On any other given day, you would find various Pine Belt athletes facing off on the field.
However, after last week’s recording-breaking tornado, which was recorded as the third widest tornado in U.S. history at 2.25 miles wide, a group of local baseball players got together to help with tornado cleanup.
Josh Cary, a Petal baseball player and Mississippi Gulf Coast Community College signee, received a phone call from a former baseball coach asking if he could help with the cleanup and get a group of friends together.
“He asked if I could get a group of buddies together and so I figured I would text all my buddies who are seniors that didn’t have anything to do,” Cary said. “I ended up getting Logan (Walters) and Turner (Swistak) and a few others to come help.
According to Cary, asking teammate Logan Walters and Oak Grove’s Turner Swistak to help was a no-brainer.
“Even though some of us are rivals and some of us are not, we are really good friends through play ball over the years. I think we’re probably closer than a lot of other people just because baseball is in our blood, and we have all played together at one point or another,” Cary said. “We’re basically all one team. If something were to happen to one another, then each of us would go help out as much as we can. We took that mindset out into our work, knowing if this happened in Petal, we would want people to help us too.”
On Saturday, the trio got together and helped with the devastation from last Sunday.
“I just knew if something like that happened to me, I would want somebody to have my back. It doesn’t matter who it would be, and that was kind of the idea going into it,” Walters said. “We just put aside that we play on different high school teams, and we came together for a bigger thing. Helping other people out was the main thing.”
The group helped with cleanup efforts in Bassfield, Soso, Prentiss and Seminary. Swistak described the devastation as simply shocking.
“We went to Soso and did a big house there that was really bad,” Swistak said. “The first part we went to in Soso and there were a couple of different trailers that just got obliterated. There was an 18-wheeler that flipped. We helped look for valued items, family items, wallets that kind of stuff. We helped clear the trees that had fallen. We helped picked up the trash.
“It’s a really good feeling when you see all the people you are helping. They appreciate it. Unless it happened to you, there’s no way what that kind of devastation can do to you.”
The trio had planned to help again on Sunday, and at the same time, Swistak enlisted the help of Purvis baseball players Jesse Johnson, who is a Jones College signee, and Dakota Lee. Incidentally, another group of storms and another tornado went through Purvis, and as a result, the group helped cleanup efforts in Purvis.
“As much as it seems that were rivals with Petal and you play Purvis every year, it creates rivalry, but it’s a little bit bigger than that,” Swistak said. “We all grew up around and the last three years we have been playing against each other and competing. In a way, even with us being on different teams, it creates a bond.”
On Sunday, the group helped clear debris from driveways and yards in Purvis.
“It felt good to see people be happy that we came and helped them,” Walters added. “We were just an extra hand for them, and they needed it. That’s what really got me the most was helping them out and seeing the smile on their faces whenever we were helping.”
Ironically enough, Lee, Walters and Swistak will all be continuing their baseball careers at Pearl River Community College. According to Lee, it was a unique opportunity to get together with his future teammates and develop a bod.
“We started looking around and jumped up to help,” Lee said. “It feels good. I just know that if I were in their shoes, I would want somebody to help me too. I don’t hang out with those guys a lot, so it was nice to get some time with us before we get to PRCC.”
Like Lee, Walters also enjoyed getting to know his future teammates through the experience.
“I got to know them this year just with all of us going to go play college ball,” Walters said. “I’ve always known who they were but never really met them. This year I got to know them through the PineBeltSPORTS magazine photoshoot and playing against them. Today we acted like we were best friends and known each other forever. It was just like a one team type of deal.”