Players connect with ball
1 / 2 Show Caption + Hide Caption – Capt. Jessica Lopez, 720th MP Bn., 89th MP Bde., connects with the ball Sept. 23 during the first game of the day in Viera, Florida. (Photo Credit: Samantha Harms) VIEW ORIGINAL
Player warms up
2 / 2 Show Caption + Hide Caption – Trey Moore warms up at the batter's box during the Military World Tournament for slow pitch softball Sept. 24 in USSSA Space Coast Complex. Moore is a recent retiree from 15th BSB, 1st Cav. Div. (Photo Credit: Samantha Harms) VIEW ORIGINAL

VIERA, Florida — The GI Janes, a women’s military team, took fifth place overall with a 2-2 record in the Women’s Division of the annual United States Specialty Sports Association (USSSA) Military World Tournament for slow pitch softball September 21-25.

The tournament, along with others across the country, was created specifically for service members, dependents and retirees; divisions included Men’s Military A, Men’s Military B, Military Over 40, Military Over 50, Military Mixed and Women’s Military. The military started in tournament play with USSSA in 1990.

So while this is just one of many times that this tournament has occurred, it is the first time that Capt. Jessica Lopez, 720th Military Police Battalion, 89th Military Police Brigade, has attended.

“This is the first time that I have actually played with the GI Janes and played in military worlds, but I know a few of the women on this team from when I played on the All Army Women’s Softball team two years ago,” Lopez said. “But I’ve been playing softball for about 20 years with slow pitch beginning at the start of my Army career, which is about seven-and-a-half years ago.”

Lopez spends most weekends traveling across the state of Texas to play in slow pitch softball tournaments, most often alongside fellow service members. It comes as no surprise that this weekend the Orlando International Airport was filled with people carrying softball bags.

Teammates, coaches and fans travelled from all over the United States to partake in military worlds, as it is dubbed – some coming from as far away as Alaska and Hawaii, and Texas. The Military World Tournament has been happening at the Space Coast Complex in Florida since 2018.

“This tournament is known to be one of the greatest because of the ‘family reunion’ with people you have worked with or played against throughout your career,” Lopez said. “And you also get to meet some really talented athletes from other branches of the military. It’s great to see us all come together, compete, and have fun doing it.”

The passion that Lopez has when she is either on the field or in the dugout is clear, though it’s easy to see that same passion resonate with everyone who attended.

“Its good stress relief for a lot of people; its good exercise for a lot of people and its fun,” said Trey Moore, a recent retiree as of April 2022 from 15th Brigade Support Battalion, 1st Cavalry Division, Fort Hood. “Softball is just playing a sport we love.”

Player high-fives teammates
Trey Moore high-gives his teammates during the third game of the weekend, Sept. 24 at the Military World Tournament in USSSA Space Coast Complex, Viera, Florida. (Photo Credit: Samantha Harms) VIEW ORIGINAL

Moore began playing baseball when he was in high school and quickly found a home in slow pitch softball when he joined the Army. After being invited to play while stationed in Korea, he came back to the United States and had the honor to play for the All Army Men’s Team. His team at the tournament, BTA, came in second place overall in the Men’s A Division.

“So if [you’re] in the military, active duty, unit level sports – that’s where you need to start,” said Moore. “As you progress and get better, people are going to notice you. Then you can move up in level to tournament teams and higher level ball.”

Playing at the local level is what pulls people in and it’s where the connections begin to grow. Lopez’s own local team, Lady Warriors, was represented at military worlds through herself and through a teammate, Tonia Armstead, spouse of retired Sgt. 1st Class Charles Armstead, 1st Battalion, 12th Cavalry Regiment, 1st Cavalry Division, Fort Hood.

Armstead has been playing since 2005 with various Fort Hood teams – including 4TheFallen, who she went to Florida with. She chose to come to this specific tournament because of her passion for playing military ball and because of her ties to the military through growing up in a military household, along with her spouse, her daughter, and extended family all serving.

“This tournament gives you an opportunity to play beside women that have served and are still serving from different branches, which is awesome,” Armstead said. “When we step on that field, we become one; all playing for a purpose.” Her team came in second overall for the Women’s Division of the tournament.

When asked why others should start playing themselves, Lopez had this to say.

“Building a greater family that you know will always have your back, no matter where you are in the world, is why other people should play. There is a sense of belonging. I can be stationed anywhere in the world and know that I will be welcomed to play,” said Lopez. “It doesn’t matter how old you are or how long you have been playing for; today can be your first day playing and there is always going to be someone wanting to teach you the game.”