“Go Army! Beat Navy!”
This is the chant you hear between the Black Knights and the Midshipmen fans at the Army-Navy college football game. But today, there were positive chants for all branches of military at Citi Field in Flushing, Queens.
The New York Mets hosted the 2016 Military Softball Classic on their home field and it was an honor for not only the members of our armed forces, but for Sandy Alderson and his players as well.
“I’m a former Marine, my father was an Air Force pilot for 30 years, and I was also a Navy ROTC, so I cover all the services except the Army and the Coast Guard,” said Alderson. “We’re real happy to have them here and we’re real happy to have them take advantage of Citi Field and to enjoy the day. We really do appreciate all they do for us and how they represent the country and locally and the city and the surrounding counties.”
Three games were played between the Army, Navy, Air Force and Marines, along with members of the U.S. Coast Guard. The smile on the faces of our heroes reminded many of the smile you see on a 7-year old child opening a present on Christmas morning. These men and women we’re in awe to be sharing the same field as the 2015 National League Champions.
“This is great, I mean this is amazing. It’s a once in a life time opportunity for us and we’re all very appreciative of the Mets for doing this for us,” said Gunnery Sergeant Henry Kelcinski of the United States Marines, 6th Communications Battalion out of Brooklyn, New York.
The games between our armed forces took place in both left field and right field with a reduced flight softball, but that made no difference for Kelcinski who knocked the ball out in nearly every at bat. The Mets may have found their newest recruit.
Many “Amazin’s” made guest appearances during the softball games such as outfielder Curtis Granderson, catcher René Rivera, pitcher Sean Gilmartin, bullpen coach Ricky Bones, and head athletic trainer Ray Ramirez.
“It’s cool that they get to come out and enjoy where we get to come out and work,” said Granderson. “Obviously we don’t get a chance to see what they do on a day to day basis, but to interact with them even just for a few moments is just really cool”.
The well spoken outfielder has a clear and deep understanding and appreciation for the military as he showed his respect to them all by taking time for photos and autographs and stood by to watch a couple of innings of the game.
“It’s the cool thing that sports do,” said Granderson when asked about what it means to him to see this nations heroes come out of their shell to enjoy some baseball. “I’ve seen it on a lot of different levels whether it be on economic issues, hardships, unfortunate injuries, or mental disabilities, different things like that which are caused from some of the issues that they’ve received from being out and serving this country and going to war and going to battle. But to come out here and realize that you’re just like everybody else and once they take the uniform off, they’re just like us. Obviously their background is a little bit different with the things they’ve had to endure and encounter, but they just want to have fun”.
With all of the controversy surrounding this nation with race issues and violence throughout our own country, one member of the military gave his open opinion on the recent events with San Francisco 49ers quarterback, Colin Kaepernick, as he agreed to go on record.
“I think that’s what we represent,” said Lamar Valantina of the Air Force. “We represent the right for him to be able to express that, that freedom of speech, and that’s totally his choice and his opinion. He’s more than welcome to express that and luckily we’re in a place like America where he’s able to do that. I don’t take offense to what he is doing personally because that’s the right that we are protecting by defending this country. I may not agree personally with him, not to say that I necessarily do or don’t, but he has the right to do that”.
It was a day that was filled with emotions as our military members brought their friends, families, and loved ones to the stadium, but to see the smiles on the faces of the Mets when meeting our heroes was something truly special.
The Mets club has once again proved to be a class organization from top to bottom and they continue to gain respect around the league for things they do just like this.