In the bottom of the eighth inning, the 18-and-under Boston Astros found themselves down, 6-4, in their second annual alumni baseball game Wednesday night at Jim Rice Field on the boarder of the South End and Roxbury. Enter Kenny Miranda, a former Boston public school student and Under-18 player used solely by the Astros for his fastball, to pinch-hit.
It was his first at-bat of the season.
And, boy, did he make it count.
Miranda cracked a three-run home run over the right-field fence, and he wore a grin trotting around the bases so wide that catcher Brianne Toney exclaimed, "Kenny’s going to be talking about this for months!”
The excitement of his home run and his team’s 7-6 victory left him at a loss for words.
“I’m speechless right now,” Miranda said after the game. “That was my only at-bat of the season. It was the first home run I’ve ever hit.”
That homer capped a wild two weeks for the Astros, who for the second time in four years won the Triple Crown Sports US Baseball Championship in Richmond, Va.
“Winning the championship was the best,” Miranda said. “Last year we went and we lost, so it was great going back and winning it all.”
Founder Robert Lewis Jr. started the Boston Astros 34 years ago with the belief that baseball could be a powerful vehicle to teach young men values and life skills. This 18-and-under team is more than 90 percent BPS kids, with the majority from the Roxbury and Dorchester area.
After the Astros won their second national championship two weeks ago, Lewis was extremely proud, but not too surprised.
“It’s very exciting," he said. "I mean, who would have thought that we would’ve won two national championships? But I knew they had it within them.
“What the championship means for urban baseball more than anything is that there’s great baseball being played here in the city."
The alumni game was not only a celebration of the Astros championship run, but a celebration of urban baseball itself. The alumni team was made up of either college graduates or players still in college, all with an affiliation to the Astros.
Lewis’s latest initiative in his effort to promote and advance citywide baseball is a program called The BASE. According to its website, the program "provides comprehensive athletic and educational advancement opportunities for prominent student athletes. The BASE will be a model, leveraging sports as a vehicle to engage youth in a positive, rigorous, passionate and success-driven environment with the goal of excellence -- both on and off the field."
Lewis has also recently joined the board of directors of the Lou Tomkins All Star Baseball League, a nonprofit summer travel team that enables both city and suburban Boston teams to compete against each other. League president Joe Rushing was in attendance at the Astros game and expressed his excitement with the new partnership.
“We want to expand our league and inner-city baseball in conjunction with The BASE to give more of the kids the opportunity to play high-quality baseball,” Rushing said.
“To give these kids the opportunity to play all star teams from, say, Framingham, Westfield, or Sudbury is just especially good for the kids and is definitely good for the league.”
Boston City Councilor and BPS graduate Felix Arroyo was one of the few lucky enough to throw out a first pitch. Arroyo, who is running for mayor, attended Another Course to College and played with the Astros in the 1990s. He talked about the importance sports can have on building strong relationships.
“I’m thrilled to be here,” Arroyo said. “It’s really about using these sports as a way to start conversations with the kids that are really necessary. About their own lives, about their own dreams, and about where they want to go with their life. And you can use sports as a way of doing it.”
With 11 of the 12 high school seniors on the Astros championship team attending college, it's definitely succeeding.
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- Justin A. Rice -- A metro Detroit native, Rice is a Michigan State University (Go Spartans!) and Northeastern University graduate. Rice lives in the South End with his dog and wife, who unfortunately attended the University of Michigan ... his wife, that is. He curates the BPS Sports Blog and is always looking to write about city athletes with great stories. Have an idea? He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @GlobeJustinRice or @BPSspts.
- Ryan Butler -- A Rhode Island native and avid Boston sports fan, Butler played basketball, baseball and football throughout his time in Barrington Public Schools. Now currently in his middler year at Northeastern University, he joins Boston.com as a correspondent for the site's BPS coverage. Have a story idea? Contact him at email@example.com. Follow him on his Twitter @butler_globe.