Roy Oswalt returns to Phillies

PHILADELPHIA -- While his teammates played baseball, Phillies pitcher Roy Oswalt spent the past week riding an excavator and moving fallen trees off the property at his Mississippi home after tornadoes ravaged the community.

Oswalt was back with the team Thursday, eight days after he left to be with his family in Weir, Miss. He threw a bullpen session and could start against Atlanta on Saturday.

But pitching is hardly first on his mind these days.

"I've always said this right here, baseball, is a gift that you're given to ply, but this comes third or fourth on my list," Oswalt said. "I could walk away from the game today and be happy. As long as you have your family, they're going to be there a lot longer than the game will be. A lot of people don't look at it that way, a lot of people think this is who you are as a person. It's not. It's something that you're blessed to do."

Oswalt and his family were among the lucky ones.

Last week's tornado outbreak in the South was the second deadliest in U.S. history. It killed 329 people across seven states and left stretches from Mississippi to Virginia in ruin.

Alabama was hardest hit with 236 deaths.

Oswalt's home didn't sustain significant damage, but so much debris was spread across his nearly 500-acre property that his family couldn't get in the house.

His in-laws' house nearby had roof damage. Last year, a tornado completely destroyed his parents' home, the one Oswalt grew up in.

"The good thing is there weren't any lives lost on my family's side," Oswalt said. "There were some lives lost up the road from us. The good thing is it never really touched down right on top of us. It hit the ground a couple of miles past our house."

Oswalt and his wife, Nicole, have three daughters aged 6, 3 and seven months. His wife's parents were watching the children when the tornado swept through the small town. Oswalt's wife was with him in Arizona for Philadelphia's three-game series.

"The biggest thing is my three kids were there," he said. "They had to run down in the middle of the night to get to a storm shelter. It kind of scared them a little bit. It [mostly] scared my middle one. She's going on 4. To wake up in the middle of the night to run through rain and wind to get to a storm shelter scared her a little bit. But they're doing fine overall.

"They asked a lot of questions," he said, "but other than that, they're doing well."

Others in Oswalt's position might be looking to relocate after enduring destruction two years in a row. The 33-year-old right-hander could easily afford to move anywhere he wants.

The thought doesn't even cross his mind.

"That's home," he said. "You can't run from stuff like that. You face it. That's pretty much where I grew up. Someone said, 'Move to California,' but there are earthquakes down there. It doesn't really matter where you go."