A state championship trophy and a field of ruins: What Amory baseball seniors found after tornado

Ty Hester and Bryce Glenn stared at the Amory baseball and softball fields with disbelief early Saturday morning. Both fields were destroyed in Friday's deadly tornado that tore through Rolling Fork and Silver City, killing 21, before continuing north to Amory.

The two seniors were joined by a majority of the Panthers' baseball team to help assess the damage and salvage any items from the Amory athletics complex around 8 a.m. However, the team was greeted with the realization that Amory High School hadn't been spared in the tornado's destruction.

"As a senior I know I'll never step foot on that baseball field again," Glenn said. "It's devastating. It's heartbreaking. I knew this would be my last year but did not know when my last (home) game would be played.

"It was rough but it's just part of a journey that we will have to overcome."

Amory varsity baseball players sort belongings at the high school's athletic facility in Amory after an overnight tornado caused widespread damage.
Amory varsity baseball players sort belongings at the high school's athletic facility in Amory after an overnight tornado caused widespread damage.

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'We'll always have that with us'

Panthers football coach Brooks Dampeer, baseball coach Chris Pace and members of their staffs arrived at the athletics facility around 2 a.m. Their flashlights could only illuminate some of the damage.

The magnitude of the destruction became real for Amory coaches and players after sunrise.

"Saturday morning waking up and the light being here and looking at everything it kind of hit home," Hester said. "Just knowing that I would never be able to step on the baseball field again and play another home game at Amory, my senior year, it lost me for words."

Assistant baseball coach Micah McCain was able to save Amory baseball's 2022 MHSAA Class 3A state championship trophy from the wreckage. It was the program's first state title since 1999, and the trophy only received minor damage. Pace sent out a picture with the trophy early that morning. Some of the program's history was salvaged.

"It was one thing that I think everybody was really worried about," Glenn said. "Not even the team (but) the community. We went and won the state championship last year, and that was the community's goal for us to do it again.

"Seeing that trophy, we'll always have that with us. That's special."

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'I knew Amory was a special place'

That's when the work started for Amory baseball, with members of the team volunteering since Saturday to help their neighbors and families in need.

Glenn helped gather a crew of 10 players to help a nearby family in north Amory move furniture and other belongings out of their home Tuesday. The family's home was destroyed in the tornado.

"Saturday morning the entire community went straight to work," Hester said. "Whether that was cutting trees, clearing out a driveway or getting on top of a roof and getting a tree off a house then tarping the house. It's been exhausting but in the end it will be all worth it."

Community members across the city have stepped up to help people like Brian Pearson. The Panthers basketball coach was returning from a family trip to Memphis when the tornado hit. He was able to stay with extended family in Hatley, east of Amory, on Friday. However, Pearson received news that an old oak tree had fallen and damaged the back of his home during the storm.

Pearson, an Amory alumnus, wasn't surprised to see the community rally behind his family and others impacted by the tornado. Volunteers helped the Pearson family remove the tree from their home and aid the recovery process.

"It's not a shock," Pearson said. "I knew Amory was a special place. It has been my whole life. Know what had happened to us, I knew how the community was going to respond. We'll build back little-by-little and day-by-day."

'I think we'll have a lot of people come and support us'

Amory will return to athletics on Saturday with baseball traveling to Saltillo at 3 p.m., and stay on the road for at least the next three series at Saltillo, Hatley and Tupelo. Amory is still figuring out where to play the remainder of its home games.

The Panthers softball team is scheduled to face Pontotoc at 9:30 a.m. Saturday at Smithville.

"I think we'll have a lot of people come and support us," Hester said. "I think that's going to help us bring back life to the community. Knowing that just because of everything that's happened, doesn't mean that we have to stop walking in our everyday lives."

This article originally appeared on Mississippi Clarion Ledger: How Amory baseball rallied to help their community after losing field