At Houston Astros home games, Bobby Vasquez—better known to fans as “Bobby Dynamite”—has the best seat in the house. Perched ninety feet above Minute Maid Park, he drives a train across the brim of the outfield to celebrate every Astros home run and victory.
When Minute Maid Park was built in 2000, planners chose to include a replica of an 1862 steam locomotive—rather than a rocket ship or another kind of Astro-related vehicle—since the park once hosted Houston’s Union Station, a major railroad hub for the South. The train originally hauled logs, but when Coca-Cola’s Minute Maid bought naming rights in 2002, they switched to larger-than-life oranges.
In honor of the World Series beginning in Houston, we caught up with Vasquez on the best parts of his job.
How did you become the train conductor?
It’s my twentieth year up on the train, and I started just because I was in the right place at the right time. I was an intern with the team in 2000 when we moved to the new stadium, and the guy who drove the train the first year was manager of the tour department and got a promotion, so they needed someone else to drive the train. I thought, why not?
Are the mechanisms like that of a real train?
I have no idea—I’ve never driven a real train! Ours is just a huge electric train with a forward gear and a backwards gear and a joystick that ramps up the speed.
How fast does the train go?
We keep it right around two miles per hour. It can go a lot faster, but it’s a 48,000-pound machine with only about eight hundred feet of track, so it’s hard to slow down if you get going too fast.
What are some of your most memorable moments?
The train has been hit a couple of times by home runs. I tried catching one once, but it ended up hitting me in the arm. I definitely took an error on that one. Game five of the 2017 World Series was one of the craziest games to ever be played in World Series history. And as exciting as they are for everyone else, walk offs are always exciting for me.
When we played the Braves in 2005, we won in an eighteen-inning ball game—that was a really, really long one, and my bladder was not too happy. Once I’m up there with the train, I’m stuck.
You’ve been known to wear the same lucky orange T-shirt and overalls and only wash them after a loss.
My lucky overalls got to be a little too lucky—they started walking off on their own. I recently decided that I needed to get rid of that little quirky tradition. I still wear overalls and a T-shirt, they just get washed a little more regularly.
What’s so fun about this World Series for Astros fans?
It’s an exciting time for our city, and we have a fun playoff history against the Braves. They’ve taken us out a couple of times and we’ve taken them out a couple of times. We don’t play them as regularly as we used to because we switched leagues [in 2013], but for a lot of fans that have followed the Astros for twenty or twenty-five years, they remember all the triumphs and heartbreaks that come with playing the Braves. Over the years, it’s been a really fun rivalry.
What’s the best part of your job?
My favorite part is that I still get to be a fan. I’m a lifelong Astros fan—it’s all I’ve known since I was a kid. I watched all their games from my living room as a kid, and now I get to be here for all of it. I’m not just a paid employee, I’m first and foremost a fan, and that’s pretty cool.