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'I Need A Break': Houstonians Escape Harvey For A Bit And Catch An Astros Game

In Houston, baseball fans welcomed back their team on Saturday. The Astros played a double-header against the New York Mets – the first games at home since Harvey slammed into the Texas Gulf Coast.

Eric Ruff’s walk toward Minute Maid Park was the kind of distraction he’d been looking forward to. The past few days have been anything but normal.

“We got hit pretty bad with floods,” he said. “My house flooded, so I pretty much been working on that three days straight and decided I need a break, so here I am.”

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

“And we’re facing a pitcher named Harvey, so we should destroy him, hopefully,” he said, laughing.

Thousands of people remain in shelters, including just down the street at the George R. Brown Convention Center.

Throughout the game, there were nods to Harvey’s impact.

Credit Stella M. Chávez / KERA News
Houston area residents spent Saturday at Minute Maid Park to catch the Houston Astros.

Houston 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. Hinch received a warm welcome.

“Hello Houston,” he told the crowd. “It’s good to be home. I wanna start out by thanking all of you for being here today. A very special day for us to start the rebuild process our great city.”

DeWayne Bailey – or D.B – is glad to 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 people questioned whether it was too soon after Harvey.

Bailey didn’t think so.

“In my opinion I don’t think it was too soon because everyone needs to get out,” he said. “Like find another outlet other than watch the news and all this sadness. Give a little happiness, a little freedom away from this sadness. Take your mind off something other than pain.”

Credit Stella M. Chávez / KERA News
Sergio Barillas and Zenaida Mendez with their 9-month-old son, Luis David. They said they went to the game to distract themselves and get out of the house -- they also wanted to support the Astros.

The Astros gave 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.

“Being here today for me is to support the city,” he said. “When I support Astros, I support my city. I’m proud to be a Houstonian. I move here four years ago and was real welcomed.”

Manzoleloua 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.

“My husband – he’s been volunteering and helping,” she said. “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.”

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.

Stella M. Chávez is KERA’s immigration/demographics reporter/blogger. Her journalism roots run deep: She spent a decade and a half in newspapers – including seven years at The Dallas Morning News, where she covered education and won the Livingston Award for National Reporting, which is given annually to the best journalists across the country under age 35.