MT. PLEASANT, S.C. (WCBD)- Teams from across the country are hitting the baseball fields at Shipyard Park for the Holy City Classic tournament. Some new arrivals this year are bringing a new meaning to the word “teamwork”.
Looking out on the ball field, you might see two teams. But if you look a little closer, you’ll find a third that’s putting in teamwork on and off the turf. All of the umpires are wounded, ill, or injured veterans.
Founder of the Wounded Warrior Umpire Academy, Greg Wilson, says, “When we come together here, we’re giving these guys a sense of belonging again, and they really feel good about themselves doing that.”
The veterans attend a free 10-day training camp and then they can travel across the country volunteering with the WWUA.
Not all of the wounded warriors’ injuries are visible, sometimes the veterans have a lot going on inside their heads. But once they step out onto the diamond and put on the mask, there’s only one thing they have to think about.
Wilson says, “To compartmentalize between a 90-foot diamond at 45 degrees for the day, and that’s all you have to worry about. For two or three hours it’s just you and your brother out there on the diamond. It’s very, very therapeutic.”
One of the newer members is Army veteran John Crosser.
He says, “I was injured in Iraq in an IED explosion. I had a few injuries. I had a right amputation of my leg and I had some injuries on my forearm also.”
Crosser worked as an umpire before he joined this program, but he says until now, no one understood some of the unique challenges he faces.
He says, “I have a few modifications that I need to do that at a normal instructional clinic that I would go to, I kind of get a little picked on or get a little, ‘Hey you’re doing it wrong’. But here I don’t get that. I actually get more ideas of how to adapt to my disabilities.”
While the veterans are learning a new skill, they’re also forming new bonds.
Wilson says, “We’re just sitting and talking with each other and it’s not uncommon for someone to say, ‘You know, I’ve been having trouble sleeping lately’ or ‘Something’s been happening’ and we all understand, we all get it.”
Proving that even though life threw these vets a curve ball, they can still knock it out of the park.
To learn more about getting involved in the Wounded Warrior Umpire Academy, click here.