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Diamonds and Campaign Trails in Houston

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The Westbury Little League is a sprawling collection of baseball diamonds lumped together like Cracker Jacks in Houston. The fields there vary in size to accommodate players at different stages of youth. If you’d walked onto one of the larger fields on a Saturday in the early 1990s, you would likely have found a 12-year-old Scotty Spiegel leaping up to the plate, happily sweating in the Texas sun. If you’d then strolled over to one of the smaller diamonds, you might have seen the opposite image: Erin Mincberg, age 9, somber in her uniform.

“I was a very reluctant softball player,” Ms. Mincberg, now 37, said recently. “My parents forced me to do it.”

Mr. Spiegel, on the other hand, remembers once convincing his parents to let him play a ballgame the day after he busted his head open while riding a bike.

“I’ve loved baseball all my life,” said Mr. Spiegel, 40.

Ms. Mincberg and Mr. Spiegel grew up five blocks from each other in Houston. They were only tangentially connected socially — a mutual friend here, an older sibling there. They crossed paths at some parties.

So when, in late 2017, a grown-up Mr. Spiegel texted Ms. Mincberg asking whether she would meet with him to give career advice, it was a novel blast from the past for her, but not a major reunion.

“I didn’t think anything of it,” Ms. Mincberg said. “It’s very normal in the political operative world.”

By that point, Ms. Mincberg was a seasoned political worker. Her résumé included a stint as the finance director for Kamala Harris when Ms. Harris was attorney general of California. When Mr. Spiegel texted Ms. Mincberg, she had recently returned from California to Houston, where she was working as the campaign manager for Lizzie Fletcher’s campaign for Congress. (Ms. Fletcher eventually won.)

Mr. Spiegel, who studied journalism at Boston University and returned to Houston to work with local TV news stations, had decided to pivot to politics after the 2016 election. When he texted Ms. Mincberg, he had just gotten a position as the communications director for Mike Collier, who was running for lieutenant governor of Texas in the 2018 election.

In truth, Mr. Spiegel did want Ms. Mincberg’s expertise, but he had also been admiring her from afar.

“In my mind I was trying to have an ongoing conversation that might lead to us going out on a date,” he said. “This is my way of getting around the possible rejection.”

Ms. Mincberg agreed to meet with Mr. Spiegel. Over lunch, Mr. Spiegel tried to drop signals that he was interested in getting to know Ms. Mincberg better. She didn’t notice.

“He was like, ‘We should definitely get together again,’” Ms. Mincberg said, “and I was like, ‘mmm-hmm, bye.’”

It wasn’t until some months later — and at the strong urging of mutual friends — that Mr. Spiegel actually asked Ms. Mincberg out. After that, their relationship was one fastball after another: daily phone calls, dinner dates, moving in. Mr. Spiegel proposed in 2019, the night before Thanksgiving.

Ms. Mincberg, now the district director for Representative Fletcher, and Mr. Spiegel, now the press secretary for Adrian Garcia, a county commissioner in Texas, were married Nov. 21 at the Four Seasons Hotel Houston. Cantor Francyne Davis Jacobs officiated.

It was a union that would have seemed wildly improbable in their youth, when Ms. Mincberg and Mr. Spiegel were strangers. Last year, though, Mr. Spiegel’s mother did find a heretofore unknown connection between the couple. Digging through family mementos, she uncovered a social studies project that a school-age Mr. Spiegel had done, in which he took issue with an editorial in The Houston Chronicle that endorsed the five incumbent members of the Houston Independent School District’s board of trustees, which included Ms. Mincberg’s mother.

“I feel that all but Mincberg need to be changed,” the adolescent Mr. Spiegel wrote. “I am especially concerned about the part that sixth graders are too immature to be with seventh and eight graders.”

It was a foreshadowing of Mr. Spiegel’s future political interests — and of his future loyalties.

“I wanted to throw them all out,” Mr. Spiegel said, “except for my future mother-in-law.”

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