West Virginians have every right to be proud of what first-year West Virginia University Mountaineer baseball coach Randy Mazey and his team have accomplished this year.
The Mountaineers, who just completed the team's first regular season in the perennially tough Big 12 Conference, are in Oklahoma City as the third-seeded team in conference tournament. The winner receives an automatic bid to the NCAA College World Series.
However, Mazey's players have shown as much heart off the field as they have on it.
The Mountaineers were in Oklahoma City on Monday in advance of the tournament, which was scheduled to begin on Wednesday. As we all know, a few hours later that afternoon the devastating and rare EF-5 tornado hit Moore, Okla., a city less than five miles from where the team was staying. At least 24 were killed and more than 200 were injured in the storm.
In the tornado's immediate aftermath and after Mazey determined no one from his squad was injured, he and the team hoped to travel to Moore to help out where they could. However, they realized by being there they would only be in the way of the frantic rescue efforts that were being undertaken. So, they did the next best thing: They went to the local Wal-Mart and started filling shopping carts with items the displaced residents would need.
Mazey said shoppers quickly realized what the players were doing and many began handing him $20 bills to help out with their purchases. At the store, the players had the opportunity to see just how much their help was appreciated by those displaced. Players noticed a woman with tears streaming down her cheeks. Three of the players, junior shortstop Michael Constantini, sophomore second baseman Billy Fleming and senior pitcher Dan Dierdorff, approached the woman in an attempt to consol her. She told them her two young children had been at one of the schools destroyed by the tornado and she had no news of them until later in the day when they had been found safe. She had come to the store to purchase clothes for them because their home and everything in it had been destroyed.
"There was a three-hour period where she didn't even know if her two kids were alive," Mazey said. "When she found them, her next order of business was to buy them clothes." The players guided her to their shopping carts and told her to pick out anything that she needed.
The players' selflessness did not go unnoticed. An Oklahoma State University fan Facebook page mentioned what the WVU players had done and included a picture of the players and their full shopping carts. The entry garnered 62,000 "likes" and more than 1,500 comments praising the players.
All season long, these young men have shown they are good baseball players. In Oklahoma, during the most traumatic moment in many of their young lives, they proved to be even better human beings. No matter what happens in the next few days at the tournament, the WVU baseball team has already proven to be a winner.