Springer was very small for his age when he was 14 years old and wanting to play on the baseball team at Avon Old Farms School, an all-boys academy 12 miles west of Hartford, Connecticut.
So George's father came up with a workout program. His dad, also George, had been a late-bloomer in high school, and he was confident his son would follow the same path. But while Springer needed to get bigger, he also wanted to stay a baseball player, not develop into a power-lifter.
There were no heavy weights, there was no working until failure, no maxing out. Instead, Springer focused on repetitions and staying flexible, a strength of his since he was 18 months old and practicing gymnastics with his mother, Laura Marie.
"My Mom had me involved with gymnastics until I was about 10, and it helped me tremendously with body control and body awareness," Springer said. "It taught me to understand my own strength."
In fact, Springer was known to do an Ozzie Smith-like back flip when he takes the field before Washington Huskies games. And by the time he was a junior at Avon Old Farms, Springer started to turn a corner. The workouts, coupled with a growth spurt and a diet consisting of six or seven meals a day, helped him grow more than a foot and add 100 pounds in a little more than two years. (Tyler Jett-Baseball America-7/13/10)
The Springer Story starts with the first George Chelston Springer, born in 1933, who so loved baseball that one day in 1950, at the age of 17, left his home in Panama alone and boarded a boat to America to pursue his dream of becoming a professional ballplayer. George pitched for four years at what was then Teachers College of Connecticut, but an arm injury ended his dream.
He began teaching and coaching, and passed his love for the game to his son, George Jr., who played in the 1976 Little League World Series and became a walk-on football player at the Univ. of Connecticut, where he met his wife, Laura, a gymnast from Puerto Rico. George Jr. then became a lawyer. He and Laura raised three children—George III and daughters Nicole and Lena—in New Britain, Connecticut, a blue-collar town where, as George Jr. says, "you could hear 22 different languages spoken."
"I was exposed to what I thought was the definition of the world," says George III. "It's so diverse, but we're all the same hardworking people trying to make a living. You could hear Spanish and English in the Springer household, sometimes at the same time.
When asked how he identified himself on forms that asked for ethnicity, he laughed and replied, "Man, I can check off a lot of boxes. I have a diverse background, but I put Hispanic. I guess I'm Latin American—I don't really know what other word for it."
When George was in third grade, his father noticed that his son's stutter was becoming more pronounced. The family hired a speech therapist to help with coping mechanisms, but reaction from his peers caused George to withdraw in social settings. When the kids would visit a fast-food restaurant, Nicole would order for her brother.
"It can be painful," his father says, "when people view you as less intelligent and make you the subject of ridicule. He experienced his share of bullying. In the back of a classroom he would be afraid to answer."
Says George, "It was a very isolating feeling. It makes you go into a shell and avoid being in public places and avoid speaking in public. It was tough."
On a baseball field, however, George found such joy and comfort that his stutter would become less pronounced. His father built him a backyard batting cage. The boy often hung out at games of the New Britain Rock Cats, the Double-A affiliate of the Twins. George and his buddies would scavenge batting practice home run balls. One day in 1998, George, then eight years old, was pounding one of those balls in his glove in the stands when one of the Rock Cats asked if he wanted to play catch. It was future big leaguer Torii Hunter.
"He changed my life," Springer says. "I got a chance to play catch at the time with what I thought was a big leaguer. I didn't know any better. He's playing on a big diamond in a stadium with lights and a big scoreboard. It made me want to play baseball even more. There was something about the way he played, the style of his game, that I became interested in. He was always having fun, climbing a wall if he had to, sliding into home plate headfirst. I gravitated toward that stuff. He became my idol that day." (Tom Verducci - Sports Illustrated - 8/07/2017)
George's Dad played in the Little League World Series in 1976 (Forestville Little League; Bristol, Connecticut). "He was a pitcher and an outfielder, and they finished fifth in the world," Springer said.
Both of Springer's parents, George Jr., and mother, Marie, graduated from UConn.
Springer's freshman year at New Britain High, he was five-two and 100 pounds, soaking wet," says Ken Kezer, the varsity baseball coach, who that year began his 41st and final seasons coaching. Kezer's assistant coach on his first tam, in 1967, was George's grandfather, who died in 2006.
"He was a great athlete," Kezer says of George III. "He'd play JV in the afternoon and at night he'd play varsity, coming into the game in the fifth or sixth inning. He was the fastest kid on the team. He just knew how to go after a ball."
The next year, George transferred to Avon Old Farms School, an all-boys boarding school near Hartford. Both father and son welcomed the school's smaller class sizes and increased adult interaction.
One day another Avon student approached him. "Hey, I noticed that you have a stutter," the boy said. "I have one too."
Says George, "I was like, 'Dude, that's sick! There's somebody else.' I had never met anyone who had one until I met this guy. I didn't think anything of it at the time. He's my friend. He has one. I have one. Who cares? And now, in hindsight, getting a chance to meet him and become friends slowly helped me, and I didn't even know it."
