Thursday, December 14, 2017
Tampa Bay Rays

Astros are in St. Petersburg, minds are on suffering hometown

ST. PETERSBURG — It is the image of the senior citizens sitting with water above their waists that haunts Astros manager A.J. Hinch. And the photos of mothers with babies in their arms being rescued from the flood waters in and around the Houston area that Hinch cannot shake, even as he readied his team Tuesday for a baseball game.

"That's real," Hinch said. "It's just not a good feeling to know that we can't do anything about it from here. We want to hope and pray that things are going to get better."

Hinch sat in the visitor's dugout at Tropicana Field. His Astros were hours away from playing the Rangers in the first game of a three-game set moved from Houston to St. Petersburg because of the devastating flooding this week from Hurricane Harvey.

"None of this baseball stuff matters," Hinch said. "None of our comfort, where we are in the country, who we're playing, where we're playing, none of this matters. What matters is the people back home."

Major League Baseball asked the Rays on Sunday night if they could host the Astros-Rangers series and, if the situation in Houston does not improve, the Astros' weekend series against the Mets.

The decision was made at 2 p.m. Monday. Both teams flew in from Dallas, where both had flown after completing weekend series on the West Coast.

There was some controversy about moving the series to the Trop, especially when it could have been played in Arlington. But the teams could not work out the logistics of keeping the series in-state, so the Trop became the Astros' home-away-from-home even though they wore gray road pants and batting practice jerseys.

Tickets for the games are $10, and proceeds go to the Hurricane Harvey Relief Fund. Tuesday's attendance was 3,485.

Concern for their loved ones and all those struggling to deal with the hurricane overtook any resentment for having to spend what will likely be six days in the bay area.

"We have a job to do, but at the same time it's family first, and in this situation it's really tough to put your mind on baseball," Astros lefty Dallas Keuchel, who pitches tonight, said.

Astros shortstop Alex Bregman said the talk on the team bus ride to the Trop was about those still in harm's way.

"We see all the people helping, and we wish we can be doing the same thing," he said.

Hinch talked of seeing pictures of friends driving their newly purchased motorboat through the flood waters to rescue people who climbed trees for safety. They are not firemen or policemen. They are neighbors helping neighbors.

"Those stories, those images, the pictures of people carrying babies across flooded streets," Hinch said. "To be honest with you, I wish I was one of those guys carrying a baby. I wish I could help somebody right now."

     
                                                     
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