On Saturday, the Joint Base Myer-Henderson Hall’s softball team fell short of bringing home a Battle of the Bases championship in a 23-10 lost to Joint Base Anacostia-Bolling in Nationals Park in Washington, D.C., in front of a crowd of almost 2,000 people.
For some of the service members, playing in a MLB stadium was a dream come true. John Parks said his childhood dream was being a professional baseball player.
“Once I chose a different path in life, I’ve always just wanted a chance to just run around and play catch in a major league stadium, but they have to be so protective of the fields, you just figure you won’t ever get the opportunity,” said Parks. “Being able to actually play a game at a professional stadium, and have it be in front of Family and friends, was literally a childhood dream come true. For me, it was also an extremely cool birthday present.”
Although the joint base team lost by 13 runs, Richard Pulignani, the head coach for the JBM-HH team and sports specialist, said the team played well defensively but the lack of hitting and leaving players on base contributed to the loss.
“I think the overall thing that hurt us the most was not hitting the ball,” he said. “Defensively, we did really well. John Parks made those two catches, our infield played pretty solid (and) Miguel Garza, the right centerfielder, made those two diving catches in the outfield as well.”
Pulignani pointed out the issues with hitting was probably attributed to the team not having a lot of experience with hitting a softball because the swing is different when swinging at a baseball.
“(A) softball swing is more of a level swing than a down on the ball swing,” he explained. “Having a lot of new guys to the game … they are used to the baseball where it’s a flat fastball (where) there is no arc and you kind of swing down on that ball. So guys were swinging under the ball, which led to a lot of pop ups instead of hitting through the ball.”
Parks concurred with Pulignani. He said he played softball during intramurals in college and players have to be patient because the ball is coming in much slower and at different angle.
“It’s not easy as it looks,” Parks said, “but when you figure it out, you can do some things with your swing that makes the ball go pretty far.”
Even though JBAB won by 13 runs, Pulignani said that, the third inning was the difference of the game because JBAB scored nine runs. Before that inning, the game was tied at four runs for each team.
“The third inning kind of took off on us … they had nine runs and that kind of pushed them over the edge,” Pulignani said. “We made kind of a comeback in the last half inning. We scored five run to make it not a 20-run game but a 13-run game instead.”
Pulignani added that playing in the Nationals Park was exciting for the players because there aren’t too many people who are afforded that opportunity.
“We were all very appreciative of the Nationals for the event they put on,” said Parks. “They spent a lot of time to make the game have the same atmosphere as one of their baseball games. That means so much to those of us who aren’t professional athletes.
“I just wanted to go out there and play with no regrets. I might not ever get the chance to play at a professional stadium again, so I just wanted to leave knowing I had given each play everything I had. I’m confident in my defensive ability and always think I could make the plays the professionals make on TV. I just wanted to prove to myself that I was right.”
Although the season ended with the Battle of the Bases championship game Saturday, Pulignani said this was a great opportunity for service members. He encourages those who have a love or knowledge of the game to play on an intramural softball team as it provides an excellent chance to try out for next year’s Battle of the Bases tournament.
For Parks, it was more than playing in an MLB stadium. He also had a chance to play in front of his wife and 2-year-old child. His wife was due to have their daughter that day but she went into labor the next day.
“I would like to thank my newborn daughter for waiting until after the game to decide it was time to be born,” Parks said. “She was born less than 24 hours after our game had ended. My wife is a champ for coming out and bringing our 2 year old.
Pentagram editor Catrina Francis can be reached at email@example.com.