For 10 years, Jeremy Hefner called Moore, Okla., home. He still has uncles and cousins there, and his grandmother is nearby in Oklahoma City.
Finding out that his hometown had been devastated by a tornado that killed more than 50 people Monday left the Mets starter praying for those affected.
"When I heard it was in Moore again, I was freaking out," Hefner said.
Hefner said all of his immediate family and the friends he keeps in contact with are OK after the tornado ravaged the area. He's a proud resident of the Sooner State, having attended high school and college there, and still resides in Tulsa, Okla., in the offseason. One of Hefner's former schools, Briarwood Elementary, was hit by the tornado on Monday.
"It's gut-wrenching and it's saddening and I wish I was there. I wish I could go home right now and help out and do whatever I could to do help those families," Hefner said after the Mets' 4-3 loss to Cincinnati on Monday. "I wish I would have been there right when it happened. That way I could help pull kids out and that type of thing. Just standing here and watching the TV, you feel helpless."
Hefner said he has experienced tornadoes before but has been fortunate enough to never have been directly beneath one. He described the experience as terrifying, although he said one gets used to the threat of tornadoes after spending enough time in Oklahoma. Hefner said there's a certain comfort in knowing the proper safety procedures.
"You live in Oklahoma, you live in Tornado Alley, there's going to be tornadoes in April and May and parts of June, and then again in the fall you go through it again. It's just the way it is," Hefner said. "I love it there and I guarantee you the people that are involved in this are going to rebuild and are going to love Oklahoma just like they did before it happened."
Hefner described Oklahoma natives as "resilient and hard-working" and believes this will only make the state stronger, referencing 1999, when another massive tornado hit the area. He said the state came out stronger after that devastation and expects the same thing to happen this time.
Even with the threat of tornadoes, Hefner couldn't envision living anywhere else.
"Once you've lived there and you're part of the community and atmosphere in Oklahoma, you don't want to leave," Hefner said. "I come here during the season to play and love my time in New York, but that's where my home is, that's where my heart is."