HOUSTON -- Aluminum bats clanked against softballs in the heat of Settegast Park in east Houston Saturday afternoon, as two teams of teenage girls took to the field in a game supervised by a few sweating grown-ups.
Gary Guzman, coaching the Big Dawgs from Reagan High School, patiently advised his players on improving their batting stances and following through on their swings. But on this day, every time his girls left the field at the end of an inning, he offered another important piece of advice.
“We’re drinking water,” he said. “Gatorade. Lotta water and Gatorade. Staying in the shade when we’re not playing.”
Girls running into the dugouts grabbed bottles of water. Smart teenagers daubed ice cubes behind their ears. Fans cowered beneath coverings and behind poles offering slivers of shade.
“It feels like 103 in the sun right there,” said Guadalupe Martinez, who brought a small container stuffed full of ice and soft drinks. “I had to move into the shade.”
As Houston’s official temperature soared toward an all-time record, people venturing into the heat Saturday afternoon took extra precautions. Parents limited the amount of time their children spent outdoors. Snow cone vendors at city parks greeted lines of customers. And park visitors crowded beneath trees, seeking shade.
The thermometers at Bush Intercontinental Airport registered 107 degrees, just two degrees shy of the highest temperature ever recorded in Houston by the National Weather Service.
But there’s little doubt the temperatures rose even higher in some parts of a city that lost much of its natural canopy of trees during last year’s drought.
As her son splashed around the sprayground in Settegast Park, Leticia Casarez yelled a warning that he shouldn’t drink the water spewing from the fountains. She was monitoring how much time he had spent outdoors.
“We’ll only stay out here for 10 or 15 minutes and then we’ll go in, because he’ll come and tell me, ‘I’m hot, Mom.’” she said. “So we’ll leave.”
The always popular fountains at Discovery Green in downtown Houston were especially crowded with children splashing through the water to stay cool. Greg Malivers watched as his niece Asha ran around in the water with dozens of other children.
“Hey, I’m glad they have this out here, because when it’s 104 degrees in Houston you need somewhere to cool off,” she said. “She’s enjoying herself. She’s getting to run through all these water parks, but I’ll tell you, if they didn’t have all this, I don’t know what we’d be able to do.”