Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Former Council Rock South star assists in tornado cleanup

BY PATRICK GORDON | Managing Editor

Billy Fleming peered out the side windows of his team bus on Monday afternoon in central Oklahoma and felt a chill come over his entire body as tornado sirens blared in the distance.

Suddenly, baseball was not so important.

“I never seen anything like it, for sure,” he said.

Fleming, a Bucks County native (Churchville), was traveling with the West Virginia University baseball team en route to Oklahoma City for the Big 12 Baseball Championship when ferocious storms and a devastating tornado unloaded on the southern suburb of Moore.

At least 24 people, including nine children, have been killed, according to the state medical examiner’s office. More than 230 people were injured, according to authorities.

Damage assessments on Tuesday indicated the tornado was more than a mile wide and hurled winds between 200 and 210 miles per hour, making it an EF5 – the strongest rating given to a tornado.

“We actually were about five miles away from the actual tornado but we drove through Moore and we stopped for a bit and I’ve never seen damage like that ever in my life,” Fleming said. “It’s humbling. It shows you to be thankful for everything you have because it can be gone in an instant.”

A sophomore second baseman, Fleming spent the better part of Monday night and Tuesday with teammates and coaches assisting in rescue efforts.

“A lot of people are devastated down here and that’s why we are trying to help,” Fleming said. “We went to Walmart and bought as many things as we could to try and uplift these people and give back.”

[VIDEO BELOW COURTESY OF WVU ATHLETICS]


Grant Dovey, an assistant sports information director with the university, echoed Fleming’s assessment.

“We just went by the movie theater here in Moore and it is just pure devastation,” he said.

Like Fleming, Dovey too is a native of the Philadelphia region (Downingtown).

“We’ve experienced hurricanes and you get some big flooding from those in our area, but it is nothing compared to what we are seeing here.”

The Mountaineers open the Big 12 Baseball Championship on Wednesday at Chickasaw Bricktown Ballpark with a contest against Kansas. The double-elimination tournament lasts until Sunday.

Fleming, a star during his time at Council Rock South High, has started 50 games this season and enters the postseason with a .296 average and 21 RBIs.

He admits, the transition from helping those in need to preparing for a postseason baseball contest is difficult.

“We just dropped off all the things we bought and we do need to get ready for baseball,” Fleming said. “Saying that, we definitely will keep these people in Moore in the back of minds with what they are all going through.”

- Patrick Gordon is Managing Editor of the Philadelphia Baseball Review.  Follow him on Twitter @Philabaseball or contact him at pgordon@philadelphiabaseballreview.com

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