Kenneth Shafer wanted the T-shirt as soon as he saw it.
So late Saturday morning, the 31-year-old southeastern Texas man loaded his wife, Amanda, and their 2-year-old son, Easton, into the family car and told them they were going to a ballgame to buy it.
After all, he said, it was the least he could do for his city.
Just eight days after Hurricane Harvey made landfall in Texas, wreaking havoc, death and destruction across the Gulf Coast, Shafer, sporting his new shirt, sat down and watched the Houston Astros take their home field at Minute Maid Park to play their first-post hurricane game. Across the front of the navy-blue shirt were two words: “Houston Strong.”
“I saw on the Internet I could buy it here at the game, so we came and I got it,” he said as he sat with his family two sections above home plate. “All the funds toward the shirt to help the Houston victims.”
Before the first pitch was tossed, Astros Manager A.J. Hinch addressed the crowd, welcoming the city back to its stadium.
“It’s a very special day to start the re-build process of our great city,” he said before Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner threw out the first pitch. “To the first responders, those that are here, that aren’t here, we can’t say thank you enough. We’re all very fortunate to have survived this hurricane. For those that weren’t, our hearts and thoughts are with your families.”
The Astros played the New York Mets in a double-header Saturday after the Astros organization asked the Mets if Friday’s game could be postponed so they could participate in relief efforts across Houston.
In his speech, Hinch thanked the opposing team for giving them a day off.
Photos: Astros return for first post-Harvey home game
Alberto Nieves, 32, and his 7-year-old daughter, both sported blue Mets jerseys, as they walked through the ballpark before the game started.
Neives, originally from New York, now lives in Tomball in the Houston metropolitan area, He was in Dallas with family when the storm ravaged Houston.
“We just got back yesterday because we had tickets to Friday’s game,” he said.
“I thought it would be a really packed house. Seems kind of empty but we’re here,” he said then glanced down at his daughter, who wore an Astro’s cap.
“I don’t care who wins,” the girl chimed in and then raised her eyes toward her hat brim and smiled.
Back in the stands, Shafter, who lives in Porter, a tiny community in the Houston metropolitan area, said he was proud of fans came out to support the team in the wake of the hurricane’s aftermath.
“In the beginning of the game you could tell there was more on people’s minds than baseball. You could just feel it,” he said. “But the atmosphere changed. You could just feel it. I think this ball game is good relief for everyone.”
The Astros won the first game of the day, 12-8, and the second game, 4-1.