series vs. the Dodgers.
In 2017, Altuve made his fifth All-Star team and won his third career and second consecutive batting title while leading the Major Leagues with a .346 average. He also led the AL in hits (204) and become the first player in Major League history to be the outright leader in hits in his league in four consecutive season.
The 5-foot-5 second baseman also walloped 24 regular-season homers, drove in 81 runs and stole 32 bases. He led the AL in multi-hit games (59) and led the Majors in games with at least three hits (23). He also ranked first in the AL in infield hits (35), tied for second in runs (112), third in on-base percentage (.410), third in stolen bases, third in OPS (.957), fifth in total bases (323), sixth in slugging percentage (.547) and tied for ninth in doubles (39).
Altuve hit third in the Astros' lineup—ahead of Carlos Correa—but when Correa was on the disabled list from July 19 to Sept. 3, following thumb ligament surgery, Altuve stepped up. He batted .384 with a 1.1015 OPS in the 40 games Correa missed. (Brian McTaggart - MLB.com-Nov. 15, 2017)
In 2017, Altuve won the BBWAA's American League MVP.
Dec. 5, 2017: J.J. Watt and Altuve shared Sports Illustrated's Sportsperson of the Year award. For one special night, Brooklyn was #HoustonStrong. Jose Altuve, the Astros' All-Star second baseman and the winner of the American League Most Valuable Player Award, was honored along with Watt of the NFL's Texans. They accepted the award at a star-studded event at Barclays Center. The two popular Houston athletes were also featured on the cover of the December 14, 2017 issue of SI.
"It means a lot," Altuve said of the award. "It's a dream come true." "For myself, personally, to share it with Jose and the Astros is great," Watt said. "I think it's also great to be able to share it with the 200,000 people who donated and everybody back in Houston. This award is bigger than me, it's bigger than Jose, it's bigger than both of us; it's Houston. It's this whole movement of people helping people. That's what's really special."
As Harvey approached Houston and the city braced itself for potential devastation, the Astros were on the West Coast, ultimately forced to play "home" games at Tropicana Field in St. Petersburg. The Astros knew they would be coming home to a surreal scene, but the reality was even more distressing than many of them had imagined.
"We got to Houston, and we saw a lot of people that lost everything they had," Altuve said. "It wasn't easy for us, but we had to stay there and keep playing. We had to do everything we could to steal a smile from every single fan that was going through a tough time."
The Astros knew a lengthy postseason run would further lift the spirits of the storm-ravaged city. Houston defeated the Red Sox in a four-game AL Division Series, then outlasted the Yankees in an epic seven-game ALCS, winning the final two games at Minute Maid Park to stave off elimination and advance to the World Series for only the second time in franchise history.
As intense as the ALCS was, it paled in comparison to the World Series, which featured five games decided by two runs or fewer, including a pair of classic extra-inning contests in Games 2 and 5 before the Astros won their first championship with a decisive Game 7 victory.
Watt, who raised more than $37 million for hurricane relief after starting a fund with an initial goal of $200,000, was widely praised for his tireless work on behalf of Houston. But he believes the Astros' championship march did something entirely different for Houston, providing a much-needed distraction during the difficult aftermath of the hurricane.
"It was unbelievable to watch as a fan, to be able to see how it affected the city," Watt said. "To be able to see a city going through such a tough time, for people to have a smile on their face because of what the Astros were doing, Jose and the Astros have done an unbelievable job, and they deserve every honor coming their way."
Watt, whose own season ended when he suffered a fractured left leg on Oct. 9, got to take part in the Astros' run himself, taking the field with the aid of crutches before Game 3 at Minute Maid Park.
"It was incredible; I've thrown out a couple first pitches there before, but nothing like a World Series game and nothing like that situation," Watt said. "I'm thankful to the fans who made an incredible atmosphere. I'm disappointed in myself for not getting it across the plate, so I'm hoping they invite me back so I can throw another one across the plate. And I'm disappointed in Dallas Keuchel for dropping the ball. Let's do this whole thing again next year, except I'll be playing and I'll be walking and I can throw 75 miles per hour across the plate. That would work."
As memorable as that experience was for Watt, the defensive end recalled a different moment that stuck with him during the Fall Classic.
