Members of the Astros, returning to Houston after playing three “home games” in Florida, spent part of Friday afternoon at the George R. Brown Convention Center to mingle with Hurricane Harvey evacuees.
Sixteen members of the major-league baseball team and manager A.J. Hinch gave comfort to victims of the storm in what city officials hope is a march toward recovery, the Houston Chronicle reported.
Jose Altuve danced with a volunteer, while Jake Marisnick posed for photos with SpongeBob SquarePants, Tickle Me Elmo and a Disney princess.
“This is just the first day,” Hinch told the Chronicle. “People are going to need our help a month from now, six months from now, maybe a year from now, to help rebuild this city. This is a non-game day. It's not an off-day. It is our human obligation to make another person smile today.”
The Astros were back in town after playing a three-game series against the Texas Rangers at Tropicana Field in St. Petersburg, Florida. Houston prevented a series sweep with a 5-1 victory against the Rangers on Thursday. They open a three-game series against the New York Mets with a day-night doubleheader on Saturday.
The convention center near Minute Maid Park was a natural rallying point for players.
"The only way to rebuild is to start, and part of the rebuilding process is Houston Astros baseball," Hinch told the Chronicle.
Members of the Astros and some of their families were joined at the convention center by team president for business operations Ryan Reid, broadcaster Geoff Blum, and team mascot Orbit.
“I thought we might have five or six guys,” Ryan told the Chronicle. “But it filled my heart with joy to see the kind of people we have on this team, to see the way they connected with the people here and to hear them sharing stories and having people cry in front of you. It's gut-wrenching. It's a roller coaster.”
Altuve is donating $30,000 plus $25,000 in shoes to victims of the hurricane, the Chronicle reported.
"I feel like I owe Houston something, all they have done for me," Altuve told reporters. "Now it's my time to show up and help people."
The Astros have donated 5,000 tickets to each game to the mayor's office for distribution to evacuees, volunteers, and first responders.