It was June 11, 2011. And the University of Connecticut Huskies had a lot on the line that night. A win would send them to the NCAA Super Regional -- a contest UConn had never reached. And the Major League Baseball draft was happening at the same time. George Springer was playing centerfield. He was also about to become a multi-millionaire in the draft.
“I had the great fortune of being behind him after we won and he sees his mom,” said UConn coach Jim Penders. “He doesn’t say a word about the Houston Astros, the draft, 2.5 million. All that he says is ‘Mom, can you believe it? We won!’
The Astros won the decisive seventh game of the World Series against the Los Angeles Dodgers Wednesday night. Springer, a New Britain native, was named Most Valuable Player.
Springer is the first person to hit a home run in four consecutive World Series games. He also tied a major league record of hitting five homers in a World Series. But even through all of that, Penders still saw that “we not me” spirit in Springer when he accepted his MVP award on national TV.
“He’s got a brand new truck behind him and an MVP trophy, [but] he thanks his teammates,” Penders said. “He wants to share it.”
Rob Dowling was Springer’s high school coach at Avon Old Farms. He said that Springer was a late-bloomer physically, so he didn’t get a lot of attention at first. But when he did, Dowling said he wasn’t “ego-centric.”
“He tried to deflect a lot of it,” Dowling said. “He tried to approach games as if they were team games.”
Penders can attest to the fact that it hasn’t always been easy for Springer—at least maybe mentally.
“My heart starts pounding when there’s a microphone in front of him,” Penders said. “That wasn’t always his strong suit.”
Springer’s bout with a speech impediment has been public for quite some time. But he’s dealt with it head-on—he represents the “Stuttering Association for the Young” and he even spoke about his trials during this year’s Major League All-Star game live while playing centerfield.
“I don’t think he misspoke one time in the entire postseason,” Penders said. “I didn’t hear him misspeak all year.”
The 28-year-old just finished his fourth major league season—his first as an MLB All-Star.