"More than ever, I saw what sports can do and how sports is so much bigger than just a game, just a win," Watt said. "I saw a photograph during the World Series of a family who was in their home, but they had no walls, stripped to the studs, they had no floor, just plywood. They had a TV somehow rigged up that they had plugged in and they were sitting on five-gallon buckets—and they were cheering after a home run. "You sit there and think, 'They don't have walls, they don't have floors, they don't have anything, but they're happy.' Why are they happy? Because Jose Altuve just hit a home run. That's unbelievable, the power that sports can bring to a community and lift their spirits. Even if it was just for that day, even if it was just for that hour, that's pretty incredible."
"We will remember 2017 as much for what athletes strove to achieve off the field as for what they achieved on it," said Chris Stone, editorial director of sports at Time Inc. "While J.J. and Jose represent two very different paths, they both led to the same destination: #HoustonStrong." (M Feinsand - MLB.com - Dec 5, 2017)
Dec. 27, 2017: Altuve was named the Associated Press 2017 Male Athlete of the Year.
In Spring Training 2018, George Springer said Altuve is the unequivocal leader of the Astros—whether he likes it or not. "He's the only guy I've met that's unhappy with a 4-for-5 day," Springer said. "It just shows who he is. I did text him this offseason to let him know it's an honor to be his teammate. I love it."
The reigning AL MVP, Altuve said he has plenty of goals remaining.
"Something that I really want to do is be consistent," Altuve said. "You see Mike Trout and how good he is for many years, Robinson Cano putting some really good seasons in a row. That's kind of like the player I want to be. I want to be consistent because that way I can help my team for not only one or two years, but I can help my team for many years.
"We have a bright future in front of us and I think we can go out there and win one more World Series, two more, three more, who knows?" Altuve said. "I just want to go out there and play hard." (McTaggart - mlb.com - 2/19/18)
April 17, 2018: Altuve played in his 1,000th career game. "I didn't know that," Altuve said, "but thanks to God for the opportunity to be part of that club. To have 1,000 games in the big leagues means a lot to me. Hopefully, I can play many more."
Altuve, 27, is in his eighth season with the Astros, and since he is under contract through 2024, he figures to be working his way up numerous lists in the franchise record book before he's done
."His entire resume is still incomplete," manager A.J. Hinch said. "He's getting better. If the next 1,000 games are equal to or better than the first 1,000 games, we have one of the best players in the game."
Altuve ranks 20th in games played in franchise history. If he stays healthy, he should climb to 13th by the end of the season. Next up is third baseman Bob Aspromonte, who played in 1,007 games from 1962-68.Two Hall of Fame players top the franchise's all-time list: second baseman Craig Biggio with 2,850 games from 1988-2007, and first baseman Jeff Bagwell with 2,150 from 1991-2005.
"It's really hard to stay in the big leagues with so much talent around," Altuve said. "It's an honor to reach 1,000 games."
May 5, 2018: Jose was age 5, 6, 7 (he is not exactly sure) when he received his first baseball glove back home in Maracay, Venezuela. But he will never forget how special it was, and he is doing his part to bring that feeling to others. Altuve and D-backs outfielder David Peralta held an instructional camp for young players in Arizona, during which they accepted contributions of baseball equipment and gear to distribute to youngsters in their native Venezuela.
"It's life-changing," Altuve said. "Believe it or not, it is really hard to get a glove, to get a bat when your parents can't afford it. In order for us to collect that equipment and send it there, it's going to be great." About 100 kids attended the event, where Altuve and Peralta hit and signed autographs. "Everything I can do to help my country, I'm going to be really happy to do it," Altuve said.
"If now I am able to help people … it feels really good when you do two things at the same time. You are helping kids to get better, and you are helping people back home. It was a really nice event." Venezuela is in the middle of political turmoil, and people are struggling for basic services in a country that is rich in natural resources. The country has sent many players to the Major Leagues.
When AJ Hinch heard of Altuve's deed, he just nodded. "He's as perfect as they come," Hinch said. "We are lucky to have him on our team to be around. He's a great example for all of us on maintaining the right balance of family and job. Never will forget how hard it was for him to get here. Never takes anything for granted." (J Magruder - MLB.com - May 5, 2018)
July 2018: Altuve was selected to play in the MLB All-Star game.