Over his junior and senior years Spring grew 12 inches and added nearly 100 pounds. By the time he enrolled at UConn, Springer could throw 95 mph from the outfield, run a 6.6 60 and mash home runs to all fields. (Tom Verducci - Sports Illustrated - 8/07/2017)
In 2008, the Twins chose Springer in the 48th round, out of Avon Old Farms High School in Avon, CT. But he didn't sign. Springer got a baseball scholarship to University of Connecticut, which he honored instead of turning pro.
Springer played college baseball for the Connecticut Huskies in the Big East Conference. At UConn, Springer was named to the 2009 Baseball America Freshman All-America First Team. As a junior, Springer was named Big East Player of the Year in 2011. He was named to a first team All-American by Perfect Game USA, Louisville Slugger and National Collegiate Baseball Writers Association, while being named a Second Team All-American by Baseball America.
In 2011, Springer became the highest selection in the MLB Draft in Connecticut baseball history when he was drafted by the Astros in the first round.
- In the summer of 2009, George played for the Wareham Gatemen in the Cape Cod League, hitting .261 with 3 homers and 25 RBI.
George is athletic as hell and is a very instinctive player. He is fundamentally sound and has an outstanding knowledge of the game he loves so much.
"It doesn't matter who's playing," Springer said. "If I am at my house, or at a friend's house, and I know a game is on, I'm watching it."
Springer says his favorite pregame meal is pasta.
His favorite dessert is cheesecake.
Music: Lil Wayne
Book: Harry Potter
TV Show: ESPN SportsCenter
Team: Boston Red Sox
George used a Nike Pro Tradition glove at the University of Connecticut. He wore Nike Air Max cleats and swung a Nike Aero Fuse aluminum bat.
- In 2012, Baseball America rated Springer as the 3rd-best prospect in the Astros' organization, and then again in the offseason before 2013 spring training.
He moved up to #2 in the winter before 2014 spring camps opened, behind only Carlos Correa.
In 2012, Springer finished sixth in the California League in hitting (.316) and fifth in both on-base percentage (.398) and slugging (.557).
Springer's energy is infectious. The Astros credit him with helping Delino DeShields, Jr. play harder after rooming with him in 2011 instructional league and 2012 spring training.
Astros manager Bo Porter said many times, when he was Houston's skipper, that Springer's game is reminiscent of Torii Hunter, and he thought it would be a good idea for Springer to latch onto him as a possible mentor.
"I told George, 'When you are a young Major League player, you want to kind of find someone that possesses the same skill set you possess, has played a high level and you want pick that person's brain,'" Porter said in March 2013. "That's why I put him in touch with Torii Hunter."
Springer grew up in Connecticut and actually met Hunter while he was playing at Double-A New Britain in the Twins' organization from 1997-98. He told his father he liked the way Hunter played the game, diving for balls and running into the wall to make a play if he had to.
"He's always been the guy who I look up to ever since," he said. "It's going to be a great honor to see him play again in person. I see the highlights of him all the time and he's obviously a fantastic player. He plays the game the right way."
Hunter and Springer became friends.
"It's a crazy number to have in my phone!" George says. "It's special to get a text from him or give him a call."
George mad the majors in 2014, but he struck our ore often (every 2.59 at bats) than any previous first-year player with 300 plate appearances. Three-quarters of the way through the season, he spoke with Hunter.
"I'm struggling," Springer said.
"No you're not," Torii replied.
"Are you kidding? Look at the scoreboard."
"Man, how else are you going to get better if you don't fail? At the end of the year you're going to think you failed, but in reality you succeeded. And when you have some success, you'll understand how hard this game is to play."
Every year since his rookie season Springer has reduced his K rate and improved his contact rate. (most of above: Tom Verducci - SI - 8/07/2017)
In 2013, George became the first minor leaguer to post a 30-30 season since 2009. And with 37 homers and 45 steals, he nearly became the first 40-40 player in the history of the modern minor leagues. He had a huge year, hitting.303/.411/.600 with 68 extra-base hits and 83 walks between Double-A Corpus Christi and Triple-A Oklahoma City.
And Springer won Most Exciting Player honors in both the Texas League and Pacific Coast League while adding three other TL awards.
However, Springer's propensity to swing and miss places him at greater risk to fall short of his ceiling.
Springer grew up playing for teams in the Northeast, where the tough winters and sometimes-frigid springs make high-quality baseball hard to come by. And although the lack of high-grade competition sometimes manifests itself into poor performances in the pros, that wasn’t the case with Springer.
“George is a student of the game,” Astros farm director Quinton McCracken said late in 2013. “He’s a very intelligent guy. He has a great work ethic and the intangibles. He should go on to have a long, successful big league career.”
George had a spectacular year in 2013, finishing with a combined 37 homers and 45 steals between Double-A Corpus Christi and Oklahoma City. Springer batted .303 with a .411 on-base percentage while slugging .600 with 37 homers, 45 steals and 83 walks between Double-A Corpus Christi and Triple-A Oklahoma City en route to being named the Astros' Minor League Player of the Year.
Springer was at Oklahoma City and hitting well. He was told by interim RedHawks manager Tom Lawless on April 15, 2014 he was finally getting the call to the big leagues.
