The massive tornado that ripped through a handful of Oklahoma City suburbs and killed at least 50 people grabbed the attention of the sports world on Monday, especially the players and coaches with ties to the area.
New York Mets pitcher Jeremy Hefner went to Plaza Towers Elementary School in Moore, just south of Oklahoma City. The school had its roof torn off and walls knocked down. Some of those killed during the storm died at the school. He also attended Briarwood Elementary School in Oklahoma City, which was also hit by the twister.
"It's gut-wrenching and it's saddening and I wish I was there," the right-hander said.
Hefner still has family living in Moore. He said he had been in contact with his mother, who told him his cousins and uncles were OK.
"It's unfathomable because I lived there," he said. "I'm praying and feel for the families there."
The Oklahoma Medical Examiner's Office, according to ABC News, said 51 people are confirmed dead, of which at least 20 are childen. More than 100 casualties are being treated at area hospitals.
Denver Broncos wide receiver Wes Welker, a native of
Oklahoma City, posted a message on Twitter to offer his support: "Thoughts and prayers to my hometown OKC. Luckily my family is safe. I have lived in OK a long time. This one might be the worst!"
Washington Nationals outfielder Bryce Harper also took to Twitter to voice his concern: "Prayers go out to all my friends and family in Oklahoma! May god be with you in these horrible times! Love you all! Be safe!"
University of Oklahoma athletic director Joe Castiglione said in a text message to ESPN.com that everyone who was on campus in Norman was safe from the tornado but "we know at least some who have lost homes, pets and who knows how much more. Things are happening in ways which makes it tough to process. Cell or landline phone service is out or spotty in many areas. Cable/internet is also out."
Castiglione said Oklahoma is opening residence halls for those without homes.
"We will be doing much, much more to help as soon as we can determine the needs," Castiglione said. "Just keep everyone in your prayers."
All players and staff of the Oklahoma City Thunder were also accounted for and safe, general manager Sam Presti told ESPN.com.
"The city will come together and support each other, as it has in the face of past adversity," he said. "It is the Oklahoma standard, and it's what makes this place what it is."
Dodgers star Matt Kemp posted on Twitter: "I'm giving $1000 for tonight's HR and every HR until the All-Star break for the victims of my hometown in OKC. #PrayforOklahoma"
"It's a tragedy when you see a natural disaster like that take place, so many innocent people that are certainly affected, if not directly by injury or possibly loss of life," Boston manager John Farrell said. "Having been through something similar back in 1997 that had probably very similar damage, it's a scary situation. Our thoughts are with all the people affected."
Farrell played for Oklahoma State in college, and then served as the assistant coach and pitching and recruiting coordinator for the Cowboys for five seasons from 1997-2001.
"The location today is very close to where it was back in '97," Farrell said. "Just that area just south of Oklahoma City seems to be right in the path of unfortunately a lot of storm fronts and certainly the tornadoes again today."
Chicago White Sox manager Robin Ventura also played his college ball at Oklahoma State, where he was a three-time All-American. The Santa Maria, Calif., native said he didn't know anything about tornadoes until there were a couple that passed through the area while he was in school.
"It's scary," he said. "There's nothing you can do about it."
"Devastating damage to Moore, Oklahoma due to Tornadoes," Weeden wrote on his Twitter account. "Please keep these people in
your prayers. Thankfully @MelanieWeeden family is safe."
Kansas Jayhawks basketball coach Bill Self also went to Oklahoma
"We wish nothing but the very best for [those affected by the storm] and our thoughts are with them," he said.
Information from The Associated Press, ESPN.com senior basketball writer Andy Katz and ESPNNewYork.com writer Matt Ehalt was used in this report.