August 20, 2018 : Jose has accomplished a great deal as a baseball player. He's won a Gold Glove and multiple Silver Slugger Awards. He's won three AL batting titles and a World Series. His trophy case also features the 2017 AL MVP.
Despite leading the American League in hits four times, Altuve had never recorded a single hit at Triple-A. He was at Double-A Corpus Christi in 2011 when he got called up to the Astros and he's never looked back. In preparation for his return to the Astros, Altuve played in his first career game at Triple-A in a rehab appearance with the Fresno Grizzlies. In the sixth inning, he hit a single to right field for his first hit at that level.
Like anyone else, he kept the ball to add to his trophy case.
This milestone came less than a month after Altuve recorded his first All-Star Game hit and made sure the ball was set aside for posterity. "I got two first hits this year—All-Star and Triple-A," Altuve told MLB.com's Brian McTaggart. "I'm really proud." ( Eric Chesterton and Brian McTaggart -MLB.com )
2018: Altuve had the highest current WAR (35.1) of any Astros player.
Jan 18, 2020: Alex Bregman and José Altuve were measured in their comments at the team’s annual FanFest when they spoke publicly for the first time about the sign-stealing scandal. An investigation led to the suspension and dismissal by Astros owner Jim Crane of GM Jeff Luhnow and manager AJ Hinch.
Both players expressed an interest in moving forward and generally averted answers about their roles in the violations. The only denials from Bregman and Altuve came when they were asked if they wore electronic buzzers under their jerseys to steal signs.
“That’s ridiculous,” Altuve said. “MLB did their investigation and they didn’t find anything.”
Bregman called the buzzer allegations “stupid.”
Speculation arose on social media that Altuve didn’t want his jersey ripped off by his teammates after his walk-off homer against the Yankees' Aroldis Chapman in Game 6 of the 2019 ALCS because he was wearing an electronic device on his chest that provided signals about which type of pitch was coming. In a postgame interview after the home run, Altuve said modesty was the reason he preferred not to be shirtless.
“Even though it wasn’t true, we all know some people made that up,” Altuve said. “The best thing that happened to me is MLB investigated that and didn’t find something. But at the same time, you can’t control [everything].”
The buzzer rumors came on the heels of the fallout from the nine-page report in which MLB laid out how Astros players spearheaded an effort to use video equipment and a feed from a center-field camera to steal opposing pitchers’ signs and relay them to batters by banging a trash can.
MLB suspended Luhnow and Hinch, fined the Astros $5 million and stripped them of their first-round and second-round picks in 2020 and 2021. Crane promptly fired Luhnow and Hinch.
“I feel bad for them,” Altuve said. “They were good guys. They show up every day to do their job, but like I said, once again we have to keep going and move forward. We don’t have any choices right now.”
Bregman stuck to a script throughout his interview with the media, saying on several occasions: “The Commissioner came out with a report, MLB did their report and the Astros did what they did. They made their decision what they’re going to do and I have no other thoughts on it.” (B McTaggart - MLB.com - Jan 18, 2020)
Altuve was asked if it was fair for some to question his 2017 MVP when he edged out the Yankees’ Aaron Judge.
“There is a lot of people that say I’m the MVP and a lot of people that don’t believe I’m the MVP,” he said. “Like a lot of people, you’re a good guy or a lot of people believe you’re a bad guy. It’s pretty hard to handle that sometimes.” (B McTaggart - MLB.com - Jan 18, 2020)
April 3, 2020: José and his wife, Nina, announced through the club they were partnering with the Astros Foundation to provide 60,000 meals to Kids' Meals Inc. in support of those in need.
Al Pedrique is the first-base coach for the Athletics, a baseball lifer who has worked as an instructor, scout, manager and administrator over the past four decades. Through the years, he has watched more players than he can count. Signed some of 'em, released some others and offered advice to pretty much all of them. He'll be the first to admit he has missed on plenty of guys.
And there was that one day in 2007 when Pedrique, who at the time was a special assistant for the Astros, telephoned his bosses and made his pitch for a 16-year-old Venezuelan infielder named Jose Altuve. Sometimes, Pedrique told them, you just know.
"How much money do we have for this kid?" he asked.
