JUPITER, Fla. (AP) - A.J. Hinch was attempting to answer a question about what he likes best about George Springer when the Houston Astros manager was drowned out by a faraway but exuberant bellow.
The sound was the World Series MVP who was excitedly interacting with his teammates, illustrating what Hinch was about to say: Springer’s top quality is the spirit and the energy he brings to the Astros.
“You walk in the clubhouse and he’s the same every day,” Hinch said. “He’s got a bright personality. I mean, I can hear him right now. You know when he’s in the building. He’s got an infectious personality that rubs off on a lot of guys. Everybody likes him, everybody feeds off of him.”
And Springer shares that affinity for his teammates and raved about the bond they’ve built.
“The guys in here are all close,” he said. “We all have fun together. We all enjoy being around each other. We’re all like a family, and who doesn’t like to be around family.”
As much as Springer sparks the team with his personality, he probably provides the Astros with an even bigger boost as their leadoff hitter.
“He’s the first hitter that the opposition faces on most nights and he sets the tone pretty aggressively,” Hinch said.
The 28-year-old outfielder is coming off his best season, finishing with career-bests in home runs (34), RBIs (85) and batting average (.283) in his fourth year in the majors. He bounced back from a tough time in the ALCS to hit .379 with five homers and seven RBIs in the World Series to help Houston down the Los Angeles Dodgers for their first title.
Springer homered in the final four games against the Dodgers in winning MVP honors.
Springer had a taste of the postseason in 2015 when Houston lost to Kansas City in the ALDS, but said the championship run last taught him a lot about what really matters in the playoffs.
“The playoffs are the real deal,” he said. “We had the experiences in 2015 and now we have the experience from last year. You learn that it’s not about individual success. You do whatever it is that you have to do to help the team win. You go 0 for 4, who cares? Find a way to help the team win.”
For the Astros to win again this season, Springer knows that they’ll have to do even more than they did in 2017. He believes that’s certainly possibly on this team whose stars are mostly younger than 30.
“This whole team has a lot of room for improvement,” he said. “I have a lot of room to get better. We’ve got great veteran guys and even those guys can get better. The potential for this team is insane.”
Springer is part of a lineup that includes four players who hit .300 or better last season, led by AL MVP Jose Altuve, who topped the majors with a .346 average.
“It’s one of the most dangerous lineups in baseball,” Springer said. “There’s no real breaks, there’s no real holes and if this team can go out and perform to its capabilities, you never know what can happen.”
While the Astros are done celebrating their World Series win and looking ahead to this season, Springer took a moment to reflect on what it meant for him to bring a title to Houston in the wake of Hurricane Harvey. He said one of the best byproducts of their big win was seeing how excited people were around town and having fans thank him for bringing the trophy home.
“I think sports has a way of being very, very therapeutic,” he said. “That happened and the only thing happening in the city at the time was our team. The Texans had just started playing, so it was like you want to rally around the team that’s playing and the city really got behind us.”
“We can’t really put it into perspective what we were able to accomplish,” he said. “So I’m so happy about that.”
While one ring provided plenty of joy for Springer, a second one might have given him even more reason to smile when Springer and longtime girlfriend Charlise Castro married late last month. The two wed in a breathtakingly beautiful ceremony at a coastal resort in California to cap a magical few months for Springer.
“It was crazy. It was a whirlwind,” he said. “I felt like I blinked and the offseason was over. Between getting married and all the stuff we had to do with the team it was insane, it was hectic, but it was great problems to have.”
The offseason was so crazy that the couple didn’t have time to go on a honeymoon before Springer had to pack up and head to spring training. But the doting new husband made a deal with his wife to make up for it.
“We’re saving it for next offseason,” he said. “I’m going to let her pick it and she can pick wherever she wants.”
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