HOUSTON - Outside Minute Maid Park, where the Houston Astros were about to begin what would almost certainly go down as a poorly attended home stand, a long line of fans formed for a Friday night game.
Just beyond the doors stood security guards waving wands, stopping most of the attendees and asking them to raise their arms. Thus began a night at the ballpark in an era of terror.
“You know, you kinda start to think, ‘Oh-oh. What’s going to happen?’” said Aubrey Denton, a fan waiting to enter the park.
Even as Boston Police were closing in on their last living suspect in the marathon bombings, Houstonians were heading downtown for the start of a busy weekend of big events. And law enforcement authorities were taking extra precautions, not only for the Astros home stand, but also for the Houston International Festival and the start of the MS 150.
“To be honest with you, I’m always worried about a major event,” said Dennis Storemski, Houston director of Homeland Security. “That’s sort of our job to worry about it and to do everything we can to prevent it.”
Earlier in the week, Storemski said authorities would probably heighten their precautions. The Astros had clearly taken their own initiative, ordering their private security guards to use wands on fans, a procedure usually reserved for big events like the World Series.
“You know, every little event like this, you kind of have to put that added sense of security,” said James Tohill, a worker helping set up booths for the festival around City Hall. “And you never know what can happen. Anything can happen but it’s always good to have people, like, you know, look out for you.”
At the ballpark on Friday night, Carlos Pena, the Astros first baseman, was visibly shaken when he was asked what had happened in Boston. Small wonder, because he spent part of his childhood growing up there. His parents and a sister still live there.
“It gets me upset,” Pena said. “It makes us all angry. At the same time, all we can do at this moment is just pray and just trust that everything’s taken care of.”
“Whenever you have tragedy anywhere, I go to God in prayer,” said Bo Porter, the Astros’ manager. “And I will continue to pray for other people there. And I suggest that we all do the same.”
As word spread through the ballpark that Boston police had captured a suspect in the marathon bombings, some fans cheered and others chanted “USA! USA!”
Once again, baseball fans had brought their families to the ballpark, unafraid.
“No, we can’t be,” said Mike McKay, who brought his kindergarten aged boy to the game, father and son wearing matching Astros jerseys. “We have to go on and live our lives.”