"I think I stared at him blankly and was like, 'What?'" Springer said. "Once it kind of set in, I put my head in my hands and was in shock. I was able to go call my Mom and Dad. I wasn't able to stay calm. It was an extremely emotional phone call for me."
"We often talk to him after a game, so when he called it was 'Georgie's on the phone,'" Marie Springer said. But this wasn't a typical phone call. "When he told me, my tears were immediate and sustained for a period of time," his father said. "In fact, he had to call me back because it took me a little while to get my composure. I'm overjoyed."
Astros manager Bo Porter talked to Springer and told him not to change a thing. Springer remembers some advice he received earlier in his life, about how to handle expectations. "The only way I can explain is my coach in school would always say, you want to be like a duck," he said. "You want to be calm above the water but underneath the feet are just kicking and going and going and going."
The only thing missing for George Springer III was his late grandfather, who taught his son to love the game. His grandfather died in 2006. When George Springer, Jr. took his son to a baseball game at Fenway Park when the boy was 4 years old, the dreams of playing professional baseball began.
"He has a passion for life, he has a passion for the game," Springer's Dad said of his son." (McTaggart - mlb.com - 4/16/14)
CLOSE FRIENDS IN MLB
During the offseason before 2014 spring training, Springer spent a month living with Mariners shortstop Brad Miller at his family home in Orlando, Florida. They renewed their friendship when the two teams met late in April 2014 to start a three-game series at Safeco Field.
Springer played on the USA Baseball Collegiate National Team in 2010 with Miller, who was a sophomore at Clemson at the time. The two became buddies and Springer contacted Miller over the winter about working out together in Florida.
"His sister plays softball at [the University of Central Florida], so he texted me and said, 'Hey, I'm going crazy in Connecticut with all this snow," Miller said. "'Do you want to get a place together for a couple months?' I said, 'Dude, I'm living at home. Come down.' My parents said it was fine. They love George. It just kind of worked out."
Springer was already headed to Florida for the Astros' Spring Training, so he just arrived early and hung out at the Miller's. "Yeah, it was me, my parents and George," Miller said. "It was like my brother, with my parents just taking care of us. It was fun to have somebody to train with and hit with and do all that stuff. It worked out good."
Said Springer, "His dad and mom are outstanding in that they took me in and I hung out with Brad and his parents every day from late December until Spring Training started. I was extremely fortunate for them to open up their home to me like that. It's always great to hang out with Brad. He is a grade A guy and we had some fun together."
But Miller professed to not having any dirt on the Mariners' new rookie rival, who already has been inserted into the Astros' cleanup role.
"No, he's pretty low maintenance," Miller said. "We got along great. We both pretty much just work out, hit, hang out. Just kind of low-key. He's a great guy and obviously he's pretty talented. To see him get called up already was pretty special. It's been fun.
"I texted him when he got his debut and got his first hit and everything. We've just been talking throughout the spring and stuff. He's definitely a close friend and we get along well. It's kind of fun to see him up here. He's another one of the Team USA guys from that group that got the call, so it's pretty sweet." (Johns & Cahill - mlb.com - 4/21/14)
There's a lot more to see from George Springer and Dexter Fowler, two talented Astros outfielders who grew to be best friends during the 2014 season.
"He's been everything, from a brotherly figure to a teammate," Springer said of Fowler at season's end when asked to reflect on the relationship. "If it weren't for him, I would be lost. He means the world to me. I think we've established a brother-brother type of relationship. It's going to be sad to not see him until spring training, but it'll be all right."
"George, he's a special guy. I feel like he's like my little brother," Fowler said at season's end. "I feel like I miss him when he's not out there. I look to my right or whatever, and he's not there, it's just weird. Him coming up and the things he does on the field and off the field."
The rookie and the veteran speak of each other as family. Fowler and wife Aliya had their first child this year, Naya, and Springer has become a de facto uncle.
"I had obviously seen him play and you know heard about him, and then I got here and then he kind of just took it upon himself to be the guy who's going to be here for me," Springer said. "There aren't enough words to describe how thankful I am for him and his wife."
Their time together extended well beyond the yard. Upon his arrival in the big leagues, Springer lived with Fowler briefly, and even after moving out, didn't move too far away. (Dec. 2014)
Spend any time with George and it's easy to tell he's a high-energy, big-personality type of guy. He brings a 1,000-rpm mentality to his game—a big reason why he's one of the more exciting prospects in baseball.
Some people are just wired that way, with an ability to see the positive in what most would view as a burden. Springer clearly has that in his DNA, with some nurturing help from his parents, George II and Marie, when he was dealing with his childhood stutter. They created an environment in which it was very clear to Springer and his two younger sisters that the best thing anyone can do, stutter or not, is not pretend to be someone you're not.
