By Nathan Deen, The BayonetAugust 22, 2012
FORT BENNING, Ga. - As trials get under way for the 2012 All-Army men's softball team, two Soldiers from Fort Benning seek to be among the 15 players selected to compete in the Armed Forces Championship, Sept. 15-21 at Fort Sill, Okla.
The trials are also held at Fort Sill. Those who make the cut will train there until Sept. 14.
Dom Fielder of L Troop, 2nd Squadron, 16th Cavalry Regiment, 316th Cavalry Brigade, and Kristopher Rodriguez of C Troop, 3rd Squadron, 1st Cavalry Regiment, 3rd Armored Brigade Combat Team, will be newcomers if they make this year's squad. The pair left for Fort Sill Thursday and the trials began Tuesday.
Fielder did not plan on being in Fort Sill this week. He was originally told his trials application had been rejected, he said.
A week later, he played in a Southern Softball Association of America tournament in Peter's Creek, N.C., with the Fort Benning post softball team. He said he hit .767 for that tournament, and Fort Benning finished in third place.
On Monday, he got a call inviting him to the trials. Apparently, he said, someone liked what they saw.
"I felt like I was competitive enough to make it," Fiedler said. "I thought I would go after it next year. When I got accepted, I was grateful for the opportunity.
"I have no idea what my role would be like. I just want the chance to be able to produce."
Fielder said he played high school baseball and a year at the junior college level. He's played softball while in the Army for eight years, but this is his first attempt at going for All-Army. Fielder's game wasn't good enough until the last couple of years. Now 32, he said, "It's come together over the last three years."
Despite receiving the late invitation, Fielder could have an advantage by being one of the few left-handers, he said.
"I feel it could possibly help me in camp," Fielder said.
Meanwhile, for the 24-year-old Rodriguez, this marks his second attempt to make the team after being cut last year. However, Rodriguez said he was still allowed to practice with the team during the Armed Forces Tournament. It was a special privilege, he said, like "being the 16th man."
"That was motivation," Rodriguez said. "Being on the bench and not being able to play, I was like, 'I want to be on the field.'"
As the youngest player trying out that year, and as someone who only picked up the game a year earlier, Rodriguez said he took full advantage of the opportunity, asking the players who made the team what areas of his game needed improvement.
"Everyone treated me like I was part of the team and helped me out," Rodriguez said. "It made me a new ballplayer."
The answer was clear: hitting, and specifically, hitting to the opposite field. Rodriguez is a right-hander and said he always tends to pull.
That gave Rodriguez some food for thought -- and he's been chewing on it for a year.
Rodriguez said he grew up playing baseball in Puerto Rico and his dream was to make it to the major leagues. At 19, he realized that would not become a reality and instead joined the Army.
"I've always wanted to make it to the highest level," he said. "I knew the Army had a team and my dream changed."
Air Force has won the Armed Forces championship the last two years, with Army coming in at a close second both times.
"Regardless if I make it or not, hopefully we beat them," Rodriguez said.