For four days in August, former SIU pitcher Derek Fogel watched the bayou by his Houston-area apartment awaiting disaster. For the next seven days he'll be front and center at the World Series.
Hurricane Harvey, which dumped more than 50 inches of rain in parts of Houston, filled the streets around him two months ago to the point where he couldn't leave for more than a few blocks. Getting to the station at 610 AM in Houston, where he is the host of a three-hour weekend talk show and an Astros reporter, was out of the question.
"For where I am, I'm right where a bayou takes a really sharp turn, so people in my area were really thinking where the water would rise," Fogel said. "Somehow it didn't overflow that much in my area. I couldn't go three blocks in any direction. I was just sitting around, waiting to lose power, or waiting to be told to evacuate."
Luckily, the hurricane, which brought more than $125 billion in damages to the state, spared his neighborhood. Some were not so lucky.
"It's still very much here," Fogel said. "I was up in a suburb the other day, in a house that got nine feet of water, and was helping them out. The Astros have really stepped up with their foundation. When Justin Verlander came up, he immediately started a grant program for military families that got displaced. On top of that, cities have a special relationship with their baseball teams. It's not really like any other sport, in that baseball can grip a city."
Verlander, who will start Game 2 for the Astros in the World Series against the Los Angeles Dodgers, gave $100,000 and his playoff share toward families impacted by the hurricane. The Astros Foundation pledged to match his donation.
Houston hugged the Astros a little tighter after they qualified for just their second World Series ever with a 4-0 series win over the New York Yankees in the American League Championship Series. The Dodgers eliminated the Chicago Cubs 4-1 in the NLCS, and open the best-of-seven series in Los Angeles Tuesday night.
Game 3 in Houston should be special. The Astros wear patches that have the word "Strong," the team logo and an outline of Texas, to support hurricane victims. Houston led the major leagues in scoring and took the American League West Division by 21 games. The Dodgers, who led the majors with 104 regular-season wins, have three-time Cy Young Award winner Clayton Kershaw, former Cub Rich Hill, and an incredible bullpen that has thrown 23 straight scoreless innings.
Fogel, a 6-foot-2, 195-pound left-handed pitcher from Leawood, Kansas, threw two years for the Salukis (2013-14) as a reliever and starter. The 25-year-old worked at 103.5 ESPN here before moving to Houston in September 2016 and has a lot to talk about, as Deshaun Watson is now the quarterback of the Texans, the Astros are in the World Series, the Dynamo are in the Major League Soccer playoffs, and Chris Paul, James Harden and the Rockets are just getting started.
"It's exhausting sometimes, but it's very exciting," Fogel said.