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Mets to help with Hurricane Harvey relief efforts

MLB.com @AnthonyDiComo

CINCINNATI -- Upon learning that the Mets would play in Houston this weekend, joining the Astros for the first games at Minute Maid Park since Hurricane Harvey made landfall, reliever Jerry Blevins began polling teammates to see if they would help relief efforts in the city.

"Pretty much everyone I talked to was like, 'Yeah, I want to do something,'" Blevins said. "We've got a good group of guys here that want to help out some fellow Americans in need."

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CINCINNATI -- Upon learning that the Mets would play in Houston this weekend, joining the Astros for the first games at Minute Maid Park since Hurricane Harvey made landfall, reliever Jerry Blevins began polling teammates to see if they would help relief efforts in the city.

"Pretty much everyone I talked to was like, 'Yeah, I want to do something,'" Blevins said. "We've got a good group of guys here that want to help out some fellow Americans in need."

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The Mets were still working out the details of their volunteer work on Wednesday. But with a flight itinerary that touches them down late Thursday in Texas, the Mets will have all day Friday to help in the community, before reporting to Minute Maid Park for a split doubleheader against the Astros on Saturday.

"It's been terrible what's gone on down there," said pitcher Matt Harvey, who will come off the disabled list to start Game 1 of the doubleheader. "We're just going to go down there and concentrate on what we can do to help on Friday, and then try to get our heads back in a baseball game. I'm sure Houston's trying to do that as well. We're happy to help any way we can."

Tweet from @Mets: Do it #ForHouston! Join MLB & help those affected by #HurricaneHarvey, donate to the @RedCross ������ https://t.co/3BWLOSsETR #HoustonStrong pic.twitter.com/aO5Sh3UOSX

Though no one on the Mets' active roster is from the immediate Houston area, plenty have connections to the city. Yet none understand the situation as well as infielder Gavin Cecchini, who had to evacuate his Lake Charles, La., home for two months in 2005 in the wake of Hurricane Rita. Cecchini can still vividly recall returning to his hometown for the first time after that storm.

"It didn't look like my city anymore," he said. "Houses were completely demolished to the concrete. The high school that I went to, the baseball field, the stands weren't even there. Walls weren't even up. Trees were just splitting houses. There was no food. There was nothing. The people had absolutely nothing. It was an experience that I'll never forget."

Selfishly, Cecchini said, he is glad the Mets are playing in Houston this weekend. Lake Charles was also affected by Hurricane Harvey, and Cecchini wants to give his family members and friends a distraction from the realities of recovering and rebuilding. He hopes many of them will be able to make the approximately 90-minute drive to Houston for the games.

"I've got a lot of friends that a lot of their stuff is being flooded," Cecchini said. "I know people that their houses are pretty much underwater, like they can't see sofas or anything like that. All you can do is just pray, and hope for the best, and try to do everything you can to be safe."

Mets manager Terry Collins, who lived in Houston while managing the Astros from 1994-96, noted that "sports brings people together" in the wake of tragedy. It was just last year that the Mets played the first game in Miami following Jose Fernandez's death, a somber experience they won't soon forget. The Mets also played in the first game in New York following the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, providing joy when Mike Piazza hit a go-ahead homer. Four days later, Collins -- then a Rays coach -- traveled to the Bronx for the first games at Yankee Stadium.

This weekend, his Mets will again do what they can to help a community in need.

"When it comes to a tragic time, hopefully this is a little distraction from what they have to go through," Collins said. "If it helps, great."

Anthony DiComo has covered the Mets for MLB.com since 2008. Follow him on Twitter @AnthonyDiComo and Facebook.

New York Mets, Jerry Blevins, Garin Cecchini