Patriotism knocks it out of the park at the USSSA Military World Softball Tournament

PANAMA CITY BEACH, Fla. -- Two members of Air Forces Northern were invited to perform first pitch honors at the 2014 United States Specialty Sports Association Military World Tournament Thursday afternoon at Frank Brown Park.

Brig. Gen. David W. Hicks, Vice Commander, 1st Air Force (Air Forces Northern and Chaplain (Capt.) Rudy Olivo, 601st Air and Space Operations Center threw out the first pitches during the opening ceremonies.

After meeting and posing for photos with many of the players at the opening ceremony, Hicks said, "It's hard to put into words when the men and women competing in the event are the same men and women protecting the country day-in-and-day-out. You get to see everyone from all the services work hard and play hard competing against each other for these four days.

"Then, Sunday evening, after closing ceremonies and Monday morning comes along, they all put the uniform back on and fight as one team to protect our country and keep our nation and its people free," Hicks continued. "That's what this weekend is really all about -- camaraderie, competitiveness and teamwork -- all the traditional hallmarks of military service."

Air Force Veteran Michael Reeves, USSSA's military softball program assistant tournament director and the Florida Panhandle military director, has been involved with the program since 1990 when the military first started in tournament play.

"This year the exposure has been huge, bigger than past years," he said. "Having the general out here has been great and this is the first time Air Force News has been here with our local news." Reeves said. "Each year coming back is like a big family reunion for everyone.

For this 2014 event, 92 dedicated military teams competed to be the best in their respective division.

Also during this tournament, the Wounded Warrior Amputee Softball Team played three games in the tournament, winning one out of three games, 16-14 against the Anchor Men team, and tying an exhibition game 3-3 on opening day.

David Van Sleet, general manager and creator of the team said, "The team played great against strong, very able-bodied military teams this year." Van Sleet continued, "Their next stop is Manhattan Kansas the first week in September, they then go around the country playing for the next five weeks afterwards."

About the Wounded Warrior Amputee team, Maryland's Military State Director for USSSA, Roger Hockney, said, "When you talk about the wounded warriors, you talk about 100 percent, 110 percent, they give it all, and it's really a heart jerker. You see these guys and what they went through and what they're doing now, they're so inspiring. I think about these things and it brings tears to my eyes and joy to my heart. But the bottom line is we're here for togetherness and camaraderie."

To follow the WWAST, visit www.woundedwarrioramputeesoftballteam.org or friend them on Facebook: Wounded Warrior Amputee Softball Team, or on Twitter: @WWAmpSoftball.