Here’s an update from CPT Cory Newmann, deployed Midwest Manager of Big League Wiffle Ball:
So there I was, knee deep in training at my mobilization station at Camp Atterbury, Indiana, just a few short days away from deploying to Southern Iraq in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom. We had recently been issued our equipment, to include body armor, steel toed boots, various forms of eye protection, and a multitude of other gear–enough to fill three Army duffle bags and a large rucksack. Now that we had our equipment, the good idea fairy had landed. All sorts of phenomenally intelligent ideas for new training were being put out. Things like…Hey! Since we have our 2 mile road march (in full battle rattle) tomorrow morning at 0600, let’s ‘practice’ road marching! With humidity so thick it felt like we were walking through tapioca pudding, we ‘practiced’ road marching. By the end of practice, motivation was failing.
After training was done for the day, I had an opportunity to hop a seat aboard the bus into town. The troops needed a pick me up, something to bring the morale back around. In the Army we call it esprit de corps. I hurried to the local drug store, and picked up two Wiffle Ball sets. I seriously appreciated that the total was under $10, because in the transition from civilian to military life, I was between paychecks.
My roommate and I headed out to the field behind our barracks and started a game. In minutes, a crowd formed and Soldiers started to take interest. First to jump in was 1LT Greg Stetzer, quickly tagged with the moniker “The ripper.” I was pitching to Stetzer, and apparently my knuckleball wasn’t moving enough, because he was destroying each one- bouncing them off the roof of the barracks. My roommate, Chief Warrant Officer John Bourdeaux stepped up to the mound and started working his slider to good effect. My knuckleball may have been labeled as ‘weaksauce,’ but I have yet to break out my riser.
Several other Soldiers stepped up to the strike zone and displayed their skill with the yellow bat. SGT Aaron Hunnel joined in, and started throwing a ridiculous curveball. The company First Sergeant even came out and hit a few, smiling and talking about how it reminded him of playing stickball as a kid.
Chief Bourdeaux said it took him back to his childhood as well, recalling the days of playing home run derby with Wiffle Ball on the tennis courts. More and more people came by the field as we were playing, and Chief Bourdeaux said “that is the beauty of Wiffle Ball, absolutely anyone can play.”
We played for about two hours, wrapped up in competition and memories of our youth. People are already asking me about setting up teams and tournaments. We will continue to build our skills here stateside, in preparation for playing in that big, sandlot overseas. Intelligence reports indicate there are Soldiers playing in Baghdad; I already can see the brackets….North versus South…
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