By JASON ELMQUIST
OKLAHOMA CITY — Watching a tornado rip through a community just miles away from where he was headed to be with his daughter and grandson, University of Oklahoma baseball coach Sunny Golloway had the town of Moore in mind when he was one of thousands to show up to give aid in the storm’s aftermath.
After all, OU’s head baseball coach for the past eight seasons once called Moore home while he was an assistant coach in the Sooners program in the 1990s.
“I saw the tractors, I saw the first responders going through rubble at 9:30 (Monday) night, my mind’s there. It’s clearly not on baseball,” said Golloway, a 1979 graduate of Stillwater High School. “We tried to help the University of Oklahoma athletic department employees that live right there and got some stuff that they needed secured out of there.”
During Tuesday’s Big 12 Conference awards luncheon in Oklahoma City, the conference diverged from the norm of having the Big 12 coaches talk about their teams. Instead, the microphone was handed to the head men of the two in-state programs to talk about the devastation their state is witnessing.
Oklahoma State coach Josh Holliday mentioned the horror of watching the events unfold on his television. Golloway likely was one of the was of many volunteers at the scene.
The Sooners coach worked his way just north of Norman and headed for the Plaza Towers Elementary School, which was a focal point in much of Monday’s media coverage. Golloway said he didn’t stay there long, mentioning the number of responders already on the scene. Instead he moved to the Warren Theater — where a triage was set up and other voluteers gathered.
“I know that elementary school and as they are talking about not knowing where some of the kids are and I’m holding my grandson, I gave my grandson to my daughter and said I know that everybody is trying to get in there to help and you can’t not go help,” Golloway said. “I was three, four blocks away, so a drove over to help and realized they had so many people coming in.”
As was the case at the elementary school, Golloway realized he was simply getting in the way of first responders and decided he should go.
But he didn’t leave before helping at least one family.
“As I was leaving, I saw a lady and she’s in her bare feet walking in three inches of muck and nails, and I pulled over and said, ‘Ma’am, let me give you a ride,’” the OU coach recalled. “Her daughter had just had a baby at the Moore Medical Clinic (which was hit head-on) right next to the Warren and they had to transport her daughter, her baby and her son-in-law. Her daughter was on a gurney and didn’t have any shoes, so she gave her shoes to her daughter to walk to the ambulance — wanting her to be safe.
“So she’s barefoot. She has another daughter, three grandchildren, a husband and another son-in-law, and I piled them all into my truck and into my back seat. I was just thankful that I was able to give them a ride from the Warren Movie Theater to the Norman Regional Hospital, which is where their daughter got transferred.”
Golloway’s university is following suit in aiding those displaced by Monday’s violent storm. OU has opened up dormitories — which had been cleared of college students for the summer — and Golloway is praising the response of the administration at Oklahoma.
“We’re a pillar in our community and that’s exactly where our president, David Boren, and our vice president and our director of intercollegiate athletics are right now. They are meeting on how the University of Oklahoma can help,” Golloway said. “Our president, to me, has already done a marvelous job opening dorms to allow people to stay. Now, we’re going to go through the proper channels like the Red Cross to find out where we can help out, instead of fumbling over ourselves, and be very organized of how we do it.”
It isn’t the first tragedy the OU baseball team has witnessed this season. Freshman infielder Kolbey Carpenter was from the town of West, Texas, where a fertilizer plant exploded — resulting in 14 deaths, including several of Carpenter’s family friends.
Golloway said he felt as though he rushed Carpenter back onto the field after returning to his hometown, which he said was evident by sluggish play on the field. But if anybody knows what those in Moore are feeling right now, it would be Carpenter.
“I’m going to let Kolbey speak to the team, I think,” Golloway said. “And then we’re just going to let them relax. We’re not going to do anything and just relax. They’ll want to be by the TV, wanting to see what’s going on.”
Though the Big 12 baseball championship, which has been postponed by a day to Thursday, is the least of Golloway’s concerns — which is the likely state of his players and other Big 12 teams — he realized that perhaps a baseball tournament is what the victims and relief helpers need to begin the healing process.
“Coming in (to the luncheon) this morning, I was talking to an officer, asking if he was OK and he recognized me and saying good luck because he thinks we’re going to be playing,” Golloway said. “Maybe that’s an answer. He’s a first responder, who is out there dealing with it firsthand, and he’s thinking about the Big 12 baseball tournament.
“That’s the hope of the city officials. That baseball can bring back some type of normalcy and that’s what our athletic directors, and I’m sure our school presidents, hope for. So that’s what we’ve got to hope for.”