"Life isn't always how you want it," Springer said. "Things aren't always going to go your way. I was always taught to have fun, enjoy life, and don't let anything I can't control stop me from being who I am. That's a big credit to my Mom and Dad, who instilled that in me from the time I was young. Enjoy every opportunity that you get." (Mayo - mlb.com - 4/28/14)
"Springer's a dynamic young man," Astros owner Jim Crane said. "He's got a great swing. He's cut down on it a little bit and is making contact. He's a guy, when you look him in the eyes, you can tell he's a gamer and wants to play and doesn't seem to be nervous and is very talented." (5/30/14).
When Springer got to Minute Maid Park, someone had a message for him: "Hey George, you're on the cover of Sports Illustrated."
"It's an honor," Springer said. "As a kid, you always see Sports Illustrated. I'm happy about the article, about the team and the stuff that's been said about us as an organization."
The cover features a photo of Springer swinging in the Astros' rainbow uniforms from the 1970s. Above him reads, "Baseball's great experiment."
Springer said the team doesn't see it as an experiment. While he didn't go along with that line, he did like seeing the headline's prediction, "Your 2017 World Series Champs." (6/25/14)
Springer has a stutter. These days, it's not something people would necessarily notice. But in his youth, in his middle school and early high school days, it was pretty noticeable. Yet Springer never saw it as a problem. And please, don't ever call it an impediment.
"I've never seen it as an issue," said Springer, only two weeks into his Major League career. "I understand it makes me who I am. I've always had that mentality, even from a young age, when you're in school and a little more self-conscious of it then. But it didn't prohibit it me from being a kid and doing the stuff I wanted to do.
"It's not an issue, because it doesn't hold me back. Some people have blue eyes, some people have blond hair, some people don't. Some people stutter and some people don't. People who do have it have to deal with it just like those who don't [have to deal with other things]."
George isn't looking for a "cure" for stuttering or some magic potion that can miraculously make it go away. Rather, he has one simple motivation as spokesman for Camp SAY, a camp for kids who stutter: He wants kids to understand that it's OK to stutter, and it should never take away from living a full, quality life.
Springer, who has had a stutter all of his life, held an All-Star bowling benefit in July 2015 at Lucky Strike in downtown Houston to raise funds for kids who want to attend the camp. Many of those kids were at the event, and they listened intently as the Astros right fielder passed along his words of wisdom: Don't let something you can't control dictate how you live your life.
"It's OK to be who you are," Springer said to the kids. "Don't let that stop you. Enjoy life and have fun. Don't let anyone tell you can't do it, because you can. I'm proof. You're here. I'm here. You're an individual, you're going to grow up, you're going to enjoy your life. Don't let anything you can't control stop you."
The benefit, in conjunction with the George Springer Kids Fund, will help children in need attend Camp SAY. No child who qualifies and wants to attend the camp will be turned away, regardless of financial needs.
According to SAY (Stuttering Association for the Young), more than 70 million people stutter, including five percent of all young children, and approximately one in every 100 adults.
In Springer, the kids have an ally, someone who has been where they are, and who happens to also be a gifted athlete whose popularity in Houston has skyrocketed since joining the Astros early in 2014.
Springer, who is still in a cast after suffering a fractured right wrist during a game against the Royals a few weeks ago, didn't bowl, but he played the perfect host, mingling with the guests and showering the kids with plenty of extra attention.
"What's cool about this is you can tell this is something George is passionate about," Ryan said. "I applaud George for tackling this early in his career and then saying, 'I want to help kids, I want to show people that there's folks like me out there.'"
Springer, who now lives in Houston year-round, cited the philanthropic J.J. Watt of the NFL's Houston Texans as the kind of community-minded athlete he aspires to be.
"That's your job," Springer said. "We wouldn't be here without the support of everybody else. There are guys in Houston right now like Watt—he's an icon here. When you're in the spotlight and people know who you are, you need to give back. You need to do things for the community first. Obviously your job is a sport, but also you have a responsibility to give back to kids and the whole community." (Footer - mlb.com - 7/20/15)
George makes plays that have the power to take your breath away, and sometimes they do, only he makes them almost routinely. In that way, he impacts way more than games. Teammates, fans and an entire franchise feed off them. These are moments that inspire and energize, that come to define a special season.
"He's our spark plug," said pitcher Dallas Keuchel, the 2015 AL Cy Young Award winner. "He comes to the park every day with a smile on his face."
Maybe that's why when the Astros discuss Springer in Spring Training 2016, with only 180 big league games under his belt, they do not begin in the obvious places: talent, speed, defense that's off-the-charts good. Nor do they begin with his poise or how comfortable Springer is when the lights are bright and the stakes high. Oh, they might mention that he carried Houston in those final few days of 2015 as the Astros won six of their last eight to clinch their first postseason berth in 10 years on the final day of the regular season.
When the Astros talk about Springer, they do not begin with the things that can be weighed, measured and touched. Instead, they talk about things only they can know. For instance, when Springer spent two months on the disabled list with a broken wrist in 2015, Astros manager A.J. Hinch asked him to remain in uniform in the dugout.
"I wanted his voice and his energy," Hinch said. "Those are important things to us. To see him in there getting on guys, getting on me, that's part of who we are as a team." Springer smiles when he hears this sort of thing.
