On another perfect fall weather day last month, SaddleBrooke Senior Softball held its annual Veterans Day tournament at their gem of a ballpark dressed up in red, white, and blue bunting and miniature American flags. A large crowd paid tribute to the many military veterans on the field and in the stands. Vern Boothby, a former softball player and veteran who died in June, was also recognized.
The veterans who played in the tournament appreciated the community’s support and saw it as an opportunity to remind people of the sacrifices our armed services men and women made.
Gus Marano, Air Force ground support, found the tournament a touching tribute to all veterans, past and present. “I’m proud to have served. It’s important to remember the sacrifices that some of us made to ensure our freedoms,” he says. “The community is very supportive and patriotic. It unites us all in the love of our country.”
Steve Schneck agrees. He served in the Army from 1968 to 1969 at Walson Army Hospital in Ft. Dix, N.J. as a radiology technologist. “I like the spirit the tournament brings and the added incentive it gives to play in front of our friends and neighbors,” he says. “It is without a doubt the most important way to bring our community together to celebrate the men and women who have sacrificed so much, allowing us the freedoms that we all enjoy. It lets us show our community that we care about our veterans, our flag and that our community is patriotic.”
Playing on Veterans Day reminds Rick Ervin, an Army medic in Vietnam from 1964 to 1966, when he was a kid back in Indiana, and all the small towns celebrated the major patriotic holidays in a similar way. “I think when folks come out and watch their neighbors, it promotes a greater sense of community, just like it did back then,” he says. “And, when we do it on Veterans Day and Memorial Day, it also fosters a greater sense of patriotism. We forget about our political differences for a while, and we remember how blessed we are to live in a safe, comfortable environment, due in no small part to our veterans.”
On the ball field, they played four games. The scores were 19-15, 13-12, 22-14 and 28-24.
There were a lot of hard hits, a few fine defensive plays and a home run over the fence by Dave Fuller. Misty Atkins, Phil Steffes, and Ed Cussick had the best cheering sections by far. The festive crowd, dressed in variations of red, white, and blue, and which in some cases included three generations, groaned on misplays but applauded good ones.
King Mitchell provided entertaining commentary as the announcer, often pointing out player defensive lapses and questioning umpire calls. Leroy Johnson’s lively between-innings music ranged from old tunes (because we’re old he says) including the always popular “Y.M.C.A.” to patriotic ones to Christmas songs. He did, however, kick off the day’s softball events appropriately with Springsteen’s Glory Days.
Volunteers served free hot dogs and brats (400 of them, gone by the last game), chips, cookies, soda, and water. As always, Doug Wagers from sponsor Window Wizard did the cooking.
Tournament coordinators Mary Schneck and Ken Beals oversaw the whole affair which Community Church at SaddleBrooke sponsored.
SaddleBrooke Senior Softball is celebrating its 15-year anniversary this season with 165 men and women competing Monday through Friday year-round in five different leagues based on ability. The tournament is one of four holiday events they conduct every year. If interested in playing or volunteering, go to saddlebrookesoftball.com for more information.