ADAZI MILITARY BASE, Latvia -- 'Sky Soldiers' of Attack Company, 1st Battalion, 503rd Airborne Infantry Regiment, 173rd Airborne Brigade out of Vicenza, Italy, tested their baseball skills against players from the Latvian National Team in Riga, Latvia, Aug. 8
The game served as a means to promote esprit de corps and increase camaraderie among the Latvians and U.S. Soldiers currently deployed to the region for Operation Atlantic Resolve, an ongoing, multinational partnership focused on joint training and security cooperation between the U.S. and other NATO allies.
"We wanted to show support to the U.S. troops that are here helping us by sharing this experience with them," said Team Captain and Third Basemen Kristaps Duselis.
Duselis, who has been playing baseball for more than 10 years, said that while the sport isn't very popular in Latvia, games such as this one against the Sky Soldiers help at not only making a name for the sport, but for building upon the relationship Latvia has with the U.S.
"Not only are we meeting people who enjoy the sport as much as we do, but it is allowing us to break down cultural barriers and communicate better," Duselis said. "It's just a good time and will be memorable for all of us."
In the team's second time playing the Sky Soldiers in the American past time, the first time was against the 1st Squadron, 91st Cavalry Regiment, coordination with the U.S. Embassy in Riga allowed the Baltic state the opportunity to strengthen their Transatlantic relationship.
For Spc. Joshua Sexton, a Cassville, Mo., native with the 1-503rd, the game was an opportunity for him to not only knock the dust off of his throwing arm, but see how much of an impact the sport he grew up playing has had around the world.
"It pretty cool to see that our pastime made it all the way across the world," said Sexton, who played baseball before he joined the Army. "I'm really impressed with their fundamentals and how good they are."
Taking a break from playing teams from Lithuania, Belarus, and Estonia, the gae against the deployed U.S. Soldiers brought something new to the National Team.
And while defeating the Soldiers of the 173rd Airborne Brigade 11-7 in an American sport is a good feeling, the game was about more than that, said President of Latvian Baseball Federation Andis Ansons.
"With the situation going on in this part of Europe, I know there are critics of U.S. troops being here," Ansons said. "For us, it is important to show that Latvia and the U.S. are friends and partners. Having a friendly match is just another way to show our support for one another."
The 173rd Airborne Brigade were the first unit to deploy into the Baltic States in support of OAR following the situation in Ukraine back in 2014.
Visit the Operation Atlantic Resolve website for up-to-date photos and information.