It’s January, and at the start of this new year, the Kingwood/Forest Cove Baseball Association (KWFCBA) fields on Forest Cove Drive off of Hamblen Road look great – a far cry from the way they looked after the devastation that Hurricane Harvey left behind.
Volunteers from The Astros Foundation came to Kingwood on their Martin Luther King, Jr. (MLK) Jan. 15 holiday to roll up their sleeves and continue to do much-needed field repairs. The volunteers said they’re continuing the Astros tradition of a day of service to commemorate MLK Day, and they’re happy to be able to get the 700 youth players in Kingwood ready to play ball.
Twila Carter, executive director of the foundation and a Kingwood resident, remembers her first call to contractors to come survey the devastation.
“We have a contractor who does all the repairs and maintenance for our field projects around the city,” Carter said. “I asked them to meet me out at the fields last fall. When the team arrived here, they couldn’t believe the devastation.”
Carter recalls one of the contractors saying, “Hey, there’s a fish up there about 25 feet high in that chain link fence.”
Indeed, unless you see it for yourself, it is hard to imagine the devastation that 20 feet of rushing water can cause. The field infrastructure was completely and utterly destroyed by the floodwaters. Huge cemented support posts were toppled like toothpicks. Bleachers were swept away, only later to be discovered in the woods nearby. A vacuum cleaner, presumably from a nearby home, was found 7 feet high, tangled in chain-link fencing.
Carter describes the Forest Cove fields as a community treasure. They’re community owned and run by the KWFCBA, which operated 15 fields in Forest Cove and Deer Ridge Park. All fields sustained significant damage due to Harvey.
“There’s no way a baseball association like this would ever have the money to repair these fields,” Carter said. She explained that the initial estimate to repair the fields was $1 million. The Astros volunteers are offsetting that expense as much as they can by putting in many hours of muckraking, painting and other arduous tasks.
The Astros Foundation, however, has vast experience repairing and maintaining fields across Houston. To date, they’ve been involved in the restoration of nearly 25 city fields, but they’d never seen anything like Kingwood.
“I’m so sorry the flood happened and the repairs were needed, but we were so happy to be able to help,” Carter said.
The Astros Foundation is the official team charity of the Houston Astros. Carter has worked for owner Jim Crane for 20 years. He purchased the team in 2011 and she joined the organization to lead the foundation in 2014. In 2011, The Astros Foundation had about $50,000. Today, under Carter’s leadership, they’ve been able to make an $18 million investment in city-owned public baseball parks all over Houston.
Carter said that immediately after Harvey, she started receiving requests for help. The foundation’s main focus areas are youth baseball, childhood cancer and the military, and she said it was heartbreaking to receive so many requests that were beyond the foundation’s capabilities.
“If we couldn’t provide help, I tried to make sure we wrote each person back to tell them why we couldn’t provide support, and to also point them in the direction of an organization that could help,” Carter said.
Carter is largely responsible for the volunteer spirit present in the Astros organization. When she took over, Astros employees didn’t consistently volunteer at any particular organization. Carter, a lifelong volunteer herself, changed that. The volunteers logged 4,000 hours in 2017 at charities such as Star of Hope, the Houston Food Bank, M.D. Anderson, and Texas Children’s Hospital.
In fact, The Astros Foundation won Major League Baseball’s 2017 Allan H. Selig Award for Philanthropic Excellence for its impact on the youth of the Greater Houston area.
The Astros Foundation raises funds through special events and celebrations featuring Astros owners, players, their wives and front office executives. In total, the foundation has committed $4 million toward recovery efforts across Houston. Together, The Astros Foundation and Forest Cove Baseball hope to be ready by March 24, the opening day for spring community baseball. The batting cages are complete and ready for pitchers and hitters. On opening day, Kingwood youth will be sporting new uniforms, also generously donated by The Astros Foundation; they’ve also provided support so that KWFCBA can reduce registration fees this spring to make it easier on local families.
“Knowing the great work that the Astros Foundation does around the Houston area, we were very excited when Twila contacted us. We are grateful for all they are doing for our community,” said Mike Jeffery, president of KWFCBA.