The Times West Virginian

Sports

May 21, 2013

HERTZEL COLUMN- Catastrophes make you stop and think

MORGANTOWN — The scenes have been gruesome, devastation everywhere, words flowing from the mouths of reporters that are as difficult to comprehend as are the images on the eyes.

The Oklahoma City area has been flattened by tornadoes, spinning funnels of death two miles wide reaching into the sky, removing whatever it is that is in its path, be it a stable filled with horses or a schoolhouse filled with children, innocent and frightened, trapped in the debris with heroic teachers laying atop the little ones, putting their own lives at risk for those lives of the children.

This, of course, is in Oklahoma, “Tornado Alley,” as it were. It is another world from our own in West Virginia, except that the reshaping of the world of collegiate sports has somehow placed the Mountaineer baseball team, which has had a tornado of a season of its own this year, in the midst of this disaster.

It was that on their minds when the tornado sirens started screeching, offering warning of the oncoming tornadoes but giving no hint if they would be upon the team itself.

Luckily, the storms slid by a few miles away, but the horrific nature of the destruction sprung them into action. Too often, in this world that is our own, our athletes are spoiled and self-centered, privileged in a world where maybe there are more important things than how hard you can throw a baseball or how fast you can run or how high you can jump.

This baseball team at West Virginia, though, is a special group, for they gathered together not before video of the Kansas pitcher they will face in the Big 12 Tournament, but to get on a team bus and drive into the area of destruction and offer their services for rescue.

That their offer to help was turned down did not detract from the genuine feelings they put forth for grade school kids buried in the rubble of an elementary school that was leveled or to do whatever it was they could at a time when lives as much as buildings were in ruins.

“As we are sitting here watching the devastation and trying to talk to the police in Moore (Okla.), the latest word is don’t come right now,” Coach Randy Mazey said on the radio. “There are so many families trying to come in that everything is blocked. We told them our team is on call if they need us.”

If you haven’t been involved in anything like this, it is difficult to imagine the magnitude.

“There’s so many suffering,” Mazey said. “You guys are not seeing what we are seeing.”

As someone who has seen such destruction and devastation, who has seen such suffering, let me say that it can’t do anything but eat at your heart.

On Oct. 17, 1989, I was among the thousands in Candlestick Park when the San Francisco earthquake hit, when the ground shook at 7.1 on the Richter scale. While it lasted only 15 seconds, it seemed like an eternity tucked under a desk in the stadium’s press area as the San Francisco Marina district, built on landfill, and the Nimitz Freeway were broken apart.

Sixty people died, and for the next couple of days were out among the injured and the homeless, toilets unable to flush, aftershocks leaving you grabbing for something sturdy, broken glass falling out of the windows of skyscrapers throughout the nights.

And if that were not enough for an itinerant sports writer, there was the day he had arrived in Montreal while traveling with the Cincinnati Reds, only to be awakened from a midafternoon nap by a phone call from a hysterical wife, screaming into the phone, “Bob, we just got hit by a tornado. I’ve got to go. The firemen are taking the kids away.”

And she hung up the phone. After getting my head together, I made plans to come home as soon as I could, an airline strike making it impossible to get out for a couple of days, but I did change rooms, room No. 1313 having proved to be hardly a lucky room.

As it was, the children were not injured, the imploding glass shards going over their heads as they played on the floor and them not being near the car that wound up upside down atop another car.

Those two events, however, were far more significant than sporting moments I ever covered, and it is why the reaction to this disaster of the WVU baseball team is hundreds of times more meaningful than any on-field heroics its athletic teams have been involved in.

Email Bob Hertzel at bhertzel@hotmail.com or follow him on Twitter @bhertzel.

1
Text Only
Sports
  • COLUMN: Extend summer practices without over-extending athletes

    Last week we told you about a proposal that would extend the summer practice period for West Virginia high schools.
    It’s already cleared the West Virginia Secondary School Activities Commission Board of Control. Now it’s up to the West Virginia Board of Education to decide if the current three-week window should be expanded by five weeks.

    April 16, 2014

  • Bussie looks forward to WNBA

    On Tuesday, the weather turned cold, the wind blew and amongst the raindrops that fell a few snowflakes fluttered quietly to Earth.
    It was as if it was a celebration of Asya Bussie being drafted on Monday night by the Minnesota Lynx, champions of the WNBA, with the third selection of the second round, the 15th overall pick of the draft.

    April 16, 2014

  • HERTZEL COLUMN: Jackie Robinson’s impact extends beyond baseball

    It is Jackie Robinson Day as I sit here writing this today, and I feel as though I am doing it in a world gone mad.
    Every player in Major League Baseball wore No. 42 on Tuesday in honor of Jackie Robinson, the man who took racism’s best shot and integrated the game that was known then as the National Pastime even though it was as white a Ku Klux Klan robe.

    April 16, 2014

  • Pirates finish off suspended game, fall in nightcap

    Mike Leake doubled and hit a two-run homer Tuesday night, ending Gerrit Cole’s winning streak and leading the Cincinnati Reds to a 7-5 victory over the Pittsburgh Pirates that completed two days full of homers and delays.

    April 16, 2014

  • WVU’s Harlee named Big 12 Scholar-Athlete

    The Big 12 Conference announced its Scholar-Athlete of the Year recipients for the 2014 winter sport season, and West Virginia University senior Jess Harlee earns the honor for women’s basketball.
    Harlee was selected as the award winner based on a vote of each respective sport’s head coaching group, with coaches not permitted to vote for their own student-athletes.

    April 16, 2014

  • EFHS Softball - CB.jpg East can’t overcome No. 7 Lincoln, falls, 4-0

    Thunder clouds weren’t the only thing looming over the East Fairmont (6-6) softball team Monday when the Lady Bees hosed No. 7 Lincoln. Joining the ominous clouds was a sense of urgency for energy that never showed up as Lincoln was able to shut out East Fairmont, 4-0.

    April 15, 2014 1 Photo

  • Gyorko, Padres agree to extension

    Jedd Gyorko, who hasn’t hit much of anything with a .178 start on this season, hit the jackpot on Monday, signing a six-year contract extension with the San Diego Padres for $35 million with a one-year club option at $13 million.

    April 15, 2014

  • HERTZEL COLUMN- Spring game showed defense has improved

    From Dana Holgorsen’s viewpoint, which was standing right behind the offense, West Virginia’s Gold-Blue Spring Game on Saturday was a rousing success for it showed very little of what the Mountaineers will be in this coming season, probably not even showcasing the man who will direct the offense in the quarterback position.

    April 15, 2014

  • WVU signs guard; Adrian arrested for DUI

    There was something good and something bad for West Virginia men’s basketball coach Bob Huggins this past weekend as Kansas junior college player Tarik Phillip committed to play for the Mountaineers but rising sophomore Nathan Adrian was charged with Under 21 DUI after he was stopped at 1:20 a.m. Sunday for an expired registration sticker.

    April 15, 2014

  • FURFARI COLUMN- Most plays good, some not so good in Gold-Blue scrimmage

    There appeared to be a fine mixture of plays, most good with some not so good, in last Saturday’s West Virginia University’s Gold-Blue football scrimmage.

    April 15, 2014

Featured Ads
NDN Sports
House Ads
NCAA Breaking News
NCAA Photos