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Sunday, March 3, 2024
March 3, 2024

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Servicemen raise awareness through playing baseball

By , Columbian sports reporter

RIDGEFIELD — With their first game of the summer in a lightning delay, several players from the U.S. Military All-Star team stood in the outfield with members of the Showtime 18U baseball squad.

They laughed, had some friendly competition and got to know one another as the rain drenched the Ridgefield Outdoor Recreation Complex.

The game, which was part of the Hanson Cossman Tournament, was eventually cancelled. Still, there was valuable lessons to be learned.

“I think we’re all still little kids at heart,” said Tim Duncan, a member of the U.S. Coast Guard out of Seattle. “When I was their age, it was all competition. … We’re out here spreading the love. At the end of the day, it’s a bigger picture than stepping on ballfields.”

The U.S.A. emblazoned across the team’s camouflage uniforms say as much.

The Red, White and Blue Tour continues through the end of the month, including two stops in Ridgefield on Thursday and Friday.

The tour’s goal is to recognize the sacrifices the service men and women made for the country. They will play some baseball, meet some people and represent Old Glory.

“We have guys coming from Afghanistan and all over the world,” Duncan said. “It’s awesome. You have guys who have played in the minor leagues or wherever and guys who were a little less fortunate, who all had to go serve their country. This is an opportunity to step away from that and do something they love.”

Baseball is the common ground everyone shares, Duncan said. All five branches of the military are represented on the team from all over the country.

As they come together, they, too, see fans rally behind them.

“It’s a divisive world we’re in right now,” Duncan said. “You get to support a cause you love and it’s hard not to put all your differences aside.”

Brandon Cole Perez is the only player on the team not part of the U.S. military. An Edinburg, Texas, native, Perez has baseball roots. His father, Gilberto, was a high school baseball coach until he contracted a flesh-eating virus that eventually took his life at 63.

After helping assist his father as he dealt with the chronic illness, Perez found his calling as an EMT. He is the lone representative for first responders on this tour.

“The EMS doesn’t get as recognized as it should,” Perez says. “We have to have people protecting the country when these men are away.”

Shortly after high school, Perez hung up his baseball cleats. He didn’t find his way back into the game until two years ago.

He took part in the 2018 Fallen Soldiers Tour through Texas, and jumped at the chance to compete in the Pacific Northwest this season.

“It’s an amazing feeling,” Perez said. “Playing baseball with a great group of guys and great men that serve for our country to allow us the freedom we have today. There’s nothing better to do in the world.”

The All-Stars play a 6 p.m. game Thursday at the RORC. Scheduled to pitch in that game is United States Navy veteran Anthony “Tony” Davis, of La Center.

Davis was a Navy helicopter crewman. His job meant plunging into the sea as a rescue swimmer, or manning a machine gun as his helicopter swooped down to check out a possible threat.

He broke his back in a 2005 car accident upon his return to the states after a deployment overseas, and was told by doctors he would never walk again.

He has since become a competitive rower and baseball player. He told his story to the team earlier this week and will start Thursday’s Independence Day contest.

The team is also being honored at the Ridgefield Raptors game on Friday.

Columbian sports reporter