Sooners back Carpenter through West tragedy

NORMAN, Okla. — Win, loss or draw, there's always a time when athletes need to step back and put things in perspective.

Win, loss or draw, there's always a time when athletes need to step back and put things in perspective.

American athletes got their fill of that this week with the tragic bombings at the Boston Marathon.

But perhaps the Sooners got a taste more so than most of the rest around the country.

That's because a tragic explosion Wednesday night in West, Texas, which also sent shockwaves around the country, is hometown to Sooner baseball player Kolbey Carpenter.

Carpenter dropped everything, hit the interstate and returned home Thursday to check on his family, who, thankfully, was OK.

But some others he knew were not.

"His best friend lost his father, and there's some other people that he's very close to," said OU head coach Sunny Golloway. "And what I fear, of course, is the very small, tight knit community and as he gets there and gets back, there's probably going to be some other situations that he's gonna have to deal with. So, we need to keep him in our prayers and in our thoughts, and it was pretty emotional."

Golloway, not normally an openly emotional individual when speaking publicly, was quick to point out what it shows about his program.

"We had some of our freshmen that had to deal with some personal tragedy within their own family in the fall and we had a lot of their parents praise us for we understand it's family first in our program," Golloway said. "So, you know, I'm not gonna sit here and pretend as a head coach or any of our players or coaches would pretend that it is gonna affect us as much as it is gonna affect Kolbey, but because it affects Kolbey, it affects us."

The 6-foot, 175-pound first baseman, currently hitting .258 with a homer and 14 RBI, will now take a leave of absence.

And Golloway makes it perfectly clear he'll return when he's comfortable doing so.

This weekend, in five days, next weekend or two weeks from now, when he comes back is solely up to Carpenter.

"I would just say we just need to keep him in our thoughts and our prayers, and I'm sure our fans understand that, you know, if he's not back this weekend, he's where he needs to be," Golloway said. "And when he does come back, I'm sure that our fans are going to give him tremendous support just like his band of brothers that are sitting behind me. You know, those guys love him and they care about him and I know they've been reaching out to him all day. So, I've pretty much told him, ‘Look, I'm calling when I'm calling because I'm really concerned. And just let me know you're safe. You know, I know that your attention needs to be there.'

"And I don't want to keep him on the phone. I don't want to keep him on a text when he needs to be spending time with his family and helping out his community, you know, and it's almost to the point I wish we were closer where we could go and do something as a team to help out, whatever we could do. Who knows? But just to let West, Texas know that the Oklahoma Sooners are thinking about them."

As for the Oklahoma Sooners, they're reeling, losers of three straight for the first time all year, including a two-game midweek sweep by upper RPI Arkansas-Little Rock.

So, perhaps this is a bit of emphasis—albeit remarkably too much of one—that baseball and any other sport is just a game, something that could help them return to having fun and getting back on track after their recent struggles.

"[It] is, ‘Hey, let's understand everything that's going on around us,'" Golloway said. "And I use the term that it's baseball. You know, we're not asked to go into a laboratory and find a cure for cancer. It's baseball. It's a game, and put it in perspective. You know, and then now with this happening with one of their teammates, I think it's very easy to put the game in perspective and what we're gonna do right now is we're getting ready to have a team meeting and we're gonna regroup."

They'll try to do so with a 6:30 p.m. CT first pitch against New Orleans, opening a three-game set at L. Dale Mitchell Park.

Certainly, too, they'll do so with heavy hearts for their teammate who is going through so much.

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