USC Aiken catcher Luke Leisenring tweeted late Sunday night that this wasn't exactly how he wanted to be featured on the Foul Pole Sports Twitter account.
The tweet, which had already been viewed more than 55,000 times by Monday evening, was a video of the USC Aiken baseball team's bus engulfed in flames.
The team was returning to Aiken from Dahlonega, Georgia, where the Pacers had wrapped up a three-game series at North Georgia, when the bus caught fire. Head coach Kenny Thomas estimated the team had been on the road for about an hour after eating dinner when the bus slowed down before pulling over in Greensboro, Georgia, to evacuate everyone on board. Thomas called 911, and then the bus caught fire.
Not exactly how I wanted to make foul pole... https://t.co/dXeUiQfaw2— Luke Leisenring (@LukeLeisenring) March 11, 2019
"We were quick and rapid to get our players off the bus and get them to safety. Our players, managers, trainers were gotten to safety very quickly," said Thomas, who was riding in a vehicle behind the bus to enjoy some extra leg room. "Everybody got home safe last night. We got a new bus over there and had a little good time riding home talking about things. …
"We're very appreciative of the hard work of the bus driver, the hard work of the Greene County, Georgia, first responders, police, fire – those people were wonderful. I could never thank them enough. Those people were great last night. We appreciate it."
Thomas didn't sense any panic in his players, and he said locals were quick to offer help. Thomas said a man approached the team and offered to take them up to the patio on his farm, and he added that the chief of the fire department invited them back to the station to wait for the bus company to bring them a new ride.
The outpouring of support has only grown as word has spread.
"I tell you what's so amazing is how many people around the country are offering to help us. It's crazy how many people," said Thomas. "My good friend Ray Tanner – former University of South Carolina baseball coach and current USC Athletics Director – just sent me a text. I've had calls from all over the country today, and emails, text messages ... The community's been unbelievable, supportive, trying to help us."
The cause of the fire remains under investigation.
Much of the players' gear and personal items were damaged. Thomas said some of the uniforms worn in Sunday's game were lost in the fire, as were gloves belonging to about 15 players and catcher's equipment.
Thomas spoke Monday afternoon at Roberto Hernandez Stadium for a press conference, and he said it was very comforting to be back home after three consecutive weekends on the road – and he joked, in typical Thomas fashion, that the Pacers ended their three-week road trip with a little excitement.
Things are returning to normal for the Pacers, who are currently out of classes for spring break. They had a light practice Monday, and they're preparing to play Wednesday night's 6 p.m. home game against Erskine as scheduled – Thomas wouldn't have it any other way.
"Now, I may not know whose glove we're gonna use, but rest 100 percent assured we are going to play Erskine at 6 o'clock here Wednesday night," he said. "We might be fielding ground balls with somebody else's glove. I don't know. I don't know. I haven't figured that out yet. But I can tell you one thing – we're not backing down. This ain't stopping us. ... Pack this stadium, because we're gonna be here. I promise you."
Anyone wanting to donate to the USC Aiken baseball team is encouraged to call 803-641-3518.
Sooo how do we get home...? pic.twitter.com/WfJehOO5Ld— Foul Pole Sports (@FoulPoleSports) March 11, 2019
Horses Run🤟 https://t.co/2SIYCQQWag— Jacob Rye (@J_Rye12) March 11, 2019
Not ideal... https://t.co/0FPVgQ1SzD— Scott Huntley (@Scott_huntley8) March 11, 2019
Pictured: the bus ablaze and the aftermath of the fire pic.twitter.com/kebNy9mW0S— CJ Krainock (@CalKrainock21) March 11, 2019