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Feeling Okla.'s pain

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — Isotope Ryal’s heart is with his family, friends

At their very finest, sports can provide an escape.

But only for so long. Rusty Ryal knows that all too well.

The Albuquerque Isotopes’ starting first baseman went 1-for-3 with an RBI double and two runs during his team’s 7-3 win against Colorado Springs at Isotopes Park on Tuesday night.

But he realizes how minuscule a ballgame is.

“It puts everything in perspective, it really does,” Ryal says of the tornadoes that devastated his home state of Oklahoma on Sunday and Monday. “Fortunately, my family wasn’t involved. Friends – I still don’t know. … (Monday) night I really had trouble sleeping. You just want to help.”

Ryal was born in Ponca City, Okla., about 112 miles north of the devastating tornado that ripped through the Oklahoma City area Monday.

He says his entire family – “dad, mom, stepmom and sisters” – still live in the Oklahoma City area, where he also spends about one month of his time in the offseason.

“My dad saw the tornado on Sunday go just 2 or 3 miles from him – he could watch it,” said the 30-year-old Ryal, who is in his first year of Los Angeles Dodgers organization. ” … You see the devastation on TV, but it’s hard to explain the magnitude of what really happens. It picks up 3,000-, 4,000-pound trucks and throws them for miles.

“As a kid, you’re taught to go as a group in the hallway. Those kids are just sitting ducks. You just pray that it misses.”

On Monday, it didn’t.

The tornado – which tore a path 1.3 miles wide and 17 miles long – killed at least 24, including nine children. It has left thousands homeless.

Ryal says he made numerous hectic calls to family and friends to check on them Sunday and Monday night. He said he didn’t know how massive Monday’s tornado was until after the Isotopes’ game that night.

“After the game, I had like 29 text messages,” he says. “I was kind of freaked out. I called my mom, and saw all the video. I’ve been in a few tornadoes, smaller ones, and I don’t think anyone who hasn’t been in one understands the process; the buildup, the silence, the complete chaos after.

” … We’re talking about complete devastation 20 miles long. It’s hard to swallow, it really is. I feel so bad for those kids and their parents. Just imagine the mentality of being lost. You walk out of the rubble, and there’s nothing there. You can only imagine the fear if you’ve got children.”

Ryal and Isotopes manager Lorenzo Bundy said the team is in the process of putting together a fundraiser for the Oklahoma City area’s victims.

Ryal says that the even the smallest contributions go a long way.

“You read the stories about people coming to shelters, and they’re scared,” he says. “You don’t realize that one bottle of water matters, one can of food matters,” he says. “People have donations of blood at every casino to facilitate the mass needs for types of blood.

“It’s just really tough. If people had to see firsthand what they’re looking at there on a day-to-day basis from now on, it’s just heartbreaking . It really is. A city that had one dose of it just more than 10 years ago, and this one’s even worse. It’s just mass destruction.”