Roughly a week after leaving Houston for what was supposed to be a three-game road trip, the Astros will return to a home town that has been ravaged by Tropical Storm Harvey and play baseball again. On Wednesday, even as rescue operations continued throughout East Texas in the wake of an unparalleled disaster, the team, the city and Major League Baseball announced the Astros would play their three-game series at Minute Maid Park this weekend, beginning with a doubleheader Saturday.
“We feel that the Astros playing this weekend will provide a much-needed boost for our city,” Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner said in a statement. “With all of the difficulties that many of our citizens are facing, the games will provide an opportunities for families to start returning to some aspect of normal life.”
The Astros, who saw this week’s three-game home series against the Texas Rangers relocated to St. Petersburg, Fla., because of the storm, will play their doubleheader against the Mets at 1 p.m. and 7 p.m. local time Saturday, then a regularly scheduled series finale on Sunday. The first game of the series was originally scheduled for Friday night, but Astros President Reid Ryan indicated the players needed some time with their families before playing baseball again.
“Our players are human beings first and foremost,” Ryan said in a statement. “They have been away from their families and neighborhoods during this time of need. We want them to reunite with their families. They also know the role they play in providing hope and encouragement to our entire community — they are proud to represent Houston.”
The Astros’ current journey began in Anaheim, Calif., where they played a three-game series against the Angels over the weekend. With Houston inaccessible, they diverted to Dallas on Sunday, awaiting word of where their next series would be played. After some discussions with the Rangers about playing the series at their home stadium in Arlington, Tex., MLB announced they would play it at Tropicana Field in St. Petersburg, Fla., the home of the Tampa Bay Rays. The Astros, who currently hold the American League’s best record, lost the first game of that series, 12-2, on Tuesday night in front of a crowd of just 3,485.
At the time of Monday’s announcement, officials suggested the Mets series would also likely be played at Tropicana Field, given the extent of the disaster in Houston. But by midweek, it became clear Minute Maid Park in Houston was largely untouched by the devastation associated with Harvey, and the decision was made to let the Astros return home.
At 3:18 p.m. Wednesday, Ryan tweeted a picture of the stadium, appearing pristine under partly cloudy skies, with the words, “View from my office today. Minute Maid is ready. Astros return Saturday. We are accepting donations at the gates for victims.”
The team also announced it would be providing 5,000 free tickets to first responders, volunteers and evacuees.
“We are grateful to Mayor Turner, to Major League Baseball and to the New York Mets for working with us to make this happen,” Astros owner Jim Crane said in a statement. “It will be great to get our team back home to their families and in front of our fans.”
After this weekend’s series, the Astros will return to the road for a 10-game west coast swing beginning Monday in Seattle.