When most people think of a baseball field they think of home runs, hot dogs and the seventh-inning stretch. One of the last things you might think of is the military and their physical fitness, but here in the National Capital Region (NCR) it should shoot to the top of your list thanks to the Washington Nationals baseball team.
The Nationals provide many programs and opportunities that serve military members and their families in the NCR.
“As the home of the national pastime in the Nation's Capital, the Washington Nationals are proud to work with the large community of military bases, installations, and hospitals that serve as permanent or temporary homes to military service members and their families living in the Washington, D.C. region,” said Sean Hudson, the Director of Military Affairs for the Nationals. “The Nationals are always looking for ways to show our gratitude to the servicemen and servicewomen in the DMV.”
One of those programs is Base HIIT. It is a high intensity interval training workout that the Nationals host at Nationals Park throughout the year. The decision to offer this programming to service members was an easy decision for the Nationals.
“The parallels between a professional sports team such as the Nationals and the physical fitness priority of the military made Base HIIT something that became too good to pass up,” said Hudson. “The Nationals recognize the importance of fitness to the military's mission.”
On October 24, 2023, more than 175 service members from the Army, Navy, Air Force and Marine Corps, including members of the Joint Task Force-National Capital Region/ U.S Army Military District of Washington, joined forces to take on the workout.
“What we did was a high intensity interval workout here at the stadium,” said Capt. Weston Harlan, a member of the Office of the Staff Judge Advocate team for JTF-NCR/MDW. “[There were] multiple staff sections participating in it and [we] had a great time.”
The workout consisted of several stations utilizing all areas of the stadium.
“BASE HIIT provides a unique opportunity for service members to work out in a major league ballpark, using areas like the bullpens, field, and stadium steps for a challenging workout,” said Hudson. “Hosting a PT session on a field where baseball Hall of Famers and Nationals greats such as Ryan Zimmerman played is an experience that can’t be replicated anywhere else.”
Along with a physical workout Base HIIT also gave service members an opportunity to connect and team build with those not usually in their units.
“Relationships are incredibly important, especially in the NCR and the mission that the JTF-NCR and MDW has,” said Maj. Gen. Trevor J. Bredenkamp, commanding general of JTF-NCR/MDW. “This engagement gives not only me and Command Sgt. Maj. [Veronica] Knapp a unique opportunity to see and interact with the team, but also allows members of this vast team to see other teammates in a different forum than briefings or ceremonies.”
Harlan said that doing this workout with the other services made it highly competitive.
One of the more competitive times of the workout and one of Hudson’s favorite moments came at the end of the workout: The Wheel of Death.
“The ‘Wheel of Death Tournament of Champions’ is my favorite,” says Hudson. “The nine service members competing for premium club seating at a Nationals game have just endured a grueling 45-minute workout, and are being willed on by their friends and colleagues. It brings out the interservice rivalries in the best ways.”
Boy, did those interservice rivalries come out. Members of the Army, Air Force, Marines and Navy brought it for The Wheel of Death. As cheers and words of encouragement rang throughout the ballpark participants were eliminated until only one was left: Navy.
“It was interesting watching the Navy beat everyone else in pushups today,” said Harlan after the intense competition ended.
As service members made their way off the field following the grueling workout, handshakes and high-fives went around before parting ways to their respective duty stations throughout the NCR.
“My immediate thought as we left Nats Stadium was that we needed to do that again and more often,” said Bredenkamp. “This was the first time for a lot of those service members and civilians to be out on a professional sports team’s field! This will just continue to build and grow our joint relationships so that on our Nation’s worst day, this team will be ready.”
Maybe at JTF-NCR/MDW’s next Base HIIT with the Nationals “Go Army! Beat Navy!” will echo throughout the ballpark.