- Brandon Chatmon, ESPN Staff Writer
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OKLAHOMA CITY -- As the raindrops rattled off his window in the dawn hours, Oklahoma coach Sunny Golloway awoke with plenty of unease. His Sooners were set to open the Big 12 tournament against Baylor at 9 a.m. at Chickasaw Bricktown Ballpark and rain was downpouring.
"I was just sick to my stomach," Golloway said.
Those feelings had nothing to do with baseball.
"My thoughts were like, 'How are they going to continue the clean up?' " he said. "It wasn't about what was going to happen with baseball. I could care less about baseball."
Golloway's thoughts were with the thousands of people who have been working to help Moore, Okla., and other cities across the state recover after two rounds of violent storms hit Oklahoma last Sunday and Monday. Moore, which is just south of Oklahoma City, was hit particularly hard when an EF5, the highest level on the tornado scale, leveled a stretch of the city on Monday afternoon.
On Thursday afternoon, after the rain had subsided, Golloway and the Sooners took the field with heavy hearts and special shirts underneath their jerseys as a tribute to the people impacted by the storms. The Sooners wore light-blue shirts with the word "home" and the Oklahoma flag logo standing in pace of the letter O in home.
"It's a haven for us to come out and be able to play baseball," Golloway said. "Your mind never gets over it. We've got our shirts that make a statement for ourselves. This is our home, those are our family, those are our friends. It really hit home."
The Moore tornado was 1.3 miles wide and ripped through a highly populated area, resulting in 24 fatalities. At least 101 people were rescued from the rubble, and at least 237 people were injured. More than 12,000 homes were destroyed and more than 33,000 people affected during the storms, according to the Oklahoma City Police Dept. Twitter account.
The Big 12 pushed the baseball tournament, which was scheduled to begin Wednesday, back to Thursday after the tornado. Golloway remains unsure if the tournament should be played but told a tale of asking a policemen what he could do to help earlier this week.
"I asked the policeman if I could do anything," Golloway said. "He said, 'Yes, go win that thing.' It made me think maybe we're doing the right thing."
With that backdrop, the Sooners took the field with a purpose on Thursday, earning a 2-0 win against Baylor. Standout pitcher Johnathan Gray allowed three hits and struck out a career-high 12 batters.
"Now that we're playing baseball, the focus is now on baseball," Golloway said. "But our thoughts are still in the right place."
29mTristan H. Cockcroft