By By Somer Breeze-Hanson, Northwest GuardianSeptember 2, 2011
JOINT BASE LEWIS-MCCHORD, Wash. --
When Doug Levien played against Manny Ramirez in high school baseball, he knew Ramirez would be something great.
He was right. Ramirez went on to be a two-time World Series champion during his 18-year Major League Baseball career. Levien took a much different route, but he has had glimpses of what it's like to play in the big leagues.
In his first season with the Seattle Barons of the Puget Sound Senior Baseball League, Levien will play center field in a charity game, "A Day at the Show IV," at Safeco Field Sept. 4 at 3:30 p.m.
The PSSBL is a nonprofit baseball organization for adults that features 65 teams in eight age and skill divisions with more than 1,000 players.
Sunday won't be the first time Levien will play in a professional stadium. He played at Yankee Stadium twice and once at Veterans Stadium in Philadelphia. Soon he can add Safeco to his list.
"It's a great opportunity any time you play in a professional park," Levien said. "It's a once-in-a-lifetime dream."
Only 68 PSSBL players will have the opportunity to play at Safeco Sunday. Levien and the Barons will play an exhibition-style charity game. There will be a professional announcer speaking over the stadium's sound system. Admission is free and parking in the Mariners' parking garage is $5. The home plate gate will open at 11:30 a.m.
"I have played in the PSSBL for 18 years," said Mike Ruger, the Barons' general manager. "Doug is one of the most gifted, talented players I have played with ... He is also a great person and cares about all of his teammates."
After a successful high school career Levien went on to play baseball at La Salle University where he was an all-conference player. His baseball days were phased out as he pursued a master of arts degree in international relations from Webster University.
Levien, who has served in the U.S. Army for 17 years, moved to Joint Base Lewis-McChord last year, where he is the commander of the 593rd Special Troops Battalion.
Since college, Levien continued to play intramural softball and when he saw an advertisement for the PSSBL, he took advantage of the opportunity to continue to play the sport he loves. Levien plays a 20-game season in a 35-and-older league.
"Sports and baseball are important to a Soldier," Levien said. "It's all about dealing with pressure, stress and the competitiveness. Any key leaders or Soldiers, whatever your gig is, it's important to relax. For me mentally, it's easy once you walk on the diamond and leave the day's activities behind."
The JBLM intramural program is important to Levien and the 593rd STB. With Soldiers constantly deploying Levien said sports are essential for resiliency and keeping them recharged for their day-to-day work.
In the week leading up to Sunday's game, Levien prepared to be deployed to the East Coast after Hurricane Irene for hurricane relief.
"We were alerted Friday night for possible deployment and it looked like I was going to miss (the game)," Levien said.
But the local authorities and the National Guard's aid proved to be enough.
Unfortunately for Levien, Hurricane Irene changed the plans of his father, Doug Jr. (the younger is Doug III), to fly from New York to see his son at Safeco. Levien credits his retired Marine dad for his joining the Army and pursuing baseball.
Levien's wife, Lt. Col. Deborah Ellis, and Soldiers from the 593rd will be in attendance at Safeco to support Levien.