Baseball — the game itself and ethos surrounding it — occupies an elevated place in American life. Couple that with honoring our American Veterans and you have the makings of an annual charity event.
What started as a conversation between Mount Gilead Head Coach Greg Gompf and Danville Head Coach Brian Bratton during the winter OHSAA baseball conference breakout time, ended with a double-header baseball game honoring local Veterans and a fundraiser benefiting the Wounded Warrior Project.
The windy, but gorgeous spring game began with the presentation of colors by the VFW Post 9054 and the AMVETS Post 97 color guard. Following the introduction of players, both teams lined the infield in their matching camouflage jerseys and joined fans and Veterans in the singing of our National Anthem, complete with a courtesy helicopter fly over by Butch Fisher of Fisher’s Ag Service.
As the national anthem played the flag was raised in left field on the newly constructed and donated flag pole. Chuck Hollingsworth of Chuck’s Equipment Repair donated both the materials and labor for the flagpole, which he gave to the Mount Gilead baseball program. Left-handed Airforce Veteran Dan Caldwell threw out the customary “first pitch” for the Indians. Sophomore Dustin McAvoy and winning pitcher for game one of the double-header was honored he was able to start in what Mount Gilead hopes is an annual charity event.
“My father is a veteran, having served in the Army,” he said. “I was happy to secure the win in honor of him.”
While Danville struggled to put runs on the board during game one, they hit well in game two and won 7-6. Senior Danville player Nathaniel Stover spoke briefly between games expressing his gratitude to those that serve our country.
“When Coach Bratton approached the team about teaming up with Mount Gilead for the Wounded Warrior Project, I thought it was a great idea,” Stover said. “I have grandfathers that served in the military and a brother currently in the guard. To be given the opportunity to honor all Veterans, plus play the game I love; it does not get much better than that.”
Raffle baskets and 50/50 tickets were sold throughout the morning with all proceeds being donated to cause. Additionally, Mount Gilead sold camouflage hats during preseason with $5 from each sale being donated to the Wounded Warrior Project. The day’s events and hat sale raised $335. Tiffany Huper won the 50/50 raffle and BBQ gift basket; Suzi Lyle was the winner of a Scentsy gift basket.
The Wounded Warrior Project is a Veterans service organization that offers a variety of programs, service and events for wounded veterans of the military actions following the events of 9/11. The “Wounded Warrior Project” vision is to “foster the most successful, well-adjusted generation of wounded service members in our nation’s history,” as it works to raise awareness and enlist the public’s aid for the needs of severely injured service men and women, to help severely injured service members aid and assist each other and to provide unique, direct programs and services to meet their needs.” (Wikipedia)
Danville Coach Brian Bratton said the idea for the collaborative effort and baseball game was Coach Gompf’s inspiration.
“I readily agreed. Without our Veterans we would not be living in a country with so many freedoms, including the right to play baseball,” commented Coach Bratton. “Looking back through history, early baseball players were war players. They went over seas during baseball season to defend our country. This benefit was a great tribute to our Veterans, but also to the great game of baseball.”
Coach Gompf added, “It is good for our students and athletes to understand the freedoms and rights that have been given to them because of our veterans and active military people. We felt this would be a positive community event and for both teams to be united in supporting a good cause.”
High School spring facilities director and former Marine Mike Barron, who served in both Iraq and Afghanistan, was excited when he first heard about the game.
“I am in complete support of our athletes and coaches. Anything involving active military and veterans is powerful for our students. This is a great day to play ball and I am extremely proud of the baseball program and this event honoring our military.”