Astros players, staff bring smiles to shelter

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“It just shows you the quality human beings we have on this team,” Astros president Reid Ryan said. “Teams that are really good always have something special, and the camaraderie we have on this team shows in the way that these guys have chosen on their off-day to be coming over here and working with people they don’t even know.”

The Astros, at the request of Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner, returned home Thursday after playing three “home” games — moved from Minute Maid Park in the wake of Harvey — against the Rangers in St. Petersburg. Turner will throw out the ceremonial first pitch prior to Saturday’s first game before Sunday’s series finale ends a short homestand.

The Astros are donating 5,000 tickets to each of the three games this weekend to the mayor’s office for first responders, volunteers and evacuees currently housed in shelters like George R. Brown.

“The volunteers and the first responders and the people that have been here all week have done an amazing job,” pitcher Collin McHugh said. “It’s well organized, there’s families and kids everywhere. Obviously, nobody wants to see people displaced like this. To see the community come together and pull off something like this on such a big scale is really impressive.”

Relief pitcher Joe Musgrove carried around a white cleat, and he was having evacuees sign it. He plans to wear the shoe this weekend. All-Star second baseman Jose Altuve said he will donate $25,000 in gear to be given away to those in need. He and his wife will also contribute $30,000 to help rebuild homes lost in the flood.

“I feel like I owe Houston something,” Altuve said.

As the Astros spent time hanging out with kids, passing out clothes and serving meals, smiles abounded. Many in the shelter weren’t exactly sure who some of the players were, but it didn’t matter. Their days were brightened.

“I’m thankful the city has a place where people can go,” Astros manager A.J. Hinch said. “I’m sad that people have to spend time here because of the devastation. I’m overwhelmed by just the spirit of people playing games with kids to going down to serve food. There’s so many people that want to help and so many people that need the help. It’s an amazing community to be able to go through this together.”

Veteran infielder/outfielder Marwin Gonzalez, who was with his daughter, said it didn’t feel good playing three home games in Florida while the city was underwater. Returning home and helping those in need was therapeutic.

“All they need is support as much as they can,” Gonzalez said. We feel really good to be here, and on the other part, we’re sad to see all these people in this situation. We got a few smiles out of people, and that’s the most important thing.”

Brian McTaggart has covered the Astros since 2004, and for since 2009. Follow @brianmctaggart on Twitter. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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