WASHINGTON (AFP) – Two months after Hurricane Harvey devastated Southeast Texas with record rainfall and widespread flooding, the Houston Astros captured an emotional World Series crown to help uplift the spirit of storm-ravaged residents.
The Astros defeated the Los Angeles Dodgers 4-3 in Major League Baseball’s best-of-seven championship final, a roller-coaster series in which the Astros won 5-1 in game seven, ripping Japanese standout Yu Darvish for a second time to claim the crown.
“When there’s so much devastation and in particular in Houston… it makes it feel like your home had been devastated and that’s what we had talked about playing for after everything,” Astros pitcher Dallas Keuchel said.
The storm struck in August when the Astros were on the road, forcing one series to be shifted to Florida while Houston residents struggled, many of them seeing their homes destroyed.
“At that point when we couldn’t come back home to help out in any way possible,” Keuchel said. “That’s when we said, ‘Hey, we’re going to finish this season for all of Houston and everybody who has been affected.’”
Astros players went into the playoffs with jersey patches bearing the slogan “Houston Strong” to underscore their solidarity.
“That patch on our chest truly does mean a lot to us,” said World Series MVP George Springer said. “I’m happy for our fans who’ve endured a lot.”
The city’s anguish was never far from the players, photos and keepsakes in player lockers a reminder of those who lost everything to the raging floods.
“We just wanted to show the city how much we love them and care about them,” pitcher Lance McCullers Jnr said. “It kind of became something that we rallied around. We still have pictures in our lockers.
“It’s still something we think about because people here are hard-working people and they went through something that a lot of people can’t understand. A lot of people lost everything. So for us to be able to just play baseball for a couple of hours and for those people to be able to have a little bit of joy, to get away from what they are having to go through – it’s pretty special to be able to give that to them.”
The team’s first major league crown came in its 56th season since being founded in 1962 and produced a celebration parade that brought 500,000 people to downtown Houston.
“We took pride in being there for Houston. They responded by falling in love with this team,” Astros coach A.J. Hinch said.
Jose Altuve dedicated the win to the Houston fans, saying, “We did this for them. I know there has been a lot going on in Houston but they are the biggest reason why we’re here.”
“We got hit hard,” Astros owner Jim Crane said. “Everyone was behind us and the team really picked up on it. We’re just so happy.”
“We were able to accomplish the dream,” said Houston’s Carlos Correa, whose thoughts were also with hurricane victims in his native Puerto Rico. “To be able to bring joy to their lives is special in this moment.”