Lynchburg, Va. -- Just minutes after an EF-2 tornado touched down Sunday evening outside of Lynchburg and devastated a 20-mile swath not far from campus, the Lynchburg College baseball team met in the Dan Wooldridge Press Box and resolved to help out.
The next morning, more than a dozen ballplayers, led by Hornets assistant coach Jeremy Sink, ventured out to help those affected pick up their lives. The coach worked his social media connections, finding those in need and texting the addresses to his players. By afternoon, the group was in the nearby small community of Elon, clearing debris and aiding residents in their search for pieces of their lives -- family heirlooms and anything else they could salvage.
"It just showed the sense of community that we have here at Lynchburg College but also just in the area," sophomore pitcher Noah Winslow, who was part of the cleanup crew, said.
The storm's damaging winds affected 102 homes in Amherst County and 327 in the region, according to local authorities. Amazingly, no fatalities have been reported in the area.
"It was kind of crazy," freshman infielder Parker Shaffer said. "You drive up and see a perfectly fine house right next to a house that's been totally destroyed."
Shaking off the initial shock, the Hornets coaches and players got down to business alongside hundreds of other volunteers in the region. A small army of chainsaw-wielding Good Samaritans were out and about, clearing downed trees and opening up roadways so that storm-affected citizens could get out of their neighborhoods and begin the long road back to normalcy.
"It was kind of eye-opening. It was cool to see people showing up to help people, bringing water and gasoline for generators," said Shaffer.
Shaffer helped one family search for family heirlooms that were picked up by the storm. He salvaged an old military uniform from a neighbor's yard, returning the prized possession to its grateful owner.
It was those little bits of good news that brought a sense of accomplishment to the team. They went out hoping to help, and they did.
"Some folks we knew when we arrived to help, most others we didn't," Sink said. "It didn't matter. You didn't find anyone complaining or arguing, just everyone working together for the common good. There's a long way to go for many families around the area, but I know there are plenty of good people out there who will show up. I spent an entire day with lots of them."
For the team, it was another way to get to know the community they have become a part of by attending Lynchburg College. It was also a stark reminder of how fortunate they are to play the game they love.
In his first season as head coach, 2005 Lynchburg alumnus Lucas Jones has installed character pillars for the program. One of them is service, and that certainly stood out for Hornet baseball on Monday.
"Coach is always talking about how things are bigger than you," Winslow said. "Baseball is just a game, and when you leave the field it's all about the real world. That's a real world example of how there's more to life in sports."