By JOEL SEBASTIANELLI
PANAMA CITY, Fla. (WJHG/WECP) - Cleanup efforts are a long way from over in Panama City, but they're a few hours closer to finished thanks to the Northwest Florida baseball team.
Instead of bats and balls, the Raiders wielded wheelbarrows and tossed tree limbs and debris from yards on Sunday. They assisted inside homes as well, removing carpet from one house.
A full day of community service began at 7:30, continuing through the afternoon hours after multiple properties had been tidied up.
The trip was coordinated by head coach Doug Martin and a local church...and it turned out to be even more powerful than they had planned.
"They didn't know what they were getting into and I didn't either," Martin said. "I've been through some of these storms. I grew up in Pensacola. We tried to tell them about it a little bit, but to get over here and actually see firsthand what this looks like and the devastation that this storm has caused was an eye opener for our guys."
Most of the players aren't from this area, but that doesn't matter. As soon as they saw the damage, they jumped at the chance to load up the bus and help elsewhere later this week.
"I wish we could do more because everywhere you look there's something you can do," freshman pitcher Waylon Steele said. "But it's good that we can focus our efforts in one area and help out one family or one person as much as we can."
Steele is a product of the Panhandle, graduating from Fort Walton Beach High School earlier this year.
Coach Martin said he has already reached out to coaches at Gulf Coast and Chipola, intending to help their rivals any way they can in the next few months.