It was around his sophomore or junior year at Moline High School that Thomas Lindauer used to think it.
"Hey, I could play with these guys at this level someday."
"These guys" comprised the Class A Quad Cities River Bandits, the local nine who competed across the Mississippi River from Lindauer's native Moline, Ill. in Davenport, Iowa. At the time (2005-12), the team was a Cardinals affiliate, so the young infielder grew up watching future Major Leaguers like Colby Rasmus, who played when the team was called the Swing, and Brett Wallace. He was there for the park's constant floods and the renovations of the last decade.
The Astros selected him in the 23rd round of the 2013 Draft out of the University of Illinois, and after a recent promotion from extended spring training, Lindauer showed he was right. He played for the River Bandits -- now an Astros affiliate -- for the first time Monday, and on Tuesday, he showed he could do more than just play.
Lindauer went 3-for-4 with two home runs and five RBIs Tuesday afternoon from the bottom of the Quad Cities lineup to lead the River Bandits to an 11-2 trouncing of Clinton on the road.
"It's cool," he said of playing for his hometown team. "It's almost surreal, to be honest."
Through his first two games at the Class A level, the 22-year-old shortstop is 5-for-7 with the two homers and a double.
"I wanted to start well, obviously, and it's been big to achieve that," he said. "I was hitting the ball well down in extended [spring training], and I wanted to carry that here or even go a little beyond that if I could. It'll all be about continuing the consistency I'm developing, but right now, I couldn't be happier."
Lindauer went deep in his first two at-bats, in the third and fourth innings, Tuesday. The right-handed hitter got ahead against Clinton left-handed starter Eddie Campbell (1-1) in both plate appearances before taking a pair of middle-in fastballs over the fence.
"The first one I got it down the line in left, and the second was a barrel-high pitch that I got for a fly ball to left-center," Lindauer said. "The first I knew was out when I got it, but the second barely snuck over. I'll take it."
He added another RBI single in the eighth for his third hit of the afternoon.
Lindauer was set to make his full-season debut much earlier than Monday, but the Astros had other plans for their 2013 23rd-rounder.
He struggled mightily at the plate with a .196/.247/.275 slash line to go with 39 strikeouts in 51 games (138 at-bats) between Rookie-level Greenville and Class A Short Season Tri-City in his first Minor League season. That was a stark difference from the .309/.360/.493 numbers he put up as a junior for the Fighting Illini earlier in 2013.
Those problems continued into the following spring, and with plenty of infield candidates slotted for Quad Cities, Lindauer was left behind in Kissimmee.
"It was kind of a wake-up call," he said. "But when I found out, I knew what I had to work on and what I did well, too. So I was trying to build on both of those over the course of the whole summer."
When infielders Jack Mayfield and Austin Elkins succumbed to injuries late last week, the Astros gave Lindauer a call of a different sort and told him to head north toward the Midwest League.
"It's just about being consistent," Lindauer said. "I had a tough year with strikeouts the whole season last year. I knew I had to do a better job of not chasing pitches and waiting for the one that I could hit. I got a few today, and I did a good job of getting to them."
The River Bandits still have two games left in a four-game series at Clinton and then another three games in Peoria before they return to Modern Woodmen Park next Monday. The native son already knows to expect a big contingent when he gets to show off just how he became one of "these guys."
"From what I've already seen on Twitter and Instagram and the Internet, everybody will be there," Lindauer said. "It'll be exciting to get back."