Former Madonna standout Max Nogay was near tornado

Baseball has always generally been at, or near, the forefront for former Madonna standout Max Nogay.

For the redshirt sophomore catcher at West Virginia University, that changed a bit Monday when the Mountaineers were in Oklahoma preparing to play in the Big 12 Tournament the same day deadly tornadoes blew through the Oklahoma City suburb of Moore. It reportedly destroyed as many as 13,000 homes, caused as much as $2 billion in overall damage and killed 24 people.

Things changed that minute for the Mountaineers, including Nogay, Magnolia’s Justin Fox and Wheeling Park’s Corey Walter, who were as close as 10 miles from the tornado’s path.

”The siren started to go off,” Nogay said. ”You go outside at 3 p.m. and it looks like it’s midnight. The winds and hail were insane.”

Nogay said their first thought was that they were lucky, but they immediately turned those thoughts to the victims, with first-year coach Randy Mazey leading the way. He immediately sprang into action, and the players followed.

”Coach came up with the idea to go to Wal-Mart and fill buggies with basic essentials and deliver them personally,” Nogay said. ”We were all grateful we were safe these last couple days, but we’re also happy we could help those people.”

Mazey estimated the team collected more than $4,000 in supplies, a little more than $100 worth per person.

Photos of the gesture spread across social media the next day, with the Mountaineers – 37 of them, including coaches and support staff -surrounded by anything they thought would help at a Wal-Mart checkout lane before they delivered them to Oklahoma University, where a relief site was set up.

”It was a life-changing experience,” Nogay said. ”It brings me to the perspective of what is important. My family and my friends and their health is much more important than baseball.

”Though it is a tragedy, we were grateful to be put in the situation,” Nogay continued. ”We’re here to play baseball, but we were able to help people who were devastated by the tornado.”

The severe weather caused a change in the tournament’s schedule and format. It will begin today, rather than Wednesday as originally planned, and go from a double-elimination setup to round-robin pool play. No. 3 seeded West Virginia (31-25, 13-11) will play second-seeded Oklahoma State this afternoon.

Nogay said the Mountaineers have been through a lot – though nothing like this – and they’ll be ready to turn the switch back to the game when the lights come on.

”We’ve had ups and downs,” Nogay said. ”We’ve had to travel every weekend (whether that’s to road games or home games in Charleston at Appalachian Power Park). We’ve always been able to focus when the time came. That’s a testament to the coaches, too. They’re very good motivators.

”Coach (Mazey) was talking to us (Tuesday) night at dinner. ‘We used those last few days to focus on helping those people. Now it’s time to focus on baseball,”’ he said.

Nogay, who has appeared in 19 games for the Mountaineers, encourages everyone to keep the victims in mind.

”I ask everyone back home to pray for them and do everything they can to help out,” he said.