When Astros Center fielder Chas McCormick steps onto the field for Game 3 of the World Series in Philadelphia Monday, he will face the stands. He will see dozens of people who love him and want the best for him. Most of them will rage against him.
McCormick, 27, grew up in West Chester, Pennsylvania, about an hour west of Philadelphia, and watched everyone Phillies game on TV. At Millersville University, two hours west of the city, he dreamed of one day playing the leading role at Citizens Bank Park. Now he is – for the team trying to take down their beloved Phillies.
As the Astros advanced to the World Series, just hours after the Phillies did the same, McCormick’s group text lit up with two of his best friends and college roommates, Alex Barr and Dan Neff: We hope you go 4 for 4 every nightYou told him. And we hope the Phillies sweep you. McCormick shot back that he was about to hit a home run and silenced the crowd.
He feels a little bad for his 13-year-old self. “He would be heartbroken knowing that he was getting older and trying to beat the Phillies in the World Series,” he says. But he also wants to silence this child. Living off Buffalo Chicken Cheesesteaks from Wawa, McCormick spices up his language with the untranslatable noun “jaw” and wonders if he can sneak into the Eagles game on his day off before Game 6. His older brother Ryan, who grew up in the stands at Veterans Stadium, named his first son Rolen after Philadelphia’s third baseman in the late ’90s. But McCormick is not conflicted.
“I don’t want to lose another World Series,” he says. He was a rookie backup last season when the Astros fell six games behind Atlanta. (His friends were grateful for the matchup; they got to cheer for their friend and against a National League East opponent.) He is the central fielder in the starting XI this year and aims to secure his team’s win.
He bought his friends tickets to Game 4 despite their betrayal. (You could say it was he who betrayed them and tried to beat Bryce Harper and the rest of the Fightins.) They’ll sit in the Astros family division, so they decided not to boo Houston “out of respect,” he tells Barr, for the older players who have made McCormick feel so comfortable, but they’ll definitely be wearing Phillies gear.
“We’re in a very difficult position,” says Barr. “I just hope that every time he’s up there’s nobody on base and the Phillies are five runs up so he can hit a double or a home run and it won’t affect the score. I cheer for Chas every time he shows up. I just hope it’s not in super big places where he could hurt the Phillies.”
Of this plan, McCormick says with a grin: “It sucks. I do not like it.”
So does his mother Nancy, who along with her husband Bob and their three other sons Ryan, Sean and Jason have tossed their hometown team aside for at least this week. Ryan calls the decision “gut-wrenching”; Nancy says, “When I hear my boys say [that they would root for Chas to do well but for the Phillies to win]they wouldn’t go to Houston with me.” (She later finishes an interview with “Go ‘Stros”. A few hours earlier, Barr had finished one with “Go Phils.”)
Chas was responsible for securing Philadelphia tickets for only immediate family and significant others, in part because his parents wanted to limit how much they charged of him and in part because they couldn’t ensure the fidelity of all of their cousins would be so easily influenced. “I’d rather have him surrounded by Houston fans,” Nancy says, laughing.
That will be difficult to achieve. McCormick got tickets to his Henderson High School head coach, Luke MacNichol, and two assistants; MacNichol ordered an Astros hoodie, which arrived Thursday, but assistants will wear red. MacNichol concedes this is probably the safer choice. He’ll be rooting for McCormick, he says, but out of respect for the kind of person who climbs easy poles after a win and has learned the seven words never to say on TV at Veterans Stadium’s 700 level, he mostly will “Clap politely. Many current Millersville Marauders baseball players are trying to get tickets hoping that “Chas will hit six home runs and the Phillies will win,” says coach Jon Shehan. (Shehan, who will attend Game 1 in Houston, grew up as a kid himself pirates fan and has played in the Atlanta system so feels comfortable cheering for the Astros.) Those who can’t get in will try to throw an outdoor party at the university’s Cooper Park.
Unfortunately, Cooper Park helped cast McCormick into the player who will try to break hearts at Citizens Bank Park. He was recklessly recruited from Henderson and ended up in Division II Millersville largely because Ryan went there. At that point, Chas was above all talent and good attitude, he says today. Shehan and his staff instilled in him the attention to detail and work ethic that brought him here.
Indeed, Barr says McCormick’s story is a Philadelphia story, even if it comes at Philadelphia’s expense. “His whole journey of becoming a Houston Astro, being incredibly somber, not being a huge prospect and kind of grinding himself to where he is now and then just building the team to be on the Astros and to have a start Spot for the last two years and once he gets the opportunity, especially in the playoffs, playoff chas is just a different breed,” he says. “So I would say his demeanor and his journey was the most Phillyste thing he does.”
Well, there’s one more Philly thing he could do. Would he ever follow in Ryan’s footsteps again and name a kid after a Phillie?
He is considering this. “If we lose the World Series, I’m not going to do that,” he says. “If we win, then yes.” He laughs and adds what he thinks is a joke but doesn’t quite look like it: “Maybe I’ll call him Bryce.”
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