By Marty Gordon
More than two weeks after flood waters ravaged southern West Virginia, several young men from the devastated area found solace in a Christiansburg baseball tournament. The Southern West Virginia travel team played in this year’s Top Gun World Series, and Coach Michael Kluska said the kids needed a sense of normalcy.
“We haven’t practiced and didn’t even think about baseball for the past few weeks,” he said.
The 12-member (14 and under age) team and its coaches were personally impacted by the natural disaster including at least five players and two of their coaches losing almost everything to their name.
“The flooding has affected these kids’ daily routine, and many have personally lost everything,” Kluska said. “Others have volunteered their time to help our neighbors.”
He called this group as being amazing in dealing with the devastation. Kluska sent his family and a son, who is also a player on Southern West Virginia, to relatives’ homes in Pittsburgh. He came back and volunteered in the community.
“They wanted to help others,” the coach said.
The team played in several tournaments last season and had looked forward to the Christiansburg, VA, World Series. Players were from throughout Greenbrier County where the floodwaters did a lot of damage.
Peyton Brown is an outfielder and second baseman for the team from Ronceverte. He lives with his grandparents who lost everything. “It ruined everything in their home, where they have lived in for over 30 years. Everything was covered in mud and water.”
He said the worst thing was the smell. “We have aired it out and cleaned things up, so it is getting better.”
The tournament might have been the distraction the group of youngsters, their coaches and parents needed. “It (this tournament) has helped us to get our minds off the mess,” Brown said.
Several team members were friends with a high schooler who drowned during the rising others. A second school mate remains missing.
“It has really affected them (the players) especially since they knew the two teenagers,” Kluska said.
A group of the players worked 40-60 hours to help clean up homes in and around Lewisburg.
Brown said he felt that was important for both his family and others.
Sunday afternoon, the team won the 2016 Top Gun World Series title for their age group.
The tournament was sponsored by Top Gun Baseball and featured teams from throughout the U.S. This is the first time, a team from southern West Virginia has appeared in the tournament. A second team from Lewisburg (13 and Under) also played in the four-day event, going 2-3 in tournament play.