Tornado tragedy resonates throughout big leagues
Players from damaged Oklahoma area pledge their support for victims
Baseball once again found itself mourning tragedy in the real world on Monday, when a devastating tornado ripped apart Moore, Okla., and took the lives of at least 24 people.
People throughout the ranks of the big leagues were shocked and grief-stricken by the images they saw on clubhouse televisions or from their homes or on the road. Some grew up near the suburb of Oklahoma City, some played or coached at colleges or on Minor League teams not far from where the horrifying twister hit, and many reacted to the devastation and its impact on humanity.
Mets starting pitcher Jeremy Hefner grew up in the area and went to one of the elementary schools in Moore that was basically ruined. He has family still living in the town. The Mets informed him of the situation, taking him aside during batting practice before their game against Cincinnati at Citi Field. Hefner waited for several hours by his locker, according to the Mets radio broadcast, to find out about his family's well-being, and eventually he learned that everyone was OK.
That was not the case for many in Moore, however, and Hefner took to Twitter to address it.
First Hefner (@jeremy_hefner53) tweeted, "My thoughts and prayers are with everyone back home. I attended one of the schools that was hit. Wish I was there to help."
My thoughts and prayers are with everyone back home.. I attended one of the schools that was hit.. Wish I was there to help.- Jeremy Hefner (@jeremy_hefner53) May 20, 2013
Then he wrote, "Oklahoma is a special place with very special people. Please keep them in your prayers." And finally, he linked to www.okdisasterhelp.com and wrote, "If you feel led to give, 100% goes to affected areas."
Dodgers center fielder Matt Kemp, who grew up about 15 miles from Moore in Midwest City, Okla., hit a home run in his Monday game against the Milwaukee Brewers and immediately used it as a vehicle to help the victims of the twister.
Kemp (@TheRealMattKemp) tweeted, "I'm giving $1000 for tonight's HR and every HR until the All-Star break for the victims of my hometown in OKC. #PrayforOklahoma."
I'm giving $1000 for tonight's HR and every HR until the All-Star break for the victims of my hometown in OKC. #PrayforOklahoma- Matt Kemp (@TheRealMattKemp) May 21, 2013
A.J. Hinch, Padres vice president and assistant general manager and former big league player and skipper, also grew up in Midwest City. On Monday, his mother, Becky, was put on lockdown at her work near Moore.
"She texted me and told me she was being locked in a building," Hinch said by phone on Monday from Omaha, Neb., where the Padres' Triple-A Tucson affiliate was playing.
Becky Hinch now lives in Oklahoma City, and Hinch's sister and her family still live in Midwest City. A.J.'s brother-in-law, Robert Wages, captured video of the tornado on his cellphone.
"You can hear his voice in the video saying, 'Let's get out of here,'" A.J. Hinch said.
Hinch's sister, Angie Wages, is a teacher in Midwest City. Many of the victims of the tornado on Monday were children, according to reports.
"It hits home for me, the father of two girls," A.J. Hinch said. "That's heartbreaking to hear the stories that are coming out of there. I feel sorry for everyone. … This time of year [in that area], late spring, early summer … you're never numb to it."
Red Sox manager John Farrell, who played and coached at Oklahoma State, saw clips of what was going on while his team got ready for their game against the White Sox.
"Yeah, it's a tragedy when you see a national disaster like that take place," Farrell said. "People are certainly affected -- if not directly by injury or possibly by loss of life."
Farrell said the tornado brought back memories of a similar one in 1999.
"It's a scary situation," Farrell said. "Our thoughts are with all the people affected."
White Sox manager Robin Ventura also played his college ball at Oklahoma State.
"We had a couple of them when I was at school. It's scary," Ventura said. "I was from California, so I didn't know anything about it. I think '99 was the last one and it hit the same area. It's scary and there's nothing you can do about it."
From a logistical standpoint, it remains to be seen how the baseball teams around the area will be affected. The Triple-A affiliate for the Houston Astros is located in Oklahoma City, but the team is currently on the road in Fresno. The Big 12 Championship is scheduled to be held in Oklahoma City beginning Wednesday.
Pitcher Daniel McCutchen, a former big leaguer who went to high school in Norman, Okla., and also pitched at and graduated from the University of Oklahoma, which is in Norman, is with the Triple-A Norfolk affiliate of the Baltimore Orioles, and he, too, reacted on Twitter (@DanielMcCutchen), writing, "Praying for all my family and friends in Moore, Oklahoma."
Praying for all my family and friends in Moore Oklahoma.- Daniel McCutchen (@DanielMcCutchen) May 20, 2013
The D-backs' top prospect, pitcher Archie Bradley, was born in Muskogee, Okla., and went to high school in Broken Arrow. He was drafted by Arizona out of high school with the No. 7 overall pick in 2011.
He weighed in on Twitter (@ArchieBradley7), tweeting, "Everyone please pray for the people of Oklahoma right now! Big tornados on the ground tearing through my home state! #prayersforOK."
Everyone please pray for the people of Oklahoma right now! Big tornados on the ground tearing through my home state! #prayersforOK- Archie Bradley (@ArchieBradley7) May 20, 2013
He later offered his help to raise funds with an online auction: "For those awake, over the next few days I'm going to be auctioning off game used items and donating the money to help family's in Oklahoma."
For those awake, over the next few days I'm going to be auctioning off game used items and donating the money to help family's in Oklahoma- Archie Bradley (@ArchieBradley7) May 21, 2013