"I understand that not everybody every day is going to be 100 percent—and I'm not either," he said. "If I can do anything to get somebody into the game emotionally, get 'em fired up, be positive, I'll do anything to help somebody's mood to affect how they play. If you're in a good mood, you'll probably have a higher chance to play better."
"He brings it every day," Hinch said. "He brings everything he has to the ballpark every day. He goes as hard and as strong as anybody on our team. That's not hard to do for a week at a time or even a month at a time. But to do it every single time he goes out on the field is pretty impressive. With the grind we go through, he never fails to have energy or passion."
In the clubhouse, they say similar things. "I try to copy the way he plays," second baseman Jose Altuve said. "He has one speed—100 mph."
"If I don't give 100 percent for the team, I'm not myself," he said. "Obviously, I don't want to hit a wall with my head. I have to be smart about it. But I'm not afraid of the wall. I'm going to go out and play, and whatever happens, happens. We know who we are. We know our style."
Every once in a while, a franchise gets really lucky to find a player who checks off every box. He's not only supremely talented, but he has a relentless drive and work ethic to be great. That's George Springer.
"I just believe this is truly a game, and you have to enjoy every second of it," he said. "There's a lot of things that happen in life you can't control. But I can control how I play and my attitude. I embrace it." (Justice - MLB.com - 3/21/16)
May 21, 2016: In their time as Astros teammates, George Springer and Jake Marisnick have developed a fun little ritual. A few hours before first pitch, they toss a football around. Marisnick took the pigskin out onto the infield at Minute Maid Park, ready to work up a sweat and have a good t . . . WAIT A MINUTE, IS THAT A DINOSAUR?
Springer and Marisnick's love for baseball and shenanigans is matched only by their love for dinosaurs. So Springer decided to spice up his pregame catch in a giant T-Rex costume. Great! All of his interests coming together. Except, well, while the T-Rex might excel at destroying giant fences, it's ability to catch footballs is ... limited.
Their manager, A.J. Hinch, could only shake his head.
"I sort of avoided seeing it, but it does not surprise me," he told MLB.com's Brian McTaggart. "He told me a few weeks ago he was ordering it and I thought he was kidding, but I guess he was not. It's George being George."
To Springer's eternal credit, he struggled forth, determined to somehow pull off the impossible. Maybe he can recruit the Mariners dinosaur for help. (B McTaggert - MLB.com - May 22, 2016)
Springer's sister Lena, is a softball pitcher for Ohio State University. (Intentional Talk - July 2016)
Springer's mother was a world class gymnast. (IT - July 2016)
A simple but important philosophy sums up why George and Laura Springer were named the 2016 Little League Parents of the Year.
"Being a parent is not a spectator sport," said George Springer Jr., father of the Houston Astros' outfielder. "To be a successful parent, you need to be involved in your kids' lives and always balance what is right for them."
With daughters Nicole and Lena on hand—son George III was busy playing right field for the Astros—the Springers were honored in an on-field ceremony just prior to the Little League World Series championship game.
"To be honored as a Parent of the Year by this organization that does so much for kids through volunteer work is an extraordinary award," George Jr. said. "But I have a confession: Little League has given us a lot more than we have given Little League. It has provided a safe haven for our children to play and a place to learn life skills."
Their dedication to, and involvement in, their kids' lives has certainly paid off for the Springer clan. Youngest daughter Lena is a pitcher for Ohio State University's softball team, which made the NCAA Super Regionals last year. Her big sister, Nicole, was an all-conference softball player at Central Connecticut State and now coaches both high school and college softball. Then, of course, there's George III, the 11th overall pick in the 2011 draft. He got his start in the Walicki Little League in New Britain, Conn., then moving on to an All-American career at the University of Connecticut. George Jr. actually played in the 1976 LLWS with a team from Forestville, Conn.
"Coming to Williamsport at that time was the most beautiful thing we had ever seen," he said. "That experience of hard work, discipline and overcoming challenges stayed with us."
George III's sisters revealed what life was like growing up in the Springer home.
"'We were very competitive with each other," Nicole said. "We'd say, 'You did this, but guess what—we're going to be better."
"As the youngest, it was a little different for me," said Lena. "I wanted to do everything my brother and sister could do. And we had some great Wiffle ball games in the living room and the backyard."
Like any other dedicated parents, the role of mom and dad was that of teacher, coach, cheerleader, chauffeur, cook and overall caregiver. Both George Jr. and Laura coached various youth teams throughout their kids' childhood, in addition to volunteering as league officials.
"It was a very, very busy time of our lives," Laura said. "It was also fun and exciting, and we made some great friends. Family balance is everything, and we tried to make sure in the context of playing baseball and softball, the notions of self-sacrifice and teamwork transferred off the field. We tried to teach them to be a better person today than they were the day before."
The Springers, who celebrated their 28th wedding anniversary in Williamsport in August 2016, insisted repeatedly that what they're most proud of as parents is the quality of person that each of their children has become. And talking about George III, their only kid who couldn't be here with them, they admitted their biggest thrill to this day is watching him come out of the dugout.
"We still get chills," George Jr. said with a smile. (Mike McCormick - MLB.com. - August 28, 2016)
In 2016, Springer zoned out all the doubters and had the healthiest season in his Astros career. George showed that he is ready to contribute and stay healthy with a breakout season by playing all 162 games for the team. He set career-highs across the board statistically and continued to be a spark plug in the dugout in an overall disappointing season for the Astros. This does not mean George did not struggle, but he overall had a successful year.
The Beginning: Springer, like the rest of the team, struggled right out of the gate. Through April 15, he was only hitting .205 with a .589 OPS. He was able to turn it around after the 15th and become one of the best hitters on the team the rest of the first half. By the end of April, the Astros were 7-17, but Springer was hitting .278 and had a .340 on base percentage. He was a bright spot early on in the year.
All-Star Game Final Vote: The Astros outfielder was such a good contributor in the first half that he was a finalist for the All-Star Game’s Final Vote. In the first half of the season, he hit .262 and had raised his OPS to .832 after the rough start. He also supported his solid statistics with outstanding work in right field, continuing to show that he is one of the best in the league at that position.
His push to the All-Star Game did not end successfully, partially due to Michael Saunders, his main opponent, being on Toronto thus having whole country of Canada on his side. This Final Vote is also where the nickname “Super Springer” became well-known in the Astros’ community.
Final Push: Springer started out the second half a little slow, seeing his average drop to as low as .252. He still finished out the season strong and contributed in the push that kept the Astros competing until late September. He finished the season with a strong line in his third year, hitting .261 with 29 home runs (second on the team), 82 RBI, 29 doubles, and a .359 on base percentage.
Season overview: Overall for the season, the former first round pick was one of the top performers on the team. After the poor month of April, the team switched him to the leadoff spot. And that is one of the main reasons the team started succeeding. Hitting Jose Altuve third in the lineup with George leading off was a turning point for the Astros’ lineup. Even though the season for Springer was good, he still has areas he needs to improve on to take the next step. He needs to cut down on strikeouts, as he finished with 178 including many three-strikeout games. His base-stealing was also an issue, getting thrown out more than 50% of the time.
Next: Astros Center Field Renovations Is Not Just About the Money. Should those issues be resolved, he can become one of the best players in the league. The future is exciting in Houston, and Springer is one of the main reasons. (*Statistics provided by Baseball Reference and MLB.com**)
May 2017: George went 0-for-4, extending a 2-for-25 slump. When he got home after the game, his fiancée, Charlise Castro, greeted him with a friendly, "How are you?"
Springer was in no mood for niceties: "Of everything you could say to me, that's what you have to say to me?"
George heard the anger in his voice and it stopped him. Wow, he thought, I'm letting a game affect me and who I am.
Castri told him to sit down. She put on The Cosby Show. They laughed. He made a decision. The next day he sought out Carlos Beltran, whose worry-free approach Springer admires.
"From this day forward," he told the veteran, "if you see me get down on myself, I want you to punch me in the back of the head."
Says Springer, "I had to go back to having fun. I wasn't having fun because I wasn't quote-unquote having success. I said 'I'm just going to have fun from here on out,' and it's made the difference in me."
That night, George went 2-for-4, starting a .389 tear over his next 40 games that carried him through his first All Star Game, which was in Miami. (Verducci - SI - 8/07/2017)
In June 2017, Springer hosted his third annual bowling event in Houston to benefit a camp run by the Stuttering Association for the Young. Springer is the spokesman for Camp SAY, a two-week gathering for young people who stutter and their family and friends.
"My message," George says, "is you can't let anything you can't control stop you from being who you want to be. Being part of that organization has helped me more than it's helped me more than it's helped a lot of people because it's forced me to come out of my shell even more."
July 2, 2017: Springer received his first invite to the MLB All-Star game. And he was one of the players who was mic’d-up in the outfield during the game, like Bryce Harper was. Afterwards, Springer said the in-game interview was fun, and he also explained how he hoped to send a message with his decision to wear the mic.
Springer stutters and has stuttered ever since he was a kid, but he wasn’t going to let that stop him in his first All-Star Game.
He said: “I can’t spread a message to kids and adults if I’m not willing to put myself out there. I understand. I’m gonna stutter. I don’t care. It is what it is. It’s not gonna stop me from talking or having fun. “ (USA Today Sports)
"George is probably the best teammate I've ever had," said pitcher Pat Neshek, who spent the 2015 and 2016 seasons with the Astros. "He's the guy that runs that team. It's the energy. He's just so positive in the clubhouse with other guys.
"He gets the clubhouse going. He does the music. It's awesome to see him get the respect he deserves. He's got [Carlos] Correa and [Jose] Altuve there, and sometimes I don't think enough people talk about him. You'd take him on almost any other team, and he'd be the guy you build around."
And like others who know Springer well, respect extends far behind home runs and positive energy.
"One of the main things about him is his character," teammate Dallas Keuchel said. "He has had to overcome this. This is what he had to do. We all admire that. That's the sign of a real man."
Springer accepted at an early age that he might stutter at times, and he also accepted that kids might make fun of him at times. When they did, he laughed at himself as well. As he said two years ago: "I understand it's part of what makes me who I am."
