HOUSTON (AP) — Jose Altuve smiled as he watched a group of children who were victims of Hurricane Harvey trying unsuccessfully to score a goal in a soccer game against Orbit, the Houston Astros’ furry mascot.
Houston’s All-Star second baseman should have been just yards down the road on Friday, preparing to start a series against the New York Mets, but widespread flooding in the wake of the storm pushed the start of the series to Saturday. Altuve and about half of the Astros spent a chunk of their day off at a shelter at the George R. Brown Convention Center, trying to spread cheer to those who lost it all in the storm.
“We need to do everything we can to help,” said manager A.J. Hinch, who brought his wife and two daughters. “It’s our humane obligation to make another person smile today.”
The Astros returned to Houston on Thursday night after their scheduled home series against the Texas Rangers was moved to Tropicana Field in St. Petersburg, Florida, because of the storm. There was talk of playing the series against the Mets there, too, but Houston mayor Sylvester Turner wanted the team back this weekend as the city begins the long road to recovery.
The AL West leaders will play the first professional sporting events in Houston since it was ravaged by the storm with a doubleheader on Saturday, hoping to provide a few hours of distraction at the end of a terrible week.
“It’s going to be emotional for sure,” catcher Brian McCann said. “I think it will only bring everyone closer together. What this city’s gone through is devastating and we want … for three hours for people to not have to think about their tragedies as much and put a smile on people’s faces.”
The Astros did plenty of that on Friday at the convention center, which is the city’s main shelter, housing more than 9,000 people according to the Red Cross. They posed for pictures with first responders, played with children and even helped victims pick out groceries and other supplies at a makeshift Wal-Mart on the premises. Pitchers Collin McHugh, Brad Peacock, Charlie Morton, Joe Musgrove, Tony Sipp and Chris Devenski, infielder Marwin Gonzalez and outfielders Jake Marisnick, Derek Fisher and Josh Reddick joined Altuve and McCann in the visit that lasted more than 90 minutes.
“We know we’re entertainers. That’s what we’re there for,” McHugh said. “We’re nothing without the fans. We’re nothing without the community so we want to help. We…