ST. PETERSBURG -- Manager A.J. Hinch gathered his players about an hour before stretch Wednesday to deliver some welcome news: The Astros are going home.They'll have to finish off their three-game series against the Rangers at Tropicana Field before they can return to Houston, but this weekend's three-game series against
ST. PETERSBURG -- Manager A.J. Hinch gathered his players about an hour before stretch Wednesday to deliver some welcome news: The Astros are going home.
They'll have to finish off their three-game series against the Rangers at Tropicana Field before they can return to Houston, but this weekend's three-game series against the Mets will be played at Minute Maid Park, something that seemed highly unlikely only 24 hours earlier.
"To be able to go home tomorrow night, to know that we're going to be able to get to the majority of our houses and see our families, it's really, really good news for us," Hinch said. "I'm happy that the city, the mayor, our organization, the Mets, everybody had to cooperate to make this happen. I was able to deliver really good news to a group of men that are anxious to get home."
The Astros will return to Houston following Thursday afternoon's game in St. Petersburg, then have Friday off to spend time with their families, many of whom have been dealing with damage to their homes due to Hurricane Harvey.
The Mets and Astros will play a split doubleheader Saturday (1:10 p.m. and 7:10 p.m. CT), then finish the series Sunday with the regularly scheduled 1:10 p.m. CT game.
"The goal is to get all of our games in, but this team, this city needs a day to gather our thoughts, to clear our minds," George Springer said. "We've had a lot on our minds. It will be great to get home and to finally be where everybody has been the last five days. We were very fortunate to not be close to there. We don't know exactly what it is that we're coming home to, but we're coming home."
"I think [Friday] will be a day that will fly by because of all that goes into it," Hinch said. "The non-game day, it's smart, it's the right thing to do. It will be good for our players. It will be good for our city. Everybody needs as many days as we can to start the rebuild process."
The team was on a brief, three-day trip to Anaheim when the Category 4 storm bludgeoned the city of Houston, preventing the Astros from returning home Sunday night. Following a one-day layover in Dallas, they arrived in the Tampa/St. Pete area Monday night to play the series against the Rangers at Tropicana Field.
While it seemed like a foregone conclusion that the Mets series would also be played in Florida, the Astros, Mets, Major League Baseball and the city of Houston decided Wednesday that the three-game set could be held in Houston beginning Saturday.
"Our attention is still going to be centered around the city and all the devastation that's going on," Hinch said. "If we can provide any sort of relief or any sort of escape or any part of a distraction away from what's going on, that's going to be a part of it. I know there will be a warm welcome, and our fans that can make it to the ballpark will come and root us on.
"It will be emotional because we get to go home. You never know how much home means to you until you're not allowed to go home. We've been out for a few days, not being able to lend the hands that we'll be able to lend this weekend."
In addition to tending to their own families and friends, several Astros players plan to inquire about what else they can do to assist the city.
"Player by player, it was, 'Hey, I've got an extra room' or 'I've got an extra bed' or 'I've got a floor you can sleep on,'" Hinch said. "This group will stay together and help each other, then we'll band together and help as many Houstonians as we can."
"Knowing what they've been going through, it's going to be good for us to get back and help out around the community," Alex Bregman said. "We have a huge platform and we need to take advantage of it when we get back by helping people."
Nobody knows exactly what to expect Saturday when the ballpark opens, but Springer believes he and his teammates can help bring the community together as Houston begins its long road to recovery.
"I assume it will be kind of happy; there will be a lot of mixed emotions," Springer said. "The city just endured a tragedy. This is a lot more than a baseball game just like [Houston Texans player] J.J. Watt said it's a lot more than a football game. It's our job to get home and help, do whatever it is that we can, then try to go play a game. We're going to go play hard for the city."
Mark Feinsand is an executive reporter for MLB.com and covered the Astros on Wednesday.