Hometown on minds of MLB’s Houston natives

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“It’s a sad situation, it really is,” said Indians outfielder Jay Bruce, a native of nearby Beaumont who lived in Houston six years. “The thing that I hope everyone realizes is there are strength in numbers and the more help, the better.

“I feel a little helpless being here, not being able to do my part. I hope everyone knows that my thoughts, my family’s thoughts, are with everybody back home.”

Plenty of people felt the same way, and assistance poured in from a variety of sources. MLB and the Major League Baseball Players Association made a $1 million joint pledge to relief effort, and the Astros made a $4 million commitment.

The Astros and Rangers, who were supposed to begin a three-game series on Tuesday, will play at Tropicana Field instead, as rains continue to leave Houston paralyzed.

Cardinals first baseman Matt Carpenter grew up in the Houston suburb of Missouri City, where his dad Rick, a coach, won three state championships at Elkins High School. Carpenter committed $10,000 for every home run he hits the rest of this season.

“My wife [Mackenzie] and I called the Houston area home for most of our lives,” Carpenter wrote on Twitter, “and our hearts are hurting for those families affected by Hurricane Harvey. We are praying hard for the people of Houston.”

For Players Weekend, Nationals third baseman Anthony Rendon wore a pair of cleats with “Houston” on the back of one and the city’s skyline on the other. Rendon had planned to wear those shoes before the hurricane, but because Sunday night’s game was on ESPN, his shoes were in an appropriate spotlight.

He grew up in the city, graduated from Lamar High School and then played college baseball a few miles away at Rice University. He makes Houston his offseason home.

“I was going to do the Houston thing [with the shoes] no matter what, you know, because you’ve got to represent your hometown,” Rendon said. “Fortunately or unfortunately, the hurricane went through Houston kind of at the same exact time and so it kind of meant more.

“I’ve been calling my parents every morning to see how they’re doing and trying to get through to all of our family if they’ve heard anything. It definitely means a lot and it’s something more to play for, but knowing, like you said, it’s on national television, maybe someone will see [the shoes] and know we’re thinking about them.”

Red Sox outfielder Chris Young also grew up in the city and played for Bellaire High School, the city’s most successful program. He has been in constant contact with family and friends. His mom’s home was evacuated, and his sister lost power at her house. But everyone found shelter and safety.

“That’s all that’s really important,” Young said. “Personal belongings and stuff, that stuff is just stuff. It’s not important. As long as they’re safe and healthy and out of danger.”

Phillies rookie outfielder Nick Williams‘ hometown of Galveston was hit hard, and he too has spent a lot of the last 72 hours checking on family and friends while attempting to focus on his job.

“A lot of them are just trying to help, honestly, to help the [other] families that are stranded,” he said. “I’ve seen a lot of them with waders on, just walking through the water, trying to help in any way. It’s just sad. It’s home, around the area.”

Williams missed two months of school when Hurricane Ike ripped apart the area in 2008. This time, there was less wind, but a historic — and historically destructive — amount of rainfall that isn’t expected to end until Thursday or Friday.

“The house I lived in as a kid was destroyed by Ike,” he said. “We moved out a year before that happened, which was crazy. The house we live at now, the flooding hasn’t gotten in the house yet, but I know it’s up to the driveway.

“It is hard to grasp. I have a lot of buddies, close friends from high school that stay on part of the island and places that flood really bad, especially the outskirts. I have some buddies that are trying to help get people out of their houses and look through cars to see if anyone is trapped.”

Williams spoke for pretty much every player when he said he’d seen the area bounce back from so many other storms that he had no doubt it would bounce back from this one, too. He said that putting on a uniform and playing had helped him deal with the stress of worrying and not knowing.

The rookie outfielder said he was especially touched by photos of friends in protective gear going from home to home asking: “Can we help?” He’d seen that attitude around his hometown in years past.

“I can just pray and hope for the best, that’s the only way I can help,” Williams said.

Plenty of others were doing exactly that.

Richard Justice has been a reporter for MLB.com since 2011. Read his columns and follow him on Twitter at @RichardJustice This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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