Wait, what? You told us his defense needs work. You told us he's small. Is he strong enough to play? Sometimes, you just know. All these years later, that's his best explanation for why his belief in Altuve was so strong. "I remember our first conversation," Pedrique said. "I asked him, 'Can you play?' He looked me in the eye and said, 'I'll show you.'"
The Astros had been reluctant to invite Altuve into their Venezuelan academy, turning him away at least twice. His perseverance got him inside the door, which is the first small step. After that, it was Pedrique who pushed to sign him to a Minor League contract. He was so persuasive that the Astros freed up a whopping $15,000 bonus, mostly because Pedrique believed in him and Pedrique's good name alone was worth that much.
Pedrique's pitch had been simple. "I love his bat, I love his speed," Pedrique said. "We don't have anything to lose."
But it really was the things he'd seen that had nothing to do with bat speed. Sometimes, you just know. When Pedrique presented the offer to Altuve and his parents, he figured there'd be some negotiating. There was none.
"I will sign the contract," Altuve said. "I just want a chance." You know the rest of the story. (Richard Justice-MLB.com-April 29, 2018)
Oct 19, 2019: Altuve sent his team to the World Series on a two-run blast in Houston's 6-4 win in Game 6 of the ALCS at Minute Maid Park. Moments later, Altuve was honored for those heroics, given the ALCS Most Valuable Player Award in front of a home crowd of 43,357.
Entering the 2020 season, Altuve is the leader in WAR for the Astros. 2B (36.7 WAR): Everyone may have their own thoughts in the wake of the sign-stealing scandal, but Altuve’s place in Astros lore is very much assured. (Will Leitch - Mar. 22, 2020)
July 2021: Altuve was chosen to be a reserve 2nd baseman in the All-Star Game.
July 20, 2021: When the Astros began rebuilding a decade ago, they began trading away veteran players and replacing them with kids from the farm system. So when veteran second baseman Jeff Keppinger was dealt to the Giants on July 19, 2011, the Astros called up a little-known hitting machine from Double-A Corpus Christi.
A day later, on July 20, 2011, the world was introduced to 5-foot-6 Jose Altuve, who celebrated the 10-year anniversary of his Major League debut. The team played a tribute video for him prior to the game against the Indians.
Altuve, 31, went 1-for-5 in his debut against the Nationals at Minute Maid Park and hasn’t stopped hitting since.
“A lot of nerves, obviously, and a lot of happiness,” Altuve said when reflecting upon his first MLB game. “I couldn’t believe it. It was actually a dream come true to be in the big leagues after several years in the Minor Leagues trying to overcome every adversity, every obstacle I had. So it was pretty good.”
Altuve admitted it’s hard to believe he has 10 years in the big leagues, especially considering how difficult it was for him to even get a contract. The Astros signed him for $15,000 as a 16-year-old out of Venezuela after he had previously been told to go home because he was too small.
“As a kid, you dream about playing in the big leagues, and it’s another thing to actually make it happen,” he said. “Even though you dream a lot about a lot of stuff, it’s hard to believe everything I’ve accomplished—batting titles and all the stuff. I feel thankful for God, my family, teammates, everybody that made it all possible. Obviously, you cannot make it by yourself.”
Altuve doesn’t worry about those who told him he was too small to play in the big leagues these days. “I like to prove people right, not wrong,” he said. “I did it for the people that actually believe in me.” (B McTaggart - MLB.com - July 20, 2021)
July 8, 2022: For the eighth time in his career, Jose Altuve is headed to the Midsummer Classic. And this year, there's no doubt in his mind that he will play.
The veteran Astros second baseman will join manager Dusty Baker and his staff at the All-Star Game in Los Angeles on July 19. Altuve was elected to start for the American League for the fifth time in his 12-year career, garnering 57 percent of the vote over the Blue Jays' Santiago Espinal.
Altuve was slashing .280/.386/.539 while leading AL second basemen in OPS (.907). He has also discovered a power stroke that's new to him this season -- his 32 extra-base hits and 17 homers lead AL second basemen, and he's on pace to surpass his single-season home run career high of 31 (accomplished in 2019 and '21). "I'm really happy," Altuve said prior to the Astros' matchup with the A's at the Coliseum. "I'm thankful for my family, teammates, the people of Houston and every single fan that made this dream come true. It's No. 8, but it feels like the first one."