In 2017, Springer devotes time and energy to encouraging adults and children alike who struggle with stuttering. He hosts an annual charity event in Houston to raise money and awareness, and in 2014, he was named spokesperson for the nonprofit Stuttering Association for the Young (SAY).
The thing that allowed Springer to deal with—and ultimately overcome—stuttering is part of what has made him so important to the first-place Astros. Springer's presence—his personality, his laughter, his cutting sense of humor —is so important that Astros manager A.J. Hinch asked him to remain in the dugout when he was on the disabled list in 2015.
"He's a guy you want around," Hinch said. "He gets on everybody, including me. He just does not have a bad day." (Justice - mlb.com - 7/12/17)
July 14, 2017: Imagine the memories that come from playing catch with a real ballplayer before a game. Every time it happens, it's a wonderful scene, one we've seen in ballparks across the country in recent months. But as special as this can be for the kids who luck their way into it, it's also pretty memorable for the players themselves. During the broadcast of the Astros' 10-5 win over the Twins at Minute Maid Park, Twins icon Torii Hunter visited the booth and told a story of one such encounter he had with a kid when he was a Minor Leaguer with the New Britain Rock Cats in 1997.
That kid ended up being George Springer, who's overcome quite a lot on his path to becoming one of the Astros' top performers this season. Dealing with a speech impediment for much of his life, Springer's mic'd up moment during the All-Star Game was a sign of how far he's come. As Hunter explained in his booth visit, Springer was introduced to him back in 2013 by then-Astros manager, Bo Porter. The young Houston outfielder relayed the story of being "that kid" from back in the day who threw the ball back and forth with Hunter.
The lesson in all of this is simple: Keep an eye out for the kids seen in these heartwarming videos, playing catch with their heroes on the field. You might see them on the diamond doing big things themselves in the future. Springer spoke to how much he looked up to Hunter as a kid:
"There was something about the way he played that I liked and he became my idol ... I was only 8 years old, and he doesn't know the impact he made on my life then. I basically tried to do everything the way that he did, with my own spin on it."
So much so that Springer looks back on that game of catch as a significant moment in his life:
"I was just there one day and he was out on the field. And he threw me a ball and I threw it back and we just kind of kept playing catch. I'll never forget that. He didn't have to do it and he did it. It stuck with me. He changed my life and I was only eight years old."
Does Springer think about that moment when coming into contact young kids at the ballpark now?
"I do now because I'm an example of it. You never know the impact you can have on somebody just by saying hello or shaking a hand, whatever it is. Because my life got changed at an early age. I was 8 years old [and mine was changed] by a guy playing Double-A baseball. To me that's like meeting Hank Aaron. I didn't know any better. The older I got, the more I understood it, and I wanted to be like that guy." (Adrian Garro and Christian Boutwell/MLB.com - MLB.com - July 16, 2017)
Anyone who has ever had a good teacher knows just how important their support can be. And if you had a really great teacher, you know that support never ends.
George learned that before a game against the Red Sox as his first-grade teacher from when he lived in New Britain, Conn., made the trek to Fenway Park. Not only did she carry a sign and wear a Springer jersey, but she even made cookies. (Clair - mlb.com - 9/29/17)
Oct 7, 2017: Piling the whole family into the car and making the 100-mile trip to Fenway Park from New Britain, Conn., was not an uncommon summer weekend activity for the Springer family. School came first, but sports were a big part of their world, and watching the Red Sox in person was something you didn't take lightly. That's what makes Game 3 of the Astros-Red Sox ALDS at Fenway Park one that George Springer likely won't forget. It will be the first postseason game Springer has seen in person at Fenway, and he'll be the leadoff hitter for the Astros.
"I've obviously seen playoff games there on TV, and I'm extremely blessed to have an opportunity to go play," Springer said. "I'm just going to enjoy it and try to help us win."
After going 0-for-4 in Game 1, Springer erupted in Game 2 and went 2-for-4 with two runs scored, a homer and a walk in Houston's second consecutive 8-2 win over Boston. The Astros lead the best-of-five series, 2-0, and they can celebrate a clinch at Fenway Park two years after winning the AL Wild Card Game at Yankee Stadium.
"The team over there isn't going to quit," Springer said. "We know who they are. We have to attack them the exact same way, and we'll play hard and we'll see what happens." The clincher at Yankee Stadium in 2015 marked the first time Springer's father, George Springer Jr., had seen a postseason game in person. He'll be in the stands at Fenway Park with his daughters and wife in what figures to be a proud moment.
"We came to a lot of them over the years, but I don't recall going to any playoff games [at Fenway]," Springer's father said. "Certainly, we didn't go to any with the kids. I would remember that. This is a different animal." That being said, Springer's father said Red Sox playoff games over the years were can't-miss events in the Springer household. "If the Red Sox were in a playoff game, all of us would have been watching it on TV—probably every TV in the house," he said.
Springer has played in only seven games at Fenway Park in his career. The Astros' trip to Fenway Park in 2016 marked Springer's first time playing at Fenway. He was injured the first two years of his career when Houston came to Boston.
