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Deep in the Heart of Houston

When the Mets play in Philadelphia, SNY unfailingly shows us cheesesteaks sizzling at Geno’s and Pat’s. In Miami, it’s sun worshipers and night clubbers doing the same. Cacti stand tall outside Phoenix. A Monument towers over Washington. Like its announcers, the network’s cameras take an expansive view of their environs.

I don’t know what SNY would have shown us under normal circumstances during the upcoming series in Houston. I don’t know what they’ll show us amidst the tragically abnormal circumstances that define the city after Hurricane Harvey. Unfortunately, we’ve seen plenty of Houston on other channels lately for the worst of reasons. It’s rather hard to believe they’ll be broadcasting baseball games from there this weekend. Or playing them.

Major League Baseball seems to exist to get its product played where it says it’s gonna get played. Every team is apportioned 81 home dates and does its damnedest to host 81 home dates. We sit and we wait interminably for the slightest of windows on a rainy night. When the window won’t open, clubs will squeeze square pegs into round holes to get everything in where if not when it was scheduled. Thus, when deemed necessary, the day-night doubleheader, the search for the mutual off day, and the pursuit of doing whatever must be done to assure every one of those 81 games is played in the place of business of record.

The Houston Astros are the Houston Astros. I can understand the desire to play Astros home games in Houston under even under the most difficult circumstances. I can also understand the homing instinct. When you’re kept from home, you want to go home. Everybody who was chased from their home by Hurricane Harvey couldn’t — or can’t — wait to get back home, regardless of the shape the home finds itself in. I can’t blame the Houston Astros for not wanting to be the Houston Astros temporarily of Tampa Bay [1] for one more inning than they had to be.

The post-hurricane recovery won’t go tangibly better or faster because the Mets and the Astros and however many baseball fans can make their way to Minute Maid Park [2] today, tonight and tomorrow. If there’s an emotionally comforting component [3] to be mined from Houston hosting three ballgames in two days, may it wrap all who can feel it like a dry blanket. Stand for the national anthem before the first pitch. Stomp for “Deep in the Heart of Texas [4]” in the middle of the seventh inning. Run the locomotive loaded with pumpkin-looking oranges if an Astro sends a ball over the tracks (and at least one probably will). What’s wet in the areas beyond the ballpark will still be wet. What’s damaged will still require repair. Hits and runs and strikeouts are limited in their utility. Usually they can do a person invested in a baseball game’s outcome good, depending on who’s doing the hitting, scoring and whiffing. Sometimes they’re just part of a game.

The Mets and Astros came into this world together, of course, in April of 1962. They grew up playing one another [5] and stitched a lot of mutual lore. One thread of their shared tapestry is rarely cited was created on this date in 1972, when the Mets overcame their biggest in-game deficit ever [6] in the Astrodome. New York trailed Houston, 8-0, yet won, 11-8. Within the context of what has occurred in and around Astros country, the results of the baseball games about to be played will likely feel very incidental — yet ya can’t help but root hard for a roaring Houston comeback right this very minute.

There are many ways to support the recovery efforts stemming from Hurricane Harvey. Here is one of them [7].