(HOUSTON) — Faith Mata threw Sunday’s first pitch at the Houston Astros game in honor of her sister, Tess, 10, who was killed in the devastating shooting at Robb Elementary School in Uvalde in May. The fourth grader had been saving money to take her family to a game at Minute Maid Park to see her favorite player, Jose Altuve.
With tears in her eyes, the girls’ mom said the family never had the opportunity to bring Tess to a game, but she would be “so excited… She’d be jumping up and down right now,” she told ABC News.
“We wanted them to be treated like royalty,” Astros Foundation Executive Director Paula Harris told ABC News when describing what the team has dubbed “Uvalde Strong Day.” The foundation gave away thousands of tickets and sent buses to pick up 500 Uvalde residents, who either were directly affected by or responded to the tragedy, to shuttle them to Houston. When entering the city limits, the Houston Police Department escorted the buses directly to Minute Maid Park.
Jose Altuve posed for selfies with young fans, and the crowd of community members got to ask players questions and interact with them on the field. Dusty Baker, the team’s manager, said to the crowd of Uvaldeans that his hope for the day was that it would help with the healing process.
Attending with his family, Javier Cazares, the father of shooting victim Jackie Cazares, said he felt Houston’s support, was happy to be at Minute Maid and hoped for a good game. His shirt, bearing Jackie’s image with added wings and the words “Forever in our hearts,” was a stark reminder of the painful event that brought this still-healing community to Houston.
Harris told ABC News the event is the Astros saying to the Uvalde community, “You’re family. You’re neighbors. We want to do whatever we can to help you get through this process. And if it’s just a smile on a Sunday for our game, that’s what we want to do.”
When asked how Tess would be reacting to the day, her dad said, “She’s looking down on us right now, and I’m pretty sure she has a big ol’ smile.”
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