Nothing could prepare Noah Cummings for the phone call he would receive on the night of Jan. 11, 2017. In fact, no one can ever be prepared for such a call.
Disbelief. Devastation. Heart break.
These were a few of the things running through Noah’s mind as his mother told him his father, Bill, suffered a heart attack during a hunting trip and passed away. Even having his best friend and teammate Kyler Stout by his side couldn’t stop the instant hurt as his heart sank and his life would change forever.
“I had to give the phone to Kyler and let my mom talk to him and I walked outside. It was tough,” said Noah. “All my roommates and I stayed up that night, might have gotten a couple hours of sleep and then they took me to the airport the next day. That’s kinda how that night went.”
“He was our rock. I’ve tried to model myself after him, especially the last couple years. I turned 22 the other day and I’m at that stage where I need to become a man. He was selfless, always about other people. He meant the world to me. I love him.”
The pain of losing not only a father, but a mentor, role model and friend can make a lot of things in life seem trivial, especially baseball. While his mind was with his family and on his dad after returning from his home in Alpine, California, the desire to play was still there, despite the pain. But how? How could someone play with such a heavy heart?
“It was what we worked for,” he said.
So Noah, with a heavy heart continued to work and prepare for the season as planned, but once Opening Day came against Little Rock on Feb. 17, holding back those emotions was harder than ever.
“The hardest game I’ve ever had to play. Knowing I wouldn’t be able to give him a text after the game,” said Noah. “He’d always call me or text me afterwards. We won that day which helped because it definitely was hard getting through that one.”
If Cummings started this season in an 0-for-50 slump and had a rough season, no one would have blamed him. Yet, in spite of everything, he’s done the complete opposite. Not only has Cummings performed well, he’s been the Golden Eagles best player this season. He’s notched career-highs in every offensive category in just 39 games and is currently tied for 16th in the NCAA with 48 RBI.
Noah’s season thus far has been an inspiration to many, but it may have never happened without his brothers. No, not his blood brothers back in California, but his 33 baseball brothers in Tulsa and the other members of the ORU baseball family around the country. Having a second family to help carry his burden with him has meant the world to Cummings, maybe more than they will ever know.
“That’s another thing that’s hard to put into words. They were there for me and my family. The way they reacted to it showed how much they cared about me and how much they cared about each other,” he said. “When things are going good, you don’t notice that until something tragic happens. Them going through that pain with me, just goes to show what kind of men they are.”
Noah and his father Bill shared a passion for baseball since he was young and there’s no coincidence that their common passion has helped him cope the last several months.
“It’s given me something to take my mind off of it, for sure. My little brother [Jake] played baseball his freshman year of high school and then stopped. He’s a senior now and also needed something to take his mind off of it too. My coach from back home invited him to come play,” said Cummings. “I think me and him are sharing that right now. Using baseball to not only get our minds off of it, but to give us something to go out and have joy about. Our dad would be so proud when we played. We still feel that.”
There’s no timetable when it comes to healing a heavy heart and what takes some people a day, may take others a lifetime. Whether it’s on a long bus ride across the country, running on the outfield grass after catching a flyout or while stepping into the batter’s box, Noah Cummings knows he can’t be with his father, but he can see Bill every time he looks into the mirror. The man he is and the man hopes to become have forever been impacted by his dad. The love that Bill showed Noah for nearly 22 years didn’t die on Jan. 11, but it will stay alive, in him, for years to come.