Astros honor fallen firefighters in Arizona
HOUSTON -- With all of Major League Baseball honoring Sunday's tragic deaths of 19 Arizona firefighters before Monday's games, the moment of silence in Houston hit close to home.
During last month's Baltimore series, the Astros honored four Houston firefighters who died on May 31, and manager Bo Porter said the whole community feels Arizona's grief.
"The same thing hit us a short while ago in Houston, and it's terrible to see it happen in Arizona, too," he said. "It's one of those things with firefighters, policemen, military where it's sad that sometimes it takes a tragedy for people to realize the role and impact they play for us to live our lives freely every single day."
All seven Major League home clubs held moments of silence for the men, all but one of whom was a member of the Prescott Granite Mountain Hotshots, a group trained to combat severe wildfires.
The blaze occurred about 85 miles northwest of Phoenix near the town of Yarnell.
Two Astros players, Jake Elmore and Brett Wallace, attended college at Arizona State and were distressed by the news.
"My girlfriend [Kristen Keogh] is a reporter for Fox Sports in Phoenix, and she was here yesterday and distraught about it," Elmore said. "It's pretty sad stuff. I never had any experience with wildfires myself, but it's something you get used to hearing about, living in Phoenix. I've never seen a situation like this. It's tough to swallow."
The moment of silence lasted approximately 20 seconds, with a solemn Minute Maid Park crowd clearly aware of the recent Houston connection.
Astros catcher Jason Casto grew up in a family of firefighters, with his dad and grandfather retired but his brother still in active duty. Castro, who grew up in Castro Valley, Calif., near San Francisco, said he still remembers his family's experience with wildfires.
"It always seemed like every few years, there were big wildfires near L.A. or Southern California somewhere," he said. "Firefighters from our town would go down to help out all the time. I was always asking my dad about them and he told me why wildfires could be so much more dangerous than a structural fire. You don't forget about that.
"It's really sad to hear about the loss of so many heroes. They're doing everything they can to protect the rest of the population and sacrificing. Whenever you hear about the loss of even one, it's devastating, but 19 is tragic."