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Houston Astros Play First Home Games Since Harvey

Sep 3, 2017
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LULU GARCIA-NAVARRO, HOST:

There was a tiny reprieve for Harvey victims yesterday as baseball fans welcomed back their team. The Astros played a doubleheader against the New York Mets - the first game at home since Harvey slammed into the Texas Gulf Coast. From member station KERA, Stella Chavez reports.

STELLA CHAVEZ, BYLINE: Eric Ruff's walk toward Minute Maid Park was the kind of distraction he's been looking forward to. The past few days have been anything but normal.

ERIC RUFF: We got hit pretty bad with floods. My house flooded. So I've pretty much been working on that three days straight and decided I needed a break. So here I am.

CHAVEZ: Ruff says going to a baseball game after the devastation caused by Hurricane Harvey is what the city needed.

RUFF: And we're facing a pitcher named Harvey. So we should destroy him, hopefully (laughter).

CHAVEZ: Thousands of people remain in shelters, including just down the street at the convention center. Throughout the game, there were nods to Harvey's impact. Mayor Sylvester Turner threw the ceremonial first pitch. First responders stood on the field and were recognized. And there was a moment of silence. Astros manager A. J. Hinche received a warm welcome.

A. J. HINCH: Hello, Houston. It's good to be home.

(APPLAUSE)

HINCH: I want to start out by thanking all of you for being here today - a very special day for us to start the rebuild process of our great city.

UNIDENTIFIED MAN: Roasted peanuts, roasted peanuts.

CHAVEZ: DeWayne Bailey, or D.B., is glad to be back at his job walking up and down the stands, hawking Margaritas and roasted peanuts. While many people were happy to be at the game, some questioned whether it was too soon after Harvey. Bailey didn't think so.

DEWAYNE BAILEY: Everybody needs to get out and, like, find another outlet other than having to watch the news and all this sadness. Take your mind off of something other than pain, you know?

CHAVEZ: The Astros give away 5,000 tickets to evacuees, first responders and volunteers. Cedric Manzoleloua scored a free ticket. He was there volunteering for a food drive for the Astros foundation.

CEDRIC MANZOLELOUA: Being here today is, for me, to support the city. When I support Astro, I support my city. I'm proud to be a Houstonian. I moved here four years ago, and I was really well welcomed.

CHAVEZ: Manzeleluoa moved to Houston from Congo. He says his house wasn't flooded, but his street was. The storm was scary. And he prayed a lot. Annette Herrera was at the game with her three kids.

ANNETTE HERRERA: My husband, I mean, he's been volunteering and helping. And somebody gave him the tickets. He's still out there helping. So I just brought the kids to get them out of the house because, you know, they've been stuck in the house.

CHAVEZ: For the Herrera family, the payoff was more than just an escape from home. The Astros beat the Mets and the starting pitcher named Harvey. For NPR News, I'm Stella Chavez in Houston.

UNIDENTIFIED SINGER: (Singing) Deep in the heart of Texas. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.