IF THE HAT FITS: The beauty after the storm

Derek Hatridge, McAlester News-Capital, Okla.
·3 min read

Apr. 10—Spring is a season of renewal, and I saw that firsthand last weekend.

I went and covered my first Pitt 8 baseball tournament last Thursday through Saturday, and got to see a lot of fun baseball. I enjoyed spending my days out on the diamond — I mean, who doesn't? — and wearing the resulting sunburn I got as a badge of pride.

There were home runs, stolen bases, and walk-off wins. It can't get much more exciting than that. But one thing I really enjoyed outside of the games is the new facilities at Haileyville that symbolize the community's resilience since a tornado in 2019.

Haileyville was this year's host site, and they have a lot to be proud of with their new facilities. Everything about their baseball/softball complex was top notch, and the school was a great host. Talking with some local folks before games, they were deservedly proud of the product they were now showing to the entire county.

But there were roadblocks to even get to this point.

They wanted to continue to invest in their youth, so plans to revamp the ballparks were put into motion. But just as the new press box and concession stand was completed, then came April 30, 2019.

An EF-2 tornado left a path of destruction through town, tearing up homes and businesses. 22 structures in total were damaged, including at the ballpark.

Thankfully, no lives were lost that day, and the Haileyville community came together to rebuild. It's impressive to see how everyone really rallied around the town and neighboring communities, and a prime example of the Oklahoma Standard we hear so much about.

Fast-forward a year, and the baseball and softball teams are getting ready for their spring seasons when another, different kind of natural disaster halts things once again — the COVID-19 pandemic. Sports were shut down, and ballparks sat in silence.

Now here we are, nearly two years after that fateful April tornado. And the Haileyville community got to show itself off in front of the entire county. The baseball and softball fields are clean, sharp-looking facilities.

With Warrior blue-colored siding and black fencing to compliment the color scheme, as well as the big blue scoreboard out in left center field, it's not hard to see the love and care that went into the facility.

There are spacious dugouts and indoor batting cages that help allow the teams to put in work — even during a sudden spring shower.

But as I sat taking in the views, I still noticed the scenery beyond the outfield fence. Trees that suddenly have no tops to them, stripped bark still trying to recuperate, and a noticeable straight line of vision across highway — all scars left as reminders from that night two years ago.

And therein lies the hope of it all. As Oklahomans, we're used to the twisting, turning phenomena that comes every spring (or really year round). But we also know how to come together, pick ourselves up, and come back even stronger.

Those facilities give the Haileyville community a lot to be proud of, and I'm excited to see what the future may hold for them.

Contact Derek Hatridge at dhatridge@mcalesternews.com.