Copyright © 2017 Albuquerque Journal
Albuquerque Mayor Richard Berry described Alex Bregman on Wednesday as an “absolute rock star.”
The 23-year-old Albuquerque native has spent November playing the part.
Bregman, the starting third baseman for Major League Baseball’s Houston Astros, spent the evening of Nov. 1 winning Game 7 of the World Series with his teammates. He’s been on a whirlwind tour ever since.
On Wednesday, Bregman tossed out a ceremonial first pitch at the shiny new Albuquerque Regional Sports Complex – a five-field baseball/softball facility on the city’s far West Side – and nearly 500 people turned out to watch him do it.
Sporting jeans and a black leather jacket, Bregman spent more than an hour patiently autographing baseballs, cards and Astros gear and posing for photos until every request was filled. It was his first day back in Albuquerque since the Astros’ magical run to the organization’s first World Series championship.
“It’s pretty special seeing so many people here,” Bregman said, noting the numerous orange-and-blue Astros jerseys in the stands. “It’s just fun to be back home. This month has been absolutely crazy. I still can’t even believe everything that’s happened.”
His itinerary has indeed been staggering. In the three weeks since the Astros celebrated their victory at Los Angeles’ Dodger Stadium, Bregman:
- Took part in a parade through downtown Houston that attracted more than a million fans.
- Traveled to New York, where he appeared on “Saturday Night Live,” ESPN’s “SportsCenter” and “Good Morning America” and at the New York Stock Exchange, among other things.
- Was introduced at a football game at his collegiate alma mater, Louisiana State University.
- Appeared at a Houston Rockets NBA game and at a Houston Dynamo MLS playoff game. The latter came Tuesday night.
“We have been going a bit,” Bregman said, shaking his head.
Wednesday’s appearance served as a reminder that rock star or not, Bregman remains very much an Albuquerque guy. As he toured the sports complex press boxes, Bregman gave unsolicited thoughts on another Duke City sports figure whom he closely follows.
“Holly (Holm) is so going to take (Cris) Cyborg down,” he said of next month’s UFC title bout.
Bregman also engaged in some good-natured banter with friends and relatives. As he took off his jacket for the ceremonial first pitch, Bregman’s father, Sam, yelled, “Whatever you do, don’t bounce it. That would be really embarrassing.”
It was the same advice Alex gave before Sam tossed a ceremonial Father’s Day pitch at Houston’s Minute Maid Park in June.
“Finally got a little payback,” Sam Bregman said.
The elder Bregman attended all seven of his son’s World Series games, including Game 5, in which Alex delivered a walk-off hit in Houston’s dramatic 13-12 victory over the Dodgers. Seeing his son receive a hero’s welcome Wednesday – Berry proclaimed it Alex Bregman Day in Albuquerque – was an emotional experience, Sam Bregman said.
“I know how hard Alex worked to get to this level,” Sam Bregman said, “and of course I’m proud of what he’s done. But he’s still the same kid who has to take the trash out after Thanksgiving dinner (today). He takes time for everyone, and he’s a great person off the field. That’s what really makes me proud.”
Alex said he’s enjoyed his month in the media spotlight but said his two favorite post-World Series events came in Houston: spending a day at Shriners Hospital for Children and attending a downtown parade.
“The parade was unbelievable,” he said, “going through streets that were flooded (by Hurricane Harvey) just a few weeks earlier. To see the city come out like that, I’ll never forget it.”
But after a moment of reflection, Bregman quickly turned back to the crowd of young fans hoping for autographs and photos.
“It’s pretty cool to think I could come home as a World Series champion,” Bregman said. “It’s something I dreamed about as a kid in my backyard here in Albuquerque. Hopefully, some of the kids who play on these new fields will get a chance to live that dream, too. That would be pretty cool to see.”