LOS ANGELES (AP/CBS Connecticut) — George Springer hit so many clutch home runs, he was a clear pick for World Series MVP.
He often was the Most Vocal Person, too — and that might be the most remarkable part of his story.
The Houston leadoff man hammered his way to the award, homering and doubling Wednesday night to boost the Astros to their first championship with a 5-1 win over the Los Angeles Dodgers in Game 7.
He launched a Series record-tying five homers, including shots in each of the final four games, and celebrated those Springer Dingers by hollering around the bases.
Many years ago, that type of trip would’ve been hard to believe. Impossible, really.
As a kid, Springer stuttered so severely that he frequently fell silent, unless he was around his family or close friends. Over time, he’s improved so much that he graciously grants interviews, even on national television, and never seems to shy away from the spotlight. He even wore a live mic in center field during the All-Star Game in July.
Watch closely and you can see Springer, just for a moment, still begins to stumble over words sometimes. So he will calmly slow himself down, or pause for a second, before gathering himself and continuing on eloquently.
At 28, the All-Star center fielder has taken every chance he’s gotten this postseason to talk about Camp SAY — that’s the Stuttering Association for the Young.
Springer is a spokesman for the two-week summer camp that benefits kids and teens who stutter. He also runs a charity bowling event, raising money to help people attend the program.
“I hope there’s somebody somewhere out there that is impacted and can learn to just go be who you are and not let any stage or any place stop you,” he said last week.
On baseball’s big stage, the Dodgers couldn’t stop him.
Springer tied Reggie Jackson (1977) and Chase Utley (2009) for the most home runs in a Series. The UConn product became the first hitter to homer four games in a row during a single Series, and also set the mark with eight extra-base hits.
“This is a dream come true,” he said.
He bounced back fast from a tough start, when he struck out all four at-bats in the opener, extending his slump to 3 for 30. He looked lost at the plate facing Dodgers ace Clayton Kershaw, but manager A.J. Hinch firmly said Springer would stay atop the lineup.
Good move. Springer went 11 for 25 the rest of the way.
He hit a tiebreaking, two-run homer in the 11th inning of a Game 2 win at Dodger Stadium. He doubled during a victory in Game 3, and homered again in a Game 4 loss.
He connected for a huge homer in Game 5, moments after an ill-advised dive for a sinking liner that skipped past him. He later drew a two-out walk in the 10th that set up the winning run at Minute Maid Park.
Springer hit a solo home run in Game 6 that put the Astros ahead in a game they eventually lost 3-1.
His final Series line: a .379 average, seven RBIs and a 1.000 slugging percentage.
Springer rallied from a rugged showing in the AL Championship Series, when he batted just .115 (3 for 26) without an extra-base hit or RBI in seven games against the Yankees.
That came after his fourth and most productive season in the majors, when he set career highs by hitting .283 with 34 home runs and 85 RBIs.
His production follows his pedigree.
Drafted 11th overall by the Astros out of UConn in 2011, George Chelston Springer III comes from a family of athletes in New Britain. His dad pitched in the Little League World Series, his mom was an accomplished gymnast, and his two sisters played softball in college.
In fact, Springer wears No. 4 to represent the four members of his immediate family. Engaged to be married in January, Springer won’t be able to bump up to No. 5 — the Astros retired that jersey for Hall of Famer Jeff Bagwell.
AP Sports Writer Kristie Rieken contributed to this story.
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