The Times West Virginian

WVU Sports

May 19, 2014

HERTZEL COLUMN- WVU heads to Oklahoma one year after the tornado

MORGANTOWN — A year ago at this time, West Virginia’s baseball team traveled into Oklahoma for the Big 12 Tournament and found a disaster.

This time they bring one with them, albeit a disaster of far lesser proportions than the tornado outbreak they ran into a year ago.

Theirs is just a baseball disaster in the form of a seven-game losing streak, which will not make CNN or, for that matter, even ESPN.

Come Tuesday, though, perhaps in part as a reminder that what the Mountaineers have been going through on the baseball diamond has its place, the team plans to get on a bus and leave Oklahoma City and head to Moore, Oklahoma, just as they did a year ago to the day to help with the cleanup effort.

What they did last year got them on both CNN and ESPN, proving to the world and themselves that sports has its place, and it really isn’t very high in the overall scheme of things as they brought supplies and did what they could do to help.

“It’s actually the one-year anniversary of the tornado,” coach Randy Mazey pointed out. “It will be good for our guys to go back to see what I’m sure is an amazing amount of progress that’s been made within a year, based on what we saw the last time.”

That they are returning is part of what makes Mazey unique as a coach. He honestly believes he’s there to make his team better people as well as better players.

“We always try to teach our guys life lessons,” he said. “It’s not all about fielding backhands and hitting curveballs and stealing bases. Twenty years from now you won’t remember how many hits you got against Kansas in the first game of the tournament, but you will remember the impact you make on lives and the friends you made and the relationships you made and what you did when people needed you.”

Certainly, they remember what they faced a year ago when they arrived in the tornado-stricken town.

Devastation.

There was virtually nothing left except the people and it was those people, the way his team pitched in to help, that made their greatest impact on Mazey.

“What impacted me the most was the people and our kids and their willingness to help people who were in desperate, desperate need,” Mazey said. “But more so the resilience of the people from Moore as you walked around and talked to them as they were sitting in lawn chairs next to their homes that looked like a bunch of toothpicks.

“Their mentality, their resiliency and their desire to build. ‘Hey, it’s only material possessions (was the message they were passing on). I still got my health. I still got my family.’ That goes a long way with kids, for people to show no matter what happens I’m going to stand up tall, hold my head up high and I’m going to beat this thing and come back and be stronger than ever,” Mazey added.

Nothing is really planned yet as far as a schedule goes, but Mazey plans to look up families they spent some time with, to talk with them about their recovery, about the difference a year can make.

It can’t, of course, erase the losing streak that has all but ruined the Mountaineers’ chances at an NCAA bid.

Like the residents of Moore, WVU has some rebuilding to do.

Their season can be rescued only by a deep run into the conference tournament, which begins Wednesday at 9 a.m.

Favors? WVU didn’t get any in the draw, facing a Kansas team that slapped them around pretty well two weeks back in sweeping them in Lawrence, allowing the Jayhawks to head toward the tournament as one of the hottest teams in the conference.

Follow Bob Hertzel on Twitter @bhertzel.

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