The Oklahoma baseball team keeps hitting home runs and keeps fighting to wins. Maybe it’s coincidence, yet in this season tied to the memory of Mitchell Whitaker, maybe not.
It was May 2006 when the Sooners visited the OU Medical Center and connected with Whitaker, who was battling leukemia. A ballplayer himself, Whitaker joined the Sooners in the dugout for their Big 12 Tournament win over Oklahoma State that year and later attended the NCAA Regional in Norman. A bond was struck, one that continued through Whitaker’s death at age 10 in September 2007. One that continues still. Sooners coach Sunny Golloway and his assistants were at Whitaker’s bedside in the days before the boy’s passing. His final words: "Keep fighting.” Last season, Golloway switched from his customary No. 29 to wear Whitaker’s No. 18. And while OU scuffled at times, the squad scrapped just enough to make the NCAA Tournament, then fought on to the finals of the Tempe Regional. This season, Power Roofing, a local business, pledged to donate $50 for each home run the Sooners hit to the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society of Oklahoma, in memory of Whitaker. Both the Sooners and Power Roofing delivered big-time, with the team bashing 86 home runs to date — the program’s most in 10 years. Friday night, as OU entered its final series of the regular season on what would have been Whitaker’s 12th birthday, the company provided a check for $4,150 and vowed to continue paying for every homer the Sooners pop through the end of NCAA Tournament play. OU won Friday night, ripping three more home runs and fending off the Aggies late. Fitting. "I remember in the eighth inning,” Golloway said, "as we were making (pitching) changes, I just thought, ‘Ah, Mitch has got this one.