17 April 2009

Our National('s) Pastime

On Thursday night, 17 April, I had the priviledge of attending The Washington National's Military Appreciation night down in DC. Our company, Force 3, sponsored the night, and as such we were able to go down on the field for batting practice and Rocky Cintron, our CEO was able to welcome the crowd as well as some guests of honor. I've reproduced Rocky's own Blog (it's published inside our fire wall at Force 3 so I was unable to link to it) together with some photos of the event. I think you will enjoy the read and perhaps remember that its not just on Veteran's day that we should remember our veterans.

These are Rocky's words....

Last night was a fitting reminder of why I'm still a baseball fan. The weather was glorious for mid-April, no rain, a slight breeze, temps in the high 60’s, the intoxicating smell of Hot Dogs as you enter the stadium and 20,000 hopeful fans (1/2 of them from Philly) believing anything is possible with 150 games left in the season. It didn’t matter that the Nats were 0-7. I still remember 1988 when the O’s began the season 0-21 having the good fortune of gracing the cover of Sports Illustrated (no O’s fan will ever forget the downtrodden look of Billy Ripken sitting in the dugout, head in hands) – eventually finishing the season at 54 – 107, 34 ½ games back in the standings. Gratefully, and solely because Force 3 sponsored Military Night, the Nats will not succumb to an 0-21 start, having successfully bashed the World Champion Phillies 8-2. There was joy in Mudville last night.

Beyond the drama of the game and before the players took the field I was witness to something much more heartfelt. I had the privilege of being able to go down on the field and watch batting practice with some other lucky fans some of which were in our armed forces. I walked over to one of the soldiers, Sgt. Delgado, and introduced myself. Sgt. Delgado had recently gotten out of Walter Reed after his tour in the mid-east. He had a cane with him and was leaning against the concrete wall behind home plate. I quickly found out that he was going to throw out the first pitch. By his side was his friend (I never got his name), not in uniform who was going to assist him out to the pitcher’s mound. Sgt. Delgado informed me that his buddy was a rabid O’s fan and was a walking encyclopedia of Camden Yards, and indeed he was. His friend told me that last week he had a dream come true and actually threw out the first pitch at Camden Yards. The two men were like 10 year old boys basking in the glory of America’s favorite pastime. Sgt. Delgado actually thanked me for sponsoring Military Night and said “you guys are heroes for doing this. I never thought I would get the chance to be on a Major League field watching batting practice, let alone throwing out the first pitch.” My response was simply “you are the hero”. I looked behind the Sergeant and saw a little boy with bright eyes, a wide grin and a baseball mitt. Sgt. Delgado turned and told me that the little guy was his son. A Nats representative then came up to Sgt. Delgado and handed him the baseball that would be used for the opening pitch. Delgado’s friend asked the representative if he thought it would be OK if he caught the first pitch. The rep had the right response, “I don’t see why not”. The two men were absolutely giddy, high fiving each other and talking “smack”. I wished them good luck and walked away smiling at how this game can turn any of us into little boy’s once again playing on the sandlot.

Minutes after this exchange it was time for the Star Spangled Banner and immediately after came the ceremonial first pitch. Sgt Delgado, began his walk out to the mound, aided by his cane, concentrating on his dual prosthetic legs to carry him forward, flanked by his buddy, who we soon found out also had a prosthetic leg. Sgt. Delgado positioned himself and waited as his friend walked back towards the plate. Delgado’s battery mate assumed a makeshift crouch, bending his right knee with his left leg straightened to the side as they prepared to once again team up and deliver. This time it was not for their country but solely for the joy of the moment, to feel what it is like to hear the cheers of thousands. Delgado delivered a strike to his buddy, and although he momentarily dropped it, he deftly scooped it up, and then quickly hobbled to the mound to embrace his friend. Sgt. Delgado’s son was jumping up and down cheering on his dad while many watched – tears leaking out of the corner of their eyes. These two men gave much more than their commitment to our country. They were thankful that they served and grateful that they and their colleagues were acknowledged for their service. This is why Force 3 sponsors Military Night at the Ballpark.

Rocky Cintron, CEO Force 3, Inc. Crofton, MD

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