George Springer Jr. took his son to his first Red Sox game when the future big leaguer was 3 1/2 years old, sitting in seats behind home plate, but toward the back. He said his son watched the game intently while gripping a small wooden bat, then went home and took some swings at Ping-Pong balls in the backyard. The first memory of Fenway from Springer the player was the Red Sox's home opener in 1998, when Mo Vaughn hit a walk-off grand slam to cap a seven-run ninth inning. Springer had posters of Ken Griffey Jr. on his wall and idolized Torii Hunter, but Vaughn was his favorite Red Sox player.
"I was a Sox fan as a kid and I got to watch all the playoff games that they won and lost, so I know what it's like," Springer said. "To be here now is obviously special for me."(B McTaggart - MLB.com - Oct 8, 2017)
Jan. 20, 2018: Springer proposed to Charlise Castro.
March 9, 2018: Don't lie: You've definitely wondered how far baseball players could hit other spherical objects. For instance, if a player tried to hit a golf ball as hard as he could with a golf club, how far would it go? How far could he hit a tennis ball with a racket?
Regarding the golf ball question, Astros slugger George Springer may have given us some insight when he competed with Alex Bregman and Jake Marisnick to see who could drive the ball the farthest to decide who would get to host SportsCenter. Not even a driving range—a place where everyone is trying to hit golf balls as far as possible—could contain him:
Not even Springer could have predicted how much power he could pack into a golf swing. Certainly the designers of that particular driving range didn't. But anyone who watched him hit this home run in the World Series knew that Springer's power was something special:
According to Jessica Mendoza's sources at the driving range, no one had ever hit a ball beyond the limits of the course. So, yeah, baseball players can hit golf balls farther than at least most serious golfers. We'll still have to wait for an answer to that tennis ball question. (E Chesterton - MLB.com - March 9, 2018)
April 27, 2018: Springer has dedicated part of his professional life to reaching out to kids who stutter, to make sure they know a speech impediment does not need to solely define who they are, or hold them back from achieving what they want in life.
But it's not only kids who have been impacted by Springer's mission. He's impacted adults, too, and even fellow professional athletes. That was the case, when Springer welcomed Charlotte Hornets forward Michael Kidd-Gilchrist for a visit to Minute Maid Park. The two took a round of batting practice and bonded over a commonality between them—stuttering.
"He's a great guy, and a great person," Kidd-Gilchrist said of Springer. "I look up to him." Gilchrist learned of Springer's stutter while watching the World Series last year, 2017. The Astros' leap into prominence, in addition to Springer's yearly bowling tournament benefitting a camp for kids who stutter, has drawn national attention to the cause.
"I'm like, 'He stutters?'" Kidd-Gilchrist recalled. "I reached out to him, and he responded." A quick chain of communication between Kidd-Gilchrist's representatives and Astros manager A.J. Hinch led to the meeting at Minute Maid Park. Springer relayed a message to Kidd-Gilchrist that's similar to what he tells kids he's helped along the way: Don't let something you can't control stop you from living your life.
"I was a kid once that didn't think there was anybody else [who stutters]," Springer said. "I know what it's like to feel isolated, to not want to talk. Hopefully a kid can see that you can be who you want to be and live a life they want to live. Hopefully I can change their outlook on things."
Kidd-Gilchrist appreciated Springer's gesture, and the Astros' hospitality. "I know it's important to him to reach out to people that stutter," Kidd-Gilchrist said. "It's not just us. It's all of us around the world that stutter. Old, young ... it's important to all of us who stutter." (A Footer - MLB.com - April 27, 2018)
July 2018: Springer was selected to play in the MLB All-Star game.
Jan. 20, 2018: Springer married Charlise Castro. Castro remembers how much George Springer made her laugh on their first date and how comfortable they both felt with one another. “I’m not sure if it was because we both had similar athletic backgrounds or if it was his humor that won me over. Either way, I felt like a lucky girl. He still mentions that I took his breath away,” she confides. “She had a great personality and the ability to connect as if we had hung out for years,” he reflects.
May 2019: Springer can now add executive producer to his credits, as he and actor Paul Rudd have joined together (with actor/director Patrick James Lynch) to fund the new film documentary, “My Beautiful Stutter.” The film has already debuted at the Indy Film Fest at Indiana State University and is set to enjoy wide release on July 4, 2019.
Springer's wife Charlise was a star softball player at the University of Albany. Over 3 season's she had a .369 batting average with 33 home runs. (Intentional Talk-May 13, 2019)
June 2011: The Astros chose Springer in the first round of the draft, the 11th player chosen overall. And they signed him on the August 15 deadline for a $2.5 million bonus via scouts John Kosciak and Bobby Heck. George was the Astros #1 pick because of his speed, power, and defensive tools.
January 13, 2017: Springer and the Astros avoided arbitration and agreed on a one-year deal for $3.9 million.
- February 4, 2018: George and the Astros agreed to a two-year, $24 million pact, avoiding arbitration. In the spring of 2020, he will still have one year of arbitration remaining.