CINCINNATI — The Mets will reprise what’s been a familiar role for the franchise through the years, traveling to Houston this weekend at the behest of the Astros, who believe playing on their home field will help begin healing a community that has been ravaged by Hurricane Harvey.
“Sports brings people together,” Mets manager Terry Collins said. “I know when it comes to tragic times, hopefully this is a little distraction for what they have to go through. So if it helps, great.”
The Astros had three home games this week moved to St. Petersburg, Florida, and had been expected to do the same for the weekend series against the Mets. But the club announced on Wednesday that they would return to their home Minute Maid Park.
Friday’s series opener has been pushed back to Saturday, when the teams will play a doubleheader ahead of Sunday’s regularly-scheduled game.
With Friday’s unexpected day off, Mets players began the process of organizing possible volunteer efforts to aid with hurricane relief.
“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 released by the Astros. “With all the difficulties that many of our citizens are facing, the games will provide an opportunity for families to start returning to some aspect of normal life.”
In the same statement, Astros team president hoped that the “welcome distraction” might “put smiles on some faces.”
In 2001, the Mets played the first game in New York following the 9/11 attacks. And last season, the Mets played the Marlins in the first game after the death of star pitcher Jose Fernandez. Now, the Mets will be the first team to visit Houston, a city still reeling from widespread flooding and devastation.
“We’re just excited to do what the Astros want to do,” Mets reliever Jerry Blevins said. “Those guys want to get home, get to Houston, bring some sunshine to the guys there, to the families. We just want to be kind of a piece of positivity going in any way we can. We understand there’s a tough situation going on. And if us playing a silly game of baseball can help in any way, then we’re definitely willing to do that.”
For Mets rookie second baseman Gavin Cecchini, playing in Houston takes on personal meaning. He grew up 90 minutes from the city in Lake Charles, La., where some family and friends have already been impacted by rising floodwaters.
Cecchini, whose immediate family is safe, has lived through natural disasters. As a sixth grader, his family was displaced for two months when Hurricane Rita left his hometown unrecognizable.
In the past, Cecchini has donated to hurricane relief efforts, such as when he gave $10,000 to charity after Hurricane Sandy while a member of the Mets’ minor-league affiliate in Brooklyn. Playing this weekend in Houston, he said, is a way of helping in the aftermath of Harvey.
Said Cecchini: “It’s definitely something good that I can bring to family and friends that have been having to go through this.”
On Wednesday, Collins called a team meeting to discuss how the team will approach the next few days, when baseball will take a back seat until the first pitch on Saturday.
“It’s terrible what’s gone on down there,” said righthander Matt Harvey, who is set to pitch the opening game of the doubleheader. “We’re just going to try to get out there and concentrate on what we can do on Friday and then try to get our heads back into a baseball game. I’m sure Houston is trying to do that as well. We’re happy to help in any way that we can.”