Florida Marlins players, dancers visit troops in Basra
February 5, 2010
CONTINGENCY OPERATING BASE BASRA, Iraq - Two players for the Florida Marlins baseball team, as well as their coach and four members of the Marlins Mermaid dance squad, visited service members Jan. 30 at the United Services Organization building at Contingency Operating Base Basra, Iraq.
The group signed autographs and took pictures with the service members, and the dancers performed and distributed free Marlins T-shirts.
John Baker, a catcher for the Florida Marlins and a Walnut Creek, Calif., native, said the trip was an eye-opening experience for him.
"We really have no idea at home what it is like over here," said Baker. "I have (two) cousins that served in the Marines here ... in country, and to hear what they say about it and then to be able to see it for yourself are two different things."
Baker said he was most interested in meeting the individual service members to thank them for their service.
"Everybody has been just fantastic with us," said Baker. "We have a chance to look beyond the ... politics of what is going on, look beyond the generalizations, the ideas and just get face to face and meet people. We get told thank you a lot, and we are here to say thank you. I think that it is an interesting dynamic when you have a conversation, because people are grateful that you are there, but we are here because we are grateful for what they do."
Sgt. Cruz I. Flores, a Defense Operations Center noncommissioned officer with the 601st Movement Control Team out of Santa Fe, N.M., and an Albuquerque, N.M., native, said although his team is the New York Yankees, he has watched Baker play since he was in the minor leagues.
"John Baker, he played for the Albuquerque Isotopes, so I got to see him when he was in Division III, or Triple-A," said Flores." So, I have seen him play in Albuquerque, (I have) seen him in the majors already, and (I have) seen him out here in Iraq."
Flores said he believes the visit was a morale booster for the troops stationed at COB Basra
"It is nice to see that people do care about what we are still doing out here," said Flores. "It gives us stuff to look forward to."
Chris Coghlan, a left fielder for the Florida Marlins and 2009 National League Rookie of the Year, said it was important to him to visit Iraq because his brother spent two tours here with the Marines.
"(The decision) was easy," said Coghlan, a Tampa, Fla., native. "My brother was in the Marines for four years and he served two terms over here, and he is the most important person in my life. Listening to his stories and things that he went through and what he did means a lot to me."
He said it meant a lot to him to go on this trip and be able to support the troops through the USO.
Coghlan said, "On the Florida Marlins' behalf, our organization, and everybody back home in America ... we support and love and appreciate what you guys do for our country."