By Fort Sill Tribune staffSeptember 14, 2018
FORT SILL, Oklahoma (Sept. 14, 2018) -- The final roster for the All-Army men's softball team has been set, and the players are here practicing as they go for the Army's seventh consecutive title at the Armed Forces Men's Softball Championship, Sept. 18-21, at Pensacola, Fla.
Fort Sill is well represented as its head coach, assistant coach, trainer, and two players are all permanent-duty Soldiers here.
"I feel that I have the team that can win the gold medal for the seventh straight time," said head coach Sgt. 1st Class Brandon Sonnenburg, A Battery, 1st Battalion, 78th Field Artillery. Sonnenburg knows about winning gold- he did it in 2010 and 2012 as a player.
Assistant coach Sgt. 1st Class Andre Amantine, Headquarters and Headquarters Battery, 2nd Battalion, 4th Field Artillery, coached the All-Army Women's softball team from 2011-2013. In his years there, they took two golds and one silver medal.
Twenty-five players from a pool of about a hundred applicants of all ranks Armywide sent in electronic resumés to be considered for the tryouts. Sonnenburg, and Amantine evaluated the applicants for experience, and then invited 25 Soldiers for the tryouts, which began Aug. 27.
Sonnenburg said he looked for several qualities in players as he made the final selection.
"I look for their ability defensively, how they're hitting, their game situation awareness, and how they represent themselves on and off the field," the head coach said. Amantine said the ability to play multiple positions was a plus for a player trying to make the team.
The final roster of 16 players, including nine veterans of the team, was made Sept. 9.
"That was the hardest decision for me -- who I had to send home," said Sonnenburg, who is an Advanced Individual Training instructor for the Multiple Launch Rocket System course.
Each day, players begin their own workouts at the fitness centers at 6:30 a.m., Amantine said. After breakfast they hit the Dinges Sports Complex at 9 a.m. For about 2.5 hours they practice infield and outfield drills, situational hitting, and batting practice. After lunch, for about 90 minutes there is physical training. In the evenings they play double-headers, and sometimes three games against local teams.
"We've played teams from Oklahoma made up of conference players to give us the best look possible," Amantine said.
The Army squad also travels to OKC to play and was scheduled to play the Tinker Air Force Base team Sept. 11.
The slow-pitch game is played under Amateur Softball Association rules. The military championship tournament limits a team to 10 home runs during the seven-inning game. Any home runs after 10 are an automatic out.
"You don't want a player to hit a solo home run because that only gets us one run," Sonnenburg explained. "Typically, I like my players to hit 3-run bombs, or a grand slam."
Capt. Rashad Shelton, B Battery, 1st Battalion, 30th Field Artillery, tried out for the team last year when he was in the Field Artillery Captains Career Course, but he did not make the roster. This year he's on the team.
"I just came back hungry, and I worked hard," said Shelton, who is a gunnery instructor in the FA Basic Officer Leader Course. "I worked in the areas that I needed to improve on from last year, like better hitting."
Staff Sgt. Leonardo Aviles, Cowan Dental Clinic noncommissioned officer in charge, is a veteran of the team, having made it in 2012, 2014, 2016, 2017, and 2018.
"What it takes to make the team is a team player: unselfishness, putting your personal stats aside, doing what you can for the program," said Aviles, who plays right field. "You're an ambassador for the team, as well as the All-Army sports program."
The team has two team captains: Aviles, and Sgt. 1st Class James Segrue, Warrior Transition Battalion platoon sergeant at Fort Belvoir, Va., who has been a team captain for four years.
"The role of the team captain is to get these guys to gel together, motivate them, and calm them because there's enough stress when you're trying out," Segrue said. "It's an honor being captain, taking the field with these guys -- the best in the Army."
The team trainer/medic is also a Fort Sill Soldier. Pvt. Mario Cerpa is assigned to Reynolds Army Health Clinic.
"I take care of the guys for any type of injuries. Mainly it's strained muscles, knee injuries," he said. "Whenever they get dehydrated too much, I give them IVs; icing them, heating them, whatever they need."
Aviles said he likes Army's chances for bringing home the gold.
"We have a lot of veteran players, and some of the first-time guys have been to camp before so they know what it takes to compete at this level," Aviles said. "I'm looking forward to representing Fort Sill, the Army, and bring home the gold medal where it belongs -- with the U.S. Army, Hooah!"
2018 All-Army Men's Softball Roster
Sgt. 1st Class Jeramy Aponte, Joint Base Lewis-McChord, Wash.
Staff Sgt. Leonardo Aviles (team captain), Fort Sill
Sgt. 1st Class Dominic Fielder, Army Garrison, Hawaii
Capt. Joshua Godwin, Camp Henry Daegu, Korea
Staff Sgt. Keith Harding, USAG Hawaii
Master Sgt. Benjamin Kahalehoe, Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam, Hawaii
Spc. Anthony Mastrogiovanni, Fort Stewart/Hunter Air Field, Ga.
Sgt. Jedon Matthews, JBLM
Sgt. Andrew Renaud, JBLM
Spc. David Romero, Fort Campbell, Ky.
Sgt. 1st Class James Segrue (team captain), Fort Belvoir, Va.
Staff Sgt. Eric Sessom, USAG Hawaii
Capt. Rashad Shelton, Fort Sill
CW3 Richard Westmoreland, Fort Meade, Md.
Staff Sgt. Bobby Wilkins, JBLM
Sgt. 1st Class Brandon Sonnenburg (head coach), Fort Sill Sgt. 1st Class Andre Amantine (assistant coach) Fort Sill Pvt. Mario Cerpa (athletic trainer), Fort Sill
CW2 Rodrigo Contreras (officer in charge), Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson, Alaska Civilian Sarah Galon (service representative), Joint Base Fort Sam Houston, Texas