Swinging for the fences: tourney raises $4,500 for Wounded Warrior Project
July 16, 2012
GRAFENWOEHR, Germany -- "I've never been so exhausted playing softball," sighed Spc. Mariano Escalante, 23rd Ordnance Company, 18th Combat Sustainment Support Battalion, during the Reforger Classic softball tournament here, July 5-8.
Escalante was not alone. The Reforger Classic, which hosted 21 teams from across Europe, combined women's, men's open and intramural contests into one event. In order to accommodate 172 matches for three tournaments, games were played around the clock. Teams battled it out on the diamond all day and continued through the night, playing games at 1:30, 2:30 and 3:30 a.m. They rested for a couple hours and then laced up their cleats to do it again.
Players everywhere showed signs of fatigue. In between innings they leaned against fences, eyes closed, and shuffled droopily between destinations. During a four-hour break on Friday afternoon, teams could be seen dozing in camping chairs under the protective shade of tents.
But, on the diamond, energy made a comeback as fielders dove for low balls and runners dashed madly for home plate. According to some members of Grafenwoehr's intramural team, one player even made a flat-footed jump over the catcher to land directly on home plate, scoring his team a run.
The most awe-inspiring performance came from the Scrapalators, a tournament men's softball team sponsored by Drash, a military supply company. Because the Scrapalators hop between competitions in the United States, Europe and Asia, they had a clear advantage over less-practiced teams, beating one 47-0 and another 31-11.
"It's a little demoralizing when you play them," said Tony Lee Sr., chief, Sports and Fitness Office, IMCOM Europe Region, who organized the event.
Despite the incongruity of expertise, Lee claimed the presence of the Scrapalators heightened the flavor of the tournament.
"Everyone wants competition," he said. "Everyone wants to play off."
Friday's big game was a perfect example of this competitive drive. Spectators from Grafenwoehr and the visiting teams streamed onto the softball fields to watch Ramstein, the European champions, take on the Scrapalators.
And, despite the sponsored team's previous prowess, Ramstein confidently entered the fray, nabbing balls and forcing outs.
"We're just not hitting right now," explained Tech. Sgt. Nelly McLeod, 23rd Logistic Readiness Squadron, Moody Airbase (near Valdosta, Ga.), after the first inning.
They were jittery, said McLeod, due to the insults and trash talking Ramstein was sending their way. However, McLeod warned that their peevishness would soon turn into anger, which would turn into runs.
"You don't poke a skunk," he said.
Along with sponsoring the Scrapalators, Drash contributed funding for the Reforger Classic. Drash also ensured all the proceeds from the tournament, from the sales of professional-level baseball bats to food revenues, went to the Wounded Warrior Project.
The Wounded Warrior Project assists service members and their families who have incurred injuries and illnesses while on military duty since Sept. 11, 2001. The organization strives to help service members recover mentally and physically through retreats, therapy and sports.
For Staff Sgt. Elijah Holliday, 1st Inland Cargo Transportation Company, both the scope and the philanthropic bent of the Reforger Classic amazed him.
"To me, it's impressive to see them put together a tournament like this," he said.
1st - Scrapalators
2nd - Ramstein
3rd - Morning Wood
1st - Ramstein
2nd - Spangdahlem
3rd - Heidelberg
1st - 574th QMSC
2nd - Geilenkirchen
3rd - HHC, 1-4th Inf.