WVU In Comfort Zone At Big 12 Baseball Championship
Bad enough West Virginia had to play the first game of the Big 12 Baseball Championships on Wednesday, the one where the first pitch is 9 a.m. Central Time.
“We call that the Mountaineer game,” coach Randy Mazey explained after his team had survived a Kansas rally and won, 12-8, to advance to the winner’s bracket of the double elimination tournament.
“I think that’s the third or fourth time we’ve played in that early game. That’s a 5:30 wake up call for our players and that’s not easy to do. Every time you think you might be tired we go bang, bang and score nine runs in the first three innings.
“The last time we played in the early game we played Baylor and scored seven runs in the first inning, so there may be something about this team. We’re pretty good at 9 in the morning, I guess.”
Still, Mazey was glad to get through it.
“When the game was over, I personally thanked the guys for allowing me to sleep in tomorrow,” he said. “You’d be surprised what motivates our players and not having to get up at 5:30 tomorrow was a huge motivating factor.”
It seems there was another motivating factor for this victory, one a bit less obvious but certainly no less important.
Just a day earlier Oklahoma had been ravaged by a severe tornado outbreak, which was all too familiar to him but not to his players.
His mind went back May 20, 2013, when his team was in town for the tournament and an EF-5 tornado roared through the neighboring town of Moore, Oklahoma, a suburb of Oklahoma City.
EF-5 tornadoes are nothing to mess with. This one made the national news with the swath it cut through the town, 200 mile-an-hour winds uprooting trees, turning over cars, destroying buildings, taking out the electricity and putting lives in danger.
Mazey decided his team then would try to offer assistance.
He called the Oklahoma City Police Department and they transferred him to the Moore Police Department, which advised him to stay away until all of the families could locate their loved ones.
“We didn’t want to get in anybody’s way,” Mazey at the time. “I didn’t want to create additional traffic while people were seeing if their loved ones were OK.”
But he had an idea. They went to the local Walmart to buy supplies to hand out to people who needed it.
“I thought we can do that down here,” Mazey said. “Get the team, put them on a bus and go up to Walmart and load up our carts and stand in the checkout line and do what we can. It was amazing.
“There were strangers coming up to me handing me twenty dollar bills saying, ‘Here, take this’ and ‘Is there anything we can do to help?’ It was people we didn’t even know and they were willing to do whatever they could. It’s amazing the strength of people in times of tragedy and how people find a way to come together.”
The most touching moment came when they ran into a woman who actually was a victim of the tornado.
“I think running into the woman at Walmart last night who was actually a victim who lost her house and didn’t know if her kids were safe … I think that was a special moment for our guys,” he said. “You can see tangible evidence of the immediate impact you can make on somebody’s life just by helping out.
“We saw her last night and there was about a three-hour period when she didn’t know if her kids were safe. They were at a school in downtown Moore, but as of the time we saw her she had met up with her children and everybody was safe,” Mazey said. “She was just out shopping for the same stuff we were shopping for.
“Fortunately, we re-routed her at the checkout line and she swept through and picked some stuff out that we had already checked out. It was very satisfying to all of our guys to help that woman.”
He felt it was important now, in this situation, that this team should learn about that.
“I shared with our guys last night the story of 2013 and how we came here and helped out the tornado victims. None of the guys on the team were here for that so they don’t know how special a place this is for the Mountaineers. I shared with them what we did and how we got to know these people and kind of took this town and these people under our wing,” Mazey said.
“I’m glad we were here to help but what the local people here don’t realize is they helped us as much we helped them. Every kid who was in uniform in 2013 looks back and doesn’t remember the scores of the games — I know I don’t — but we’ll never forget what we did for them.
“It was Mountaineers helping people and I thought it was important for our guys to know how special a place this is for WVU baseball. I think that has a lot to do with why we play so well here. We’re comfortable and we love these people.”
They earned the right to sleep in.