By Jose de Jesus Ortiz
The text messages, calls and get-well cards started arriving from all corners of Major League Baseball by early in the morning of April 13, less than 24 hours after beloved Houston police officer Jerry Flores suffered a devastating skull fracture in a fluke fall off the back of a golf cart.
Former Cy Young Award-winner Dallas Keuchel was one of the first to send a text, and so did the ace lefthander’s parents. Carlos Correa, the 2015 American League Rookie of the Year, sent a text too. Reid Ryan, the president of the Astros and son of the legendary Nolan Ryan, also checked in while Flores fought for his life at a Houston area hospital.
Quite simply almost every Astros player blew up Flores’ phone. His sister had his cell phone by then, and the constant text pings provided heartwarming reminders to his family that he wasn’t alone.
World Series-winning manager AJ Hinch also sent his regards privately and publicly unprompted to the media that covers the Astros. Four months later, the Astros, the baseball world, Houston sports and political leaders, and many others have continued to check in on Flores.
It’s a testament to Flores’ personality and devoted nature that the Astros are still checking on him regularly as he fights to get better in the hospital four months after his accident. It also says quite a bit about the Astros, from the top of the organization all the way down, that folks like Ryan have stopped by the Cypress-Fairbanks Medical Center to check on Flores.
The drive from Minute Maid Park to Flores’ hospital room 23 miles away can take up to an hour each way, so it’s no small gesture to make the pilgrimage to see him.
It’s not just the Astros, though.
While in Houston to call a game in July, veteran umpire Angel Hernandez drove to visit Flores one Sunday morning in July. He didn’t just visit.
He prayed at Flores’ bedside while holding his hand.
“Jerry’s support has not stopped and has not wavered,” Flores’ older sister Linda Meyer said. “Like I said, we are very appreciative.
“My little brother had many friends. We had no idea the impact he had on so many people. There are many people who reached out to us from the very beginning and still today.”
Flores, a 27-year veteran of the Houston Police department, has served as an off-duty police officer for the Astros and MLB for nearly a decade. He was part of the Astros’ police detail throughout their run to the 2017 World Series title.
Although Flores wasn’t a full-time employee of the Astros, owner Jim Crane and president of business operations Reid Ryan thought enough about his contributions to give him a World Series championships ring.
Crane presented Flores the World Series ring a week before the accident.
The bilingual Mexican American police officer also made several trips throughout Latin America as part of the MLB’s security details during the World Baseball Classic and other exhibitions.
The 5-foot-8, 165-pound Flores was blessed with the rare combination of a disarming personality and a strong commanding presence.
When Flores is with you, whether working or socially, you feel protected.
“Jerry has been great for our team and our families,” Hinch told La Vida Baseball. “He is selfless in his work and always makes sure our families are safe. We should never take for granted the great people we meet, and Jerry is one of the best.
“He puts everyone ahead of himself, which is why we need to rally around him when he needs us.”
Sure enough, Flores could use some help. His friends will hold a fundraiser benefit for him at Minute Maid Park on Aug. 23 from 11 to 4 p.m.
Every major sports franchise in Houston and some teams and players from throughout the majors have donated items that will be up for bid at a live auction during the benefit.
The Astros will be out of town on that date, but a few Texans cheerleaders and Rockets power dancers have volunteered to attend the event.
Flores is so giving and fun loving, it is not an exaggeration to say that Flores probably let a few hundred friends try on his World Series ring before the accident.
He had actually allowed friends to try on the ring a few minutes before he suffered the freak accident when he fell off a golf cart and hit the back of his head.
Flores loved to support police groups, which is why he had made an appearance at a golf tournament to support a motorcycle police group. Although the golfers were already finishing up their rounds, Flores made a late appearance to support his brethren.
That’s just the way he is.
“He just has that type of personality that he could relate to people,” said former Texas State Rep. Gerard Torres, an executive at CenterPoint Energy. “We’d go to Texans games and so many people stopped him along the way to say hi to him. It was amazing how many people knew him. All kinds of people from different backgrounds knew him. It’s incredible.”
Torres was with Flores the day of the accident, and he was among the dozens of folks who rushed to the hospital immediately after the accident.
The waiting room on April 12 was practically a Who’s Who of Houston. State Senator John Whitmire, the dean of the Texas Senate, and Houston Police chief Art Acevedo were among the people who held vigil.
Harris County Sheriff Ed Gonzalez was also in attendance. Houston Fire Chief Samuel Pena also was there. Ray Hunt, the former president of the Houston Police Union, was also at the hospital the night of the accident.
Meyer considers Hunt her rock throughout this ordeal. A few days later, Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner, Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick, State reps Carol Alvarado and Armando Walle and several Houston councilman stopped to visit Flores.
Flores, who will celebrate his 54th birthday on Aug. 24, has shown some improvements and even was moved to a rehab center briefly before returning to the Cy-Fair Medical Center.
“He’s getting a little bit better,” Meyer said of her brother. “It’s just one of those things we take some good steps forward and we have to take some backwards. I was told from the very beginning what we’ve been facing.”
Through it all, Meyer has garnered strength by the steady flow of friends who still fill her brother’s hospital room.
The Houston Police Officers Union and committee members for the benefit have been selling $15 tickets to the Aug. 23 event. The Astros have not stopped checking in on Flores.
And Meyer will never forget that Ryan was the first to offer Minute Maid Park to hold a fundraiser for Flores.
In their greatest time of need, the Flores family has found an extended and supportive family in the 2017 World Series champion Astros.
The men and families Flores protected with extreme devotion are now stepping up for him. Four months after giving him a World Series ring, the Astros are showing that he’s still part of their family.
“Jerry always brought a smile to the faces of those that work at Minute Maid Park,” Reid Ryan said. “From the players to the concession workers, everybody with the Astros knew and liked Jerry Flores.”
Featured Image: Flores family