Bears aid in disaster relief in Baton Rouge

The Bears teamed up with local Waco church, Antioch this past weekend to help aid with rebuilding the Baton Rouge community after the floods. Photo Credit: Courtesy of Baylor Athletics Photo credit: Courtesy Photo

By: Nathan Keil | Sports Writer

The destruction and devastation caused by torrential rainfall and flooding in Baton Rouge, La., and the surrounding area in August struck a chord for Baylor University’s softball and baseball teams. The flooding began on Aug. 11 and continued as the rain persisted for roughly the next 10 days. Louisiana Gov. Bel Edwards declared a state of emergency shortly after the flooding began.

Both teams recognized the need, and with the help of a few personal friends and resources, able to get involved with the relief effort. On Friday night, the buses were packed with the nearly $25,000 worth of cash gifts that had been raised over a two-week period and supplies to bring to the Baton Rouge distribution centers. On Saturday morning, the teams, although independent from each other, loaded the buses and hit the road for Louisiana.

Although both teams participated in the relief efforts, they were each organized with different church organizations and worked in different parts of the city. Softball used help from Louisiana State Sen. Bodi White to coordinate its efforts with Woodlawn Baptist Church, which served as its main distribution center, while baseball used personal connections with Antioch Community Church in Waco and an Antioch team already on the ground in Baton Rouge to begin mobilizing its efforts.

The attitude was simple: Christians, are meant to serve and stand beside the broken. Softball head coach Glenn Moore recognized this need and his team’s ability to try and meet it.

“When someone is in need, you answer and you go help them out,” Moore said.

This was a humbling and personal experience for Moore, having attended Northwestern State and coached at LSU before coming to Baylor.

“My wife is from Louisiana, and I lived down there with them and know so many. It was personal for me, and I know several other people here felt the same way,” Moore said. “We gave the community an opportunity to let us be their hands and feet and go down and serve a little bit.”

One of Baylor’s players, transfer pitcher Kelsey Selman, had a personal connection and was ready to assist in some way. Selman transferred to Baylor from LSU after the 2015 season.

The first house Selman traveled to allowed her to serve a woman who had connections with her team at LSU.

“I had a literal personal connection,” Selman said. “The people there were always so inviting. It was fun to go back and help them out, be there for hugs and prayers.”

Despite being exposed to the devastation on the news and in photos, nothing could prepare the teams for what they saw and experienced.

“It was overwhelming just to see how tragic their loss was. As a group of 40 young guys coming, we knew we could help a lot,” junior infielder Steven McLean said. “There was nothing overwhelming as in the way of work, because they were the ones who had experienced the loss.”

Selman shared similar sentiments to devastation she witnessed.

“You see the pictures and it’s kind of crazy, and when you get there, you can’t even see the houses,” Selman said. “The trash is piled up, and the inside of houses are on the outside. You can’t even imagine.”

Both Moore and baseball head coach Steve Rodriguez admired their players’ responses in terms of their willingness to serve and desire to help in any way they could.

“I was overwhelmed by our athletes’ response,” Moore said. “We had two players that had the opportunity to work indoors in the air conditioning, and they said, ‘No way, we don’t want to. We want to get out there and work with people.’ They were getting after it and just taking advantage of the opportunity to help.”

Rodriguez looked to the seniors to model the correct mindset for serving.

“The senior leadership was amazing,” Rodriguez said. “They physically got after it. The freshmen saw how they were doing it, and it was just a matter of task-orienting ourselves to finding what has to be done and getting it done. There was no complaining. It was hard, but our guys had an amazing mindset of, ‘We’re not going to leave this family or this woman here to do it themselves. We’re gonna take care of it, and we’re not going to leave until we do.’”

The tasks differed depending on where the teams found themselves. At times, it was doing the tedious yet difficult tasks like taking nails out of the baseboards and removing tiles. Other times, it was removing sheet rock, moving piles of debris and emptying houses of furniture and appliances.

Selman said that as important as the physical labor was, it was really all about the opportunity to serve and minister to the people. The players had the opportunity to come together and pray with families, as well as spend time listening to their stories and sharing in their grief and their joy.

Photo Sep 04-2FTW.jpg
Lady Bears teamed up with Woodlawn Baptist Church to help aid with the community cleanup in Baton Rouge and also go around and pray with the residents. Photo Credit: Courtesy of Baylor Athletics Photo credit: Courtesy Photo

“I think being there and showing them our support,” Selman said. “I hope our prayers helped them feel more at peace.”

When the teams arrived on site, they were greeted with open arms and admiration, helping to ease the players into a sense of comfort and attitude of service.

“To see their faces and how happy they were once we showed up, it really helped us see that we were doing something right and that we can help them out,” McLean said.

Sometimes when the destruction is so vast, it is difficult to see even the littlest of differences have an effect. However, the opportunity to play a small role in the solution can go a long way.

“It was neat to see the outside community come together,” Moore said. “We played a small role. It takes a lot of people to do a little bit to help them out.”

The labor was the beginning, but it was more than that. The labor opened the door to life transformation.

“This wasn’t just a laborious work thing that we were doing. We were hopefully changing lives.” Rodriguez said.

The experience and opportunity to serve with the communities of Baton Rouge and Denham Springs is one that the teams won’t soon forget and one they are extremely grateful to have.

“It’s hard to leave,” McLean said. “We helped a little bit — we made a dent — but there is so much to be done. We had to leave, which is unfortunate. There’s still a lot of work to be done but still an incredible opportunity to be there.”

There is still work to be done and memories to sort through for the people of Baton Rouge and neighboring areas. If you would like to know how you can get involved or give a financial gift, please check with your local Red Cross.