Kids and military heroes. This is why we caravan.
Caravans traditionally are designed to reach out to fans in and around the Houston area, to get people excited about the season and introduce them to a few players who they might see in uniform in the coming months.
But so often, caravan visits engage people who have no idea who these players are, who have never been to a baseball game and don’t have many opportunities to watch them on TV.
Those are the visits that are often the most meaningful, as the Astros traveling party quickly discovered Tuesday evening when they stopped by the Helping Hand Home for Children in Austin.
Armed with 24 large pizzas and four two-liters of Sprite, the caravaners — Chris Johnson, Clint Barmes, Brett Wallace and Bill Brown – walked into a room filled with enthusiastic kids who, on the outside, looked like your typical four to 13-year-olds: chatty, wide-eyed, curious.
These kids are anything but typical, however. They come from homes where they were severely abused, or neglected, or both. They were taken out of their homes by the court system and in some cases, the parental rights were completely terminated. In other cases, there’s hope for a reunion with a family member, or a foster family.
But for now — months, or sometimes, years — their place of residence is the Helping Hand Home for Children. And on Tuesday, they partied in style, with four choices of pizza not only provided by the Astros, but served by them as well. As far as I could tell, the players didn’t mess up a single order.
Following dinner, it was playtime. Johnson engaged a bunch of kids in an intense round of Operation, while Wallace went toe-to-toe with a friendly seven-year-old in a game of Jenga. I sat down next to Wallace to watch the game, and the kid looks at Brett, looks at me, and says, “Are you his mother?”
We were asked not to take any pictures of the kids, for privacy/safety reasons. So we had to get a little creative:
CJ, playing Operator with the kids:
Barmes, holding the various forms of origami given to us by one talented kid:
Another youngster asked if he could take a picture with my camera, and as it turns out, it’s one of the few I could use for this blog:
More presents from the kids:
Earlier in the day, we visited Camp Mabry personnel at the Texas Military Forces Museum. The Astros had a meet and greet with Army National Guard, Texas Air National Guard, Texas State Guard and Army and Marine Reserves: