Tampa Bay Rays
Wright's heart with tornado-ravaged area
ST. PETERSBURG -
Jamey Wright had done the heavy lifting on that miserable Friday night in Cleveland, pitching three innings to help the Rays grab control of a game that was delayed nearly five hours by rain and steering them toward a victory.
Yet Wright, the winning pitcher, stood in the Rays' clubhouse in the early hours of Saturday morning and just couldn't muster the strength to be excited.
Yes, the Rays won.
Yes, he played a vital role.
“I feel bad,” Wright said. “I feel bad for my people.”
Those people were back in Moore, Okla., located next to Wright's childhood home in Oklahoma City, which had been hammered by another storm Friday afternoon.
The storm wasn't nearly as devastating as the EF-5 tornado that came through May 20, obliterating everything in its path. That storm killed 24, injured more than 370 and left thousands homeless.
The latest storm sent people scrambling to shelters and wrecked some of what had been repaired since the first storm.
“These people are going to need help for a long time,” Wright said.
And Wright is ready to help.
Wright and his wife, Marnie, have teamed with Vicki Counts, a family friend from Moore, to raise money to aid 41 families in the Southmoore High district that were left homeless after the May 20 storm.
“This has really upset Jamey a lot,” Counts said. “Not being here and not being able to help is hard.”
They have set up an account — “Sabercat Families in Need” — at the Bank of Oklahoma in Norman. They plan to turn donations into gift cards so families can purchase whatever they need most — food, clothing, household items.
“Right now, in the short term, it's getting what they need to help on a daily basis,” Counts said.
Wright, a graduate of Westmoore High, remembered the 1999 tornado that crushed the same area. That season, Wright split his time between the Colorado Rockies and the Rockies' Triple-A team in Colorado Springs. Then as now, Wright had the same helpless feeling.
“When it's tornado season, I'm usually somewhere else playing ball,” he said. “I just remember what a horrible feeling it was. I was just upset I couldn't do anything about it. I couldn't help. I wasn't even around there to console people. I was still a young kid at the time.
“Now, after donating money to different people's charities and friends' charities and fundraisers, and this and that, in 20 years of being a professional baseball player I haven't asked anybody for anything. I think this is the time.”
Wright already asked Detroit first baseman Prince Fielder and Baltimore first baseman Chris Davis for autographed bats and had Rays clubhouse manager Chris Westmoreland make a Rays jersey for Jackson Quick, an 8-year-old boy from Moore who suffered critical injuries and lost his mother in the May 20 tornado.
Wright had all the Rays sign the jersey for Quick.
“It's not going to replace anything, but hopefully it can make him happy, even if it's for a day,” Wright said.
Wright traveled to Moore on May 23. After arriving in Tampa Bay late the previous night from Toronto, where the Rays concluded a road trip, Wright caught a 6 a.m. flight to Dallas, where he and Marnie now live with their three children.
The Wrights made the drive to Oklahoma City and tried to drive through Moore, but most of the roads were closed while utility crews repaired the power lines.
Wright flew back to Tampa the following morning, but Marnie and the kids remained with Marnie's family. The following day, Marnie was able to ride through Moore.
“It's bad,” she told her husband.
Counts, whose home was not damaged in either storm, said it's easy to feel lost while driving through Moore these days because the familiar landmarks — street signs, homes, buildings — are gone.
“Everyone here seems to be fighting,” she said. “We'll be OK, but it's going to take some time.”
And it's going to take some help.
Wright said he's ready to rely on the kindness of his teammates.
“I'll have a talk with these guys. I think they know it's coming,” Wright said. “It's good karma. You help when you have the means to help. That's what I've always done. That's what a lot of these guys, if they haven't yet, they need to learn.”
Those wishing to donate can do so through the Bank of Oklahoma, 3540 W. Main St., Norman, OK, 73072. The account is “Sabercat Families in Need.” The account number is 309246008.