By Spc. Ben Fox, 7th MPADJuly 11, 2008
It was an exceptional day for Staff Sgt. Joseph James. A double amputee formerly with the 3rd Brigade Combat Team, 4th Infantry Division, James threw the first pitch of the game July 3 at Minute Maid Park in Houston, where the Astros were to play the L.A. Dodgers.
James lost both of his legs April 8 to the blast from an explosively formed penetrator, a type of improvised explosive device, while serving with a military transition team in Iraq. Pre-game activities focus on honoring Soldiers past and present. A second lieutenant sang the national anthem and Maj. Gen. Jeffery Hammond, 4th Infantry Division and Multi-National Division - Baghdad, briefly addressed the crowd from Baghdad via video teleconference before the game began.
Hammond said the coalition forces were making progress in securing Iraq and building up the Iraqi Security Forces. Hammond wished the athletes and fans a good game. But the Dodgers won 5-2, handing the Astros their third straight loss.
Several 4th Inf. Div. Soldiers and their families came from Fort Hood to see the holiday weekend ball game.
Before all of the festivities began, James was down on the field with his wife and daughter getting ready for his big moment.
"It was a bit nerve racking to begin with," said James afterwards. James' attitude didn't give away any of his fears, though, as he was joking and laughing with several people behind the home plate. He even took some pictures with the Astros mascot.
James also said he was nervous he wouldn't be able to make his pitch, so he found time to warm up his throwing arm with one of the Astros ball boys.
Finally the time came for his big moment.
James was wheeled out to the pitchers mound and he prepared to throw. He said his serves began to get uneasy.
"A lot of people were staring at me," he said. "I really didn't want to mess it up."
James threw the ball without warning and it lobbed across the turf - strait into the catcher's glove.
The crowd erupted with cheers and James smiled from ear to ear, waving back at the baseball fans as he was wheeled off the field.
"It's a once in a lifetime thing," said James.
"Not many people get to throw a first pitch out," he said.
After he made it off of the field, he was given the ball he threw, and several athletes and the umpires came to congratulate him and thank him for his service.
After it was over, James expressed how he felt about the whole event.
"No words describe it, honestly," he said.
James lost both of his legs to and explosively formed penetrator, a type of improvised explosive device, while serving with a MiTT in Iraq, April 8.