Contest winners hand Astros championship gear

Two fans get to share in victorious moment on field

Contest winners hand Astros championship gear

LOS ANGELES -- George Springer was handed a World Series championship T-shirt and cap as the Astros' celebration scene unfolded around the pitcher's mound on Wednesday night. He eagerly put both of them on, and Hall of Famer Craig Biggio hoisted the World Series MVP Award winner up on his shoulders and spun him around. It was the thrill of a lifetime.

Dress like a champion! Get Astros World Series title gear

"It is the best feeling in the world," Springer said in his first actual interview wearing the gear. "I'm speechless. It is the best feeling in the world."

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The feeling was mutual for the two individuals who dispersed that treasured combination of gray Majestic T-shirts and New Era championship caps. Patricia Silveri of Kill Devil Hills, N.C., and Derek Flater of Palm Springs, Calif., had spent the last three innings in the clubhouse tunnel behind the Astros' dugout, and when Charlie Morton got Corey Seager to ground out to second, those two fans rushed out over the rail right along with the champs themselves.

These were grand-prize winners of two "This Could Be You" sweepstakes that made this magical moment possible. If there is a better contest prize in existence, then it would be surprising. There were more than 50,000 entries this year.

Mastercard's contest gave fans a chance to carry out this privilege, and Silveri won that one. Fans who purchased MLB licensed merchandise on MLBShop.com with Masterpass or a Mastercard were entered for a chance to win this priceless experience.

"It was just unbelievable," Silveri said. "It was an experience I just couldn't imagine. I hope everybody gets to do this at some point. I even felt the grass, and it was so soft."

Astros win the World Series

Lids also conducted a sweepstakes for this privilege, and Flater was the grand-prize winner after purchasing a Dodgers cap at a Lids store.

"It was one of the most amazing experiences of my life, besides meeting my wife and having my two children," Flater said. "I could literally die now and be a happy man. To be able to give a shirt to Dallas Keuchel -- he was on my fantasy team all year in baseball, and I have a keeper league and I'm keeping him next year as my ace. To be able to give him a cap and shirt, he was so grateful. Justin Verlander said thank you. It was amazing."

The sweepstakes winners received two tickets to each World Series game where there would be a clinch situation, along with round-trip air transportation for two and hotel accommodations for up to five nights.

"This gives our fan the opportunity to really live what the players are living, in terms of experiencing the euphoria and emotion of winning the world championship," said Adam Blinderman, MLB's vice president of consumer products/retail. "These are the authentic items that fans can buy, and what could be more authentic than being right there around the pitcher's mound as they celebrate the World Series title."

"Being able to celebrate with the 2017 World Series winning team on-field is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for baseball fans," said Andres Siefken, Mastercard's executive vice president of marketing and communications for North America. "It's because of our continued partnership with MLB that we are able to celebrate our cardholders and their passions in this unique way."

Astros' World Series celebration

Silveri, a 68-year-old Yankees fan, won the Mastercard sweepstakes by virtue of her good timing on a Yanks purchase.

"I went to MLBShop.com and bought a Yankees thumbs-down T-shirt," she said. "When a woman called and said I won the sweepstakes, at first I did not believe her. But she had the nicest-sounding voice, and somehow I trusted her. I gave my information, and then I was suddenly going to the World Series.

"It's extremely significant, especially at my age, because I'm getting to the point where the chances of my going to a World Series game are getting slimmer."

Silveri drove from the Outer Banks of North Carolina to Washington, D.C., on the night before Game 6, so she could jump on a flight out of Dulles International Airport to come to Los Angeles on Tuesday. She went straight to that game, went through the three innings of waiting in the tunnel in case the Astros clinched, and then had to do it all over again the next night because of the Dodgers' Game 6 triumph. She had about 20 or 30 friends and family around the country waiting to see her on the field, as she finally busted through the dugout and onto the field to distribute the gear.

Astros combine for Game 7 win

Flater's move to purchase a Dodgers cap at Lids put him in the running for the grand prize of the sweepstakes, and he later learned that would be making the trip from Palm Springs to Dodger Stadium. He cited a healthy "cap addiction," and it obviously worked out well for him. On the morning of Game 7, Flater just happened to bump into Cody Bellinger of the Dodgers at the hotel where Flater was staying. He introduced himself, and told Bellinger he might be handing him championship merchandise around the dog-pile scene later that night.

"I'll look for you on the field," Bellinger told him.

Alas, Flater and Silveri saw the Astros put up five quick runs and the lead was never threatened. The suspense built as they waited in the tunnel, while the cold Budweiser beer and champagne carts were wheeled past them in the final two innings, toward the Houston clubhouse. Then came the cart filled with T-shirts and caps. The two fans were the first to put them on, and they each took huge piles of the merchandise and then waited until word of the final out.

"To be around these players, it's a dream come true," Flater said. It was the best feeling in the world, in some ways just like it was for the MVP who accepted the symbolic gear.

Mark Newman is enterprise editor of MLB.com and a baseball writer since 1990. Follow him on Twitter @Marathoner and read and join other baseball fans on his MLB.com/blogs hub. ans on his MLB.com/blogs hub. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.