Sunny Golloway headed out Tuesday morning, en route to Oklahoma City to discuss a Big 12 Tournament he thought might be canceled.
And in the aftermath of Monday's tornado that gashed neighboring Moore, with lives still in the balance and the tragedy still tugging at so many, the Oklahoma baseball coach said his first instinct was to scrap the event.
“I didn't care if we played this weekend, to be honest with you,” Golloway said.
Along the way, however, Golloway came across a policeman in Norman who was rerouting drivers away from danger and blocked roads. And the officer prompted him to reconsider.
“He looked really tired, like he'd been there all night,” Golloway said. “I asked him if he was OK. He recognized me and said, ‘Good luck this weekend. Go get 'em.'
“He thinks we're going to be playing. Maybe that's an answer. He's a first responder. He's out there dealing with it first hand. And he's thinking that the Big 12 Tournament will go on.”
The tournament will go on — delayed a day, out of respect to the tragedy and sporting an altered format — perhaps offering a needed distraction or a few hours representing a return to normalcy for fans.
In contemplating whether or not to play, the Big 12 Conference first deferred to city officials, Mayor Mick Cornett and the Oklahoma City All Sports Association, the host organization for the event. Given the go-ahead, the conference then turned to its schools' athletic directors, who recommended a one-day delay.
As a result, the tournament will be played Thursday through Sunday with a pool-play format that will feature two four-team divisions, with the winner of each meeting Sunday for the championship.
As the conference coaches gathered together Tuesday to meet with the media, the mood was respectful, almost hesitant.
“I trust the leadership and all the folks involved here, obviously,” said Oklahoma State coach Josh Holliday. “They are very smart people here that know what the right things are.
“This is going to be good for the community. We're going to do our best to be respectful to everything going on. We're going to see if we can't find some positive way to contribute to the relief. That's what hopefully we can do.”
Considering Monday's devastation, that is the hope.
Yes, the tournament carries the Big 12's automatic bid into postseason play. And every team in the field has some sort of resume building to do.
Individually, many of the league's pro prospects could be making a final impression on scouts and personnel men before Major League Baseball's draft, set for June 6-8.
But after Monday, the edge is gone.
“When something like this happens,” said Baylor coach Steve Smith, “gosh, man, it's like somebody slapped you upside the head and said, ‘Hey, that hanging slider wasn't that big a deal. Your record, two games above .500, that's really not that big of a deal.'
“And that's right.”
Golloway, seeing the storm's path on Monday and knowing that his daughter and grandson could be in the path up the road in Moore, got in his truck and sped to help.
“I think, like anybody, I'm headed there,” Golloway said. “And as I'm listening on the radio, I'm listening to (KFOR-TV weatherman) Mike Morgan as it's hitting the Warren Theater. And I know I'm probably going somewhere I shouldn't be going.”
His daughter, Sunni, her husband, Jared, and their son, Gunner, were safe, with no damage to property.
Later, Sunny Golloway couldn't shake the images of the day, even with his team due in Oklahoma City.
“I saw the tractors and I saw the first responders still going through the rubble at 9:30 last night ... my mind's there,” he said. “It's clearly not on baseball.”
Maybe the game will regain some focus by Thursday, when the Sooners open the tournament with a 9 a.m. game against Smith's Baylor squad at Chickasaw Bricktown Ballpark.
Maybe it'll remove some focus from the disaster, if only for a while.
“There are no greater people in the world than Oklahomans,” Holliday said. “Their giving nature and their friendliness and kindness to one another is what makes Oklahoma a special place. It'll take that once again to help so many people affected and help them get them back on their feet.
“We're lucky to live in a community and state where people care about each other. That's not the case all across our world. But we do have that here. That's why people love it here. That's why I love it here.”