Thursday morning began early for the KU baseball team. Asked to appear on the Fox and Friends morning show, coach Ritch Price happily agreed. Coach Price and two captains were to discuss the team’s efforts to aid the victims of the tragic Oklahoma tornado that destroyed a swath of Moore and other Oklahoma cities. To do so meant a six o’clock departure from the team hotel. With KU baseball, that means exactly at six.
The team arrived in Oklahoma City very early Tuesday morning after flying from Salt Lake City after a three-game series against Utah that ended Monday with an extra-inning game. Weary after a short night, the team immediately responded to the needs of tornado victims. The players donated their per diem meal money to buy recovery supplies and delivered them to a donation center before they had time to rest.
The response to the tragedy already is monstrously wonderful. KU is just one of the Big 12 teams to lend a hand as have virtually every team from the nearby University of Oklahoma in Norman, just south of Moore. Factors, from the time of KU’s first game scheduled Thursday to the fact one of the Fox hosts, Steve Doocy, is a KU graduate, led to the invitation. However, the show itself was just part of a greater opportunity.
Price wanted everyone to view the destruction and learn from the sight of such devastation. He welcomes opportunities to educate his team far from the normal classroom setting or ballpark. He quickly made it clear to Fox, that while two captains would speak on the morning show, the entire team and staff would be attending.
Unfortunately, the only viewing was from the window of the team bus. Strong thunderstorms with stunning lightening kept the team stranded on the bus as the mobile satellite truck struggled to maintain a signal for the interview. As time ticked away, the producer on site profusely apologized for not being able to get the team on air, Price remained unfazed. He knew the impact the trip down to Moore had on his players.
The media compound spread out in a large parking lot just a short distance from the Moore Medical Center, one of the hardest hit structures during Monday’s tornado. A bowling alley in the same area was so battered the only clue of its purpose was the sight of the wooden lanes strewn now with rubble. Cars were tossed everywhere. Orange X’s signified each were checked for victims. Just getting to Moore and negotiating the formidable presence of police, national guard and recovery workers at such an early hour was a lesson for all.
As we waited in the rain, I ventured off the bus to make these images. Having lived through a monstrous tornado that destroyed huge portions of Topeka in 1966, the sights were not new to me but were still heart-breaking. They will now be the same for all on that bus. Lessons learned are knowledge gained. That is why an early morning wake up call, even on game day, meant everything to coach Price. Along with the nation, the KU baseball team prays for Moore and all of those affected by the Oklahoma tornadoes.