Altuve's first All-Star selection came in 2012, back when Houston was still in the National League, and Baker remembers it well. He said he was surprised that the players and managers had voted for Altuve over Brandon Phillips, who played second base for Baker in Cincinnati at the time. (S Chen - MLB.com - July 8, 2022)
José Altuve, who was named the starter at second base for the American League, did not participate. That meant Guardians second baseman Andrés Giménez started at the position.
2022 Season: (.300/.387/.533, 6.6 fWAR) Ever the model of consistency, Jose Altuve had yet another brilliant season. The Houston Astros‘ second baseman finished third in the American League in wRC+ (164). He posted a 41.8 oWAR, which was third as well. His BABIP of .315 was in the top-25, and his wOBA of .397 was third. He tied a career high with a 160 OPS+. Defensively, he had an up and down season, posting a 1.8 dWAR, but the league’s worst DRS among second basemen (-15). But, it is Altuve’s bat that carries him, and he added another notch to a body of work that may be Cooperstown bound. (Caleb Begley | November 5, 2022)
Nov 19, 2022: Astros fan Liza Valverde will always remember Nov. 9, 2022, as the day she was told she had beaten uterine cancer. In keeping with tradition, Valverde was asked if she wanted to ring a bell at the hospital to signal the end of her treatment. She had other plans.
Valverde, who lives in the Houston suburb of La Porte, raced over to a sporting goods store in order to be first in line to meet Astros star second baseman Jose Altuve during an autograph signing session five days after the Astros won the World Series. Valverde was the first in line and had to wait 36 hours outside the store before finally meeting Altuve.
“It was well worth it,” she said.
Valverde actually did get to ring a bell while waiting in line, thanks to a fellow Astros fan who became aware of her story and brought a bell to the store. She waited overnight with her family before finally being ushered inside to meet Altuve on Nov. 10.
“That was way better than ringing a bell,” she said.
Altuve gave Valverde a hug and spent a few minutes talking with her. She was almost brought to tears as Altuve signed his autograph on a No. 27 Space City jersey, as well as a pair of newspaper posters.
“What can I say?” Altuve said. “I’m obviously happy for her that she’s supposed to ring the bell. That’s a good thing, obviously, in her life. The fact that she didn’t go and came here makes me feel so good. I was a little emotional when she told me that. What can I say? I’m really happy we can make people happy like the whole team did this year.”
Valverde said she didn’t want to let go of Altuve.
“It was something I’m never going to forget,” she said. “That’s why I beat cancer, so I can be here.”
Valverde, a mother and grandmother, has been an Astros fan so long she considered Jose Cruz and Nolan Ryan as her favorite players from years ago. But nobody can match Altuve, who might be the most popular and most accomplished Astros player in franchise history.
“I’m never going to forget it,” she said.
Valverde said she plans to frame the jersey and the posters so she can remember her encounter with Altuve -- an encounter that means so much more than a fan meeting her favorite player. For Valverde, it was the end of a year-long battle and the start of a cancer-free life.
“It’s been a tough year,” she said. “It’s been an up-and-down battle. I had other things happen. I got laid off from my job and didn’t have health insurance. It was rough, but I got through it and I’m here. Best moment of my life right here.” (B McTaggart - MLB.com - Nov 19, 2022)
September 2006: Altuve signed with Astros' scouts Pablo Torrealba and Wolfgang Ramon.
July 13, 2013: The Astros and Altuve agreed to a four-year contract extension with a pair of option years, marking the team's first significant contract commitment under GM Jeff Luhnow.
The extension begins in 2014 and runs through the 2017 season, and has club options for 2018 and 2019. Additional terms were not disclosed, but Ken Rosenthal of FOXSports.com reported the deal is worth $12.5 million for four years, with the two club options worth $6 million and $6.5 million.
Nov 3, 2017: The Astros picked up Altuve's club option for 2018 for $6 million.
March 16, 2018: Altuve agreed to a five-year extension worth $151 million that begins in 2020. The deal, which would be the richest in club history, begins at the conclusion of the deal he signed in 2013, and locks up one of the most popular players in club history through his age-34 season.
Altuve had previously signed a four-year, $12.5 million deal in 2013 that included a $6 million option for 2018 and $6.5 million for 2019.