Chris Murray: Thousands Turn Out for Tornado Victim Relief at Dickey-Stephens

Approximately nineteen miles from where on April 27 a deadly EF-4 tornado hit Mayflower, passed over I-40 and destroyed its way to Vilonia and beyond – staying on the ground for 41 total miles – the high school baseball teams from those two towns met and played a seven-inning contest for tornado victim relief.

A crowd of 8,041 packed into Dickey-Stephens Park, home of the Arkansas Travelers, on Tuesday night for what was certainly the largest assembly to ever see a high school baseball game in Arkansas. Sixteen people died as a result of the tornado, and more than 3,000 homes were damaged. Rescue, relief and cleanup has been ongoing since the storm, and will continue for some time. The tragic event even resulted in President Obama’s first visit to Arkansas since taking office.

But what took place on Wednesday in North Little Rock was a truly staggering outpouring of support, charity and well-wishes. Admission was free, though donations were taken at the gates. Additionally, all proceeds from concessions were donated to victim relief. Early estimates had the total donated at more than $100,000.

The game drew numerous state celebrities, including Arkansas coaches Bret Bielema and Mike Anderson (this was a result of a simple e-mail request from Arkansas Tech freshman Matt Post, a Mayflower High graduate), who each addressed the teams before the game. Governor Mike Beebe and Congressman Tim Griffin also made time to attend. Across the board, reactions were awe-inspired:

Gov. Mike Beebe: “I’ve gotten so many opportunities to see how people come together in times of need, but this is pretty remarkable, the size of this crowd. This place is full and it’s pretty heart-warming to see how much people care about others in need.”

Bret Bielema: “Matt reached out to me by e-mail. The university told us we couldn’t go in at first, but when we got the opportunity, and any time we can give back to the state it’s a great thing. I lived through a tornado at the age to 10, so I can relate. To be able to say a few words to the teams was cool. I think it goes back to what Jeff Long and the administration told me when they recruited me here, how the state can rally behind the Hog brand and behind the whole state. It reinforces everything we’ve learned since we’ve been here.”

Mike Anderson: “Arkansas Strong. These kids and families support the university, so this was our chance to support them. They are in our thoughts and prayers. I really want to encourage people to support and donate. Going into the locker room and seeing those guys, hopefully they can really pull together. I told them that tough times don’t last, tough people do.”

Vilonia Mayor James Firestone: “I’m amazed at the size of the crowd here tonight. I appreciate the Travs for offering up the facility. It’s a very special night for both communities. It’s a nice break. For ten days, this has been my life. This is a very nice distraction. I know it will still be there tomorrow.”

Mayflower Mayor Randy Holland: “This is one of the greatest responses I’ve ever seen. We live in the greatest state in the nation. I just can’t get over the outpouring of support. It has been overwhelming. Tonight, we needed this. The community needed something to enjoy. We needed to unplug for a moment.”

Following the game, the teams and their families and fans went back home, though many had lost theirs. Recovery will continue and many will rebuild. Though many may have been bruised or broken, the spirit seemed strong.

The final score: Vilonia 3, Mayflower 0.

1000s help tornado victim relief


The Arkansas Razorbacks have their final series at Baum Stadium this weekend, hosting Texas A&M. Baseball America has the Hogs still in the NCAA regionals field of 64, but “barely hanging on.” Arkansas lost two of three games last weekend at Ole Miss and are now 11-13 in SEC play.

The Hogs need a strong finish over the final two SEC weekends to bolster that resume. That is certainly possible, with the Aggies and Missouri (the Hogs travel to Columbia next weekend) a combined 18-30 in SEC play.


Arkansas State lost two out of three to third-ranked UL-Lafayette last weekend in Jonesboro. A series sweep or even taking two of three would have greatly aided ASU’s tournament hopes. As it is, the Red Wolves have work to do. ASU remains in second place in the Sun Belt, tied with Texas State at 15-9.

UALR, which lost two of three at home against UT-Arlington, travels to San Marcos to play Texas State. The Trojans are mired in last place in the SBC, at 7-17.

UCA dropped a home series in Conway to Oral Roberts. The Bears host Incarnate Word this weekend, and stand at 11-13 in the Southland Conference.



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