Two local Maryville College baseball players stood strong together as they held their breath and awaited news on Hurricane Matthew. Separated from their families by 816 miles, raging waves and severe flooding, Johnny Carpenter and Evan Heffner were only able to watch headlines and listen to brief phone calls from their parents all while preparing for the first week of baseball’s fall practice. All of this on top of schoolwork led to massive amounts of stress and a two-week emotional rollercoaster for these two students.
The first junior baseball player affected by Hurricane Matthew was Heffner. He heard the projected severity of the storm while watching the news one afternoon. Heffner checked the weather app on his phone to confirm before he told his friend/ teammate Carpenter to call his family as well. Unlike Carpenter, Heffner’s his family lived in Ponte Vedra, Florida, which was much closer to the storm.
According to Heffner, this is the fourth hurricane that has affected his home during his life time. Hurricane Matthew was the worst hurricane to hit the Jacksonville area, causing his family to leave the house in a forced evacuation to downtown Jacksonville, Florida.
Never having to evacuate before, the storm stroked fear into Heffner’s family. According to Heffner, his family took all of their personal belongings from clothes to sentimental items.
“It was really stressful for me not being with them during this time,” said Heffner. Jacksonville was considered the safe haven to the surrounding townspeople. Thankfully, Heffner was able to acknowledge that his grandmother was safe alongside his parents.
According to Heffner, he was extremely nervous the whole time the hurricane was happening and could not give complete focus to school or on the baseball field.
“The hurricane concerned the whole family because they live near the beach, and I did not know how much damage the hurricane could do to the house.” Said Heffner.
Unfortunately, the Heffner family did receive internal damage to the house from flooding along with the yard being destroyed by limbs and brush as well.
Also affected by the storm was junior outfielder Johnny Carpenter. Johnny, from West Palm Beach, Florida, says this was his first time away from home during a hurricane.
As Carpenter sat on the sidelines his family was facing the storm on their own, and they were constantly on his mind. Thanks to Heffner, Johnny was more informed about the storm.
Throughout practices and endless stacks of homework, Carpernter said the idea of his family getting hurt was always in the back of his head. Images of the devastation from his childhood caused him to have an overwhelming sense of anticipation.
Carpenter had experienced three hurricanes thus far in his lifetime and took part in prepping for all of them. Millions of people swarm to places like grocery stores and gas stations in order to be self-sustainable for a few weeks and even up to a month. Families, business owners, and basically anyone who lives in the area spends roughly three to four hours trying to hurricane-proof a house or business.
“Stocking up on groceries and putting plywood in front of the windows is all hurricane proofing is,” said Carpenter.
Carpenter stated that it is a, “different experience when you are away from family, feeling helpless, not being there to help out putting shutters up, and getting stuff from store and just being with them.”
Luckily, the Carpenter family was one of few that was not forced to evacuate their home like thousands of others due to the outrageous flooding and power outages. According to Carpenter, the only result that came from the hurricane for his family was a good bit of yard work from fallen tree limbs.
Both young men were able to come together and support each other through those two weeks of uncertainty. Carpenter and Heffner talked frequently, checking in on their families and houses. The baseball team was able to help them through this hard time by practicing and playing against each other while making Heffner and Carpenter feel at home during their time of worry.
The Carpenter and Heffner families both made it safely through the storm even though they experienced difficult situations along the way. According to both Carpenter and Heffner, working together is something both boys were taught at an early age from baseball. Therefore, they were not about to stop just because of Hurricane Matthew.