Weeks ago, when 6-year-old Oliver Richard learned he’d be invited onto the field at Minute Maid Park between innings of an Astros-Mets game to steal a base, he understood the assignment. He didn’t ask questions. He didn’t need further instructions. And he definitely didn’t track down an Astros news release that’s older than he is to see that the word “steal” is in scare quotes.
He’s a sharp kid, Oliver, and very literal.
So, when his chance came Tuesday night, Oliver sprinted to second base and tried for 20 seconds to pry the base out of the dirt — enlisting the help of José Altuve and Mauricio Dubón — before discovering the base he was meant to “steal” was sitting on the right-field warning track. Off he ran again. The Houston crowd howled. The boy was gassed. The video went viral.
“They never told me it was a fake base,” Oliver explained Wednesday, “so I thought they meant to go onto the actual field, steal a base and run back.”
this 6 year old kid at the mets-astros game just played the “steal a base” game but instead of running to the fake base they put out for him, he ran to ACTUAL second base and tried to pull it out LMAOOO pic.twitter.com/V0D1aybAPU
— stephen (LFGM) (@alsostephenking) June 22, 2022
When you have wheels like Oliver, stealing second base is a natural instinct.
A lifelong Astros fan from Mont Belvieu, Tex., Oliver says his favorite player is Altuve, followed closely by Alex Bregman and Kyle Tucker — all of whom played a part in his mad-dash moment at Minute Maid. Oliver is something of a baseball player himself. He plays right field and center, but, if he’s being honest, he’s out there to run the bases and crush some baseballs.
“Tell him about your dingers,” his dad, Austin Richard, prodded on their end of the phone call.
“No, no,” Oliver said. “I’m not going to tell about those.”
In the bottom of the sixth inning of the Astros’ 8-2 win Tuesday, Oliver and his mother, Kristen Crocker, headed to the right-field corner to await his stolen-base attempt. Oliver slowly scanned the crowd of 35,140 for his dad, his mother’s boyfriend and her cousins. He found them and waved. Then, as the inning ended, the right-field gate swung open. The public-address announcer introduced Oliver and started counting down: 3 … 2 … 1 … GO!
“I’m telling everybody in the stands, ‘My son’s about to steal a base!’” Austin said. “Then he takes off down the field, and everyone’s like, ‘Hey! Hey! Hey! He’s going the wrong way!’ I’m like, ‘It doesn’t even matter. Just let him run.’
“It was probably my proudest moment as a father.”
Tucker, the right fielder, was the Astros’ first line of defense. But he failed to direct traffic or throw up a stop sign, so Oliver blew past. Oliver really only has one speed. Flying across the outfield grass with second base in his sights, he said, “It’s like me seeing my best friend, and I really want to see him bad, and I go sprinting over to him and give him a big hug.”
Except, in this case, the best friend is second base. And it won’t budge.
After Oliver had yanked at the base for a few seconds, the confused middle infielders Dubón and Altuve moseyed over to offer their assistance. (Take it with a grain of salt because of this 6-year-old’s bias, but Altuve apparently appears taller in person. And he’s very nice.) The three of them tugged at the base, then stood up and shrugged. “Both of them were confused,” Oliver said. “They didn’t even know you can’t take the base up. It was really hard for us.”
“We thought it would be funny to give him the bag, but it wasn’t going anywhere,” Dubón told the AP. “That was fun, though.”
We told 6-year-old Oliver to “steal a base”.
Mission accomplished. pic.twitter.com/AwkQfQKGhY
— Houston Astros (@astros) June 22, 2022
The public-address announcer pleaded, “Oliver, come back!” Oliver tried the base again. Then Alex Bregman walked over from third base and pointed toward right field, and Altuve followed suit.
“So,” Oliver said. “I ran straight back.”
The crowd in right field was on its feet as Oliver — in his navy “Space City” jersey and matching Nikes — glided across the outfield, picked up the fake base and broke through the blue ribbon. He high-fived fans in the front row.
“It felt like I was in a big Astros game,” Oliver said. And he was.
Oliver’s journey ended about 20 yards from where it had begun. He’d been told that he had 15 seconds to make the run; it took a minute.
“Luckily they paused the time for you,” his dad said.
Oliver headed back to his seat with his mother, carrying the base, and suddenly he was the most popular person in the ballpark. He lifted the base in the air, and his whole section cheered. Someone said to do it again. So he did.
“Twice,” he said.
Within a few minutes, video of Oliver’s run started going around on social media, and his parents’ phones were flooded with messages about it. Oliver was just sat there with his base and a huge smile. After the game, Dubón signed the base for him, and then Oliver went home.
Oliver woke up Wednesday morning and carried the base into the living room.
“Indeed,” he said, “I started running with it a little bit.”
(Top photo: AP Photo/David J. Phillip)