By Mr. Matt Decker (Leonard Wood)June 30, 2016
For the second consecutive year, Fort Leonard Wood's commanding general proved a good luck charm for the Springfield Cardinals.
Maj. Gen. Kent Savre, Maneuver Support Center of Excellence and Fort Leonard Wood commanding general, gave a pre-game locker-room speech to the Springfield, Missouri, team -- the Double-A affiliate of the St. Louis Cardinals -- as part of Fort Leonard Wood Appreciation Day activities held Saturday at Hammons Field.
Last year, the Cardinals won after Savre's pep talk. "I'm expecting a victory again today," the general said as he waited to throw out a ceremonial pitch.
The Cardinals happily met Savre's expectations, belting out a 12-7 victory over the visiting Arkansas Travelers -- the Double-A affiliate of the Los Angeles Angels -- in front of a near-capacity crowd of more than 7,000 fans.
So, what did the general say to the players?
"I talked about some of the same things I talk about with Soldiers," Savre explained. "Don't take this great life we have in America for granted. That's why we, as Soldiers, serve: to support and defend the Constitution and to keep alive the American dream. As ballplayers, they're living the American dream."
Fort Leonard Wood and its service members were the main attraction throughout Saturday's pre-game activities. Events began with a military working dog demonstration conducted by the 180th Military Police Detachment, which included obedience commands and a controlled-aggression scenario that are part of protective-services training.
"We're extremely proud of the fact that our Military Working Dog Team has an opportunity to come out here and showcase some of their skills," said Command Sgt. Maj. Roy Ward, MSCoE and Fort Leonard Wood command sergeant major, who also threw out a ceremonial pitch.
"I'm just really inspired by the fact that the communities continue to reach out to our military community and embraces us as part of their team," Ward added. "To me, having the opportunity to come out here today and throw out a first pitch really solidifies that relationship between our military and civilian communities."
In addition to Savre and Ward, Spc. Tierra Jenkins, 180th MP Det., visited the mound, accompanied by her military working dog, to throw out a pitch, as did Cynthia Cole, the president and CEO of Infuze Credit Union. The credit union, with contributions from several local and area businesses, annually supports Fort Leonard Wood Appreciation Day and provides free tickets for active-duty service members, their Families and military retirees.
Also taking the mound for a ceremonial pitch was 11-year-old Ja'Shaun Lee Rincon, a member of the Fort Leonard Wood Youth Sports 9-to-11-year-old Cardinals baseball team. The team was the official Field of Dreams Team for the game, with young players taking their spots on the Hammons Field infield during the pre-game events.
"This is a big day for them and a big day for Fort Leonard Wood as a whole and the Waynesville-St. Robert community," said Jamal Verdell, Youth Sports director. "They've had a really fantastic season, and they are really excited. It's always special when the Springfield Cardinals take time to appreciate the military."
Following the ceremonial pitches, service members marched onto the field and lined the infield fence along the first- and third-base lines as the 399th Army Band and the Joint Services Color Guard marched onto the outfield.
"It feels good to be honored for all the work that we do, and to come out and enjoy America's pastime," said Sgt. Donald Walls, with the Medical Department Activity, one of the many service members who stood in formation.
As the color guard presented the colors, the band played the national anthem.
"It's an honor to support our community," said Sgt. 1st Class Matt Fredrick, 399th Army Band drum major.
Once the game began, fans enjoyed a hit-fest, with the Cardinals taking a 3-0 lead in the bottom of the first inning, then tying the game in the bottom of the second on a RBI double after the Travelers put up four runs in the top of the inning. The Cardinals took a big lead with a five-run rally in the bottom of the fourth inning, then added two more runs in the bottom of the fifth and one run in the bottom of the sixth. The Travelers scored two runs in the sixth and one in the seventh, but couldn't overcome Springfield's lead.
Sgt. Mark McMurray with the 399th Army Band performed during the seventh-inning stretch, singing "God Bless America."
The game ended with a fireworks display.
Having Fort Leonard Wood represented at the ballpark made Savre feel proud.
"It means a lot to me, personally, because I'm always proud to showcase our great Soldiers, service members, Families and civilians from Fort Leonard Wood," Savre said. "The fact that the Springfield Cardinals are hosting us is great. I'm always proud to bring our team here."