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220-acre brush fire shakes Rays teammates

Austin Meadows, Brandon Lowe safe after scare
@juanctoribio
February 25, 2020

SARASOTA, Fla. -- Brandon Lowe and Austin Meadows were sitting inside the Rays' clubhouse on Monday when Lowe got a call from his wife, Madison, that everyone involved will not forget.

SARASOTA, Fla. -- Brandon Lowe and Austin Meadows were sitting inside the Rays' clubhouse on Monday when Lowe got a call from his wife, Madison, that everyone involved will not forget.

“Madison called me and said, ‘Hey, I think our neighborhood is on fire,'” Lowe recalled. “I looked at Austin and said, ‘Dude, our neighborhood is on fire?’ and I think right after that, he called [his wife] Alexis and everything kind of sped up from there.”

The shared Spring Training home of Lowe and Meadows was in the danger zone of a nearly 220-acre brush fire that caused serious damage in the Rotonda West area and Charlotte County. Law enforcement is still trying to gauge just how much destruction was caused by the brush fire.

As Meadows and Lowe stood at their lockers on Tuesday, much more relieved than the day before, they were just thankful that a stressful 24 hours didn’t result in anything worse.

“Driving down there, it was just a massive cloud,” Meadows said. “I think it was 220 acres. Just taking everything out in its path. I’ve never seen anything like it. It was unbelievable.”

Meadows was scheduled to lead off and play left field for the Rays on Monday, but he was scratched due to a personal matter. Since the news was so closed to game time, Meadows and Lowe didn’t have much of an opportunity to tell anyone that they needed to go attend to a family emergency.

They weren’t thinking about baseball. They were only thinking about finding their loved ones and their two pets.

Both Lowe and Meadows took off and directed their wives to meet up in a location that was safe from the fire. The ride to the house felt longer than usual, Lowe said, and as they got closer, they realized that the street leading up to the house was closed off. Upon getting the call, Lowe said he sprinted toward his truck.

“I felt like I was in NASCAR,” Lowe said. “Last thing we heard was we can’t get out, there’s smoke everywhere and I was terrified what might actually happen.”

Lowe said he has experienced an earthquake, a tornado and a hurricane, but nothing scared him quite like the speed of the brush fire. Brandon and Madison were able to stay with Hunter Renfroe, while Austin and Alexis spent the night with Oliver Drake and his family.

Both Lowe and Meadows were back in the lineup on Tuesday in Sarasota against the Orioles -- Lowe had a triple and a bases-clearing double in the 15-2 win -- and they don’t expect to miss any time. They’re still unsure about their living arrangement for the rest of the spring; they haven't returned to their homes since yesterday, though they've been cleared for entry.

“Thankfully, we had firefighters from five or six different counties come in and they did an unreal job keeping it contained,” Lowe said. “Thankfully, everyone was safe.”

Juan Toribio covers the Rays for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter @juanctoribio.