Sep 30, 2013, 11:31 AM EDT
Usually the Sunday after a Notre Dame Football loss is filled with remorse, anger and depending on the type of loss, severe sorrow. If you were at Melissa Cook Stadium Sunday afternoon, you surely felt none of these things.
The Notre Dame softball team took a break from their “fall ball” schedule to host an amazing fundraiser with the Wounded Warriors. People showed up for a softball game, yet stayed for something much better than any other game. At Melissa Cook Stadium the action is usually the main attraction for fans. On this day though, the main attraction was the home team. And, in deserving fashion, the Wounded Warriors were the home team.
The Wounded Warriors Amputee softball team is made up of U.S. military servicemen who have all experienced severe injuries during active duty and have required amputations. Suffering injuries like these would be a huge demoralizer for the common man, yet these athletes are anything but common men. Watching these athletes play and seeing what they can do on the field, they played more like a World Series caliber team rather than soldiers who have been wounded.
Right when the PA announcer said, “Here come the Wounded Warriors,” at the beginning of the first game, this team did not let up on the Notre Dame softball team until the final out was made at the end of the game. The WWAST decimated the Irish in the first game with a final score of 24-15. This game had no real winners or losers though as both teams were all smiles throughout the game. Whenever someone made a good play in the field, or got a big hit, both teams clapped and high fives were infectious between both teams.
The appreciation for the Wounded Warriors from the crowd was evident. It really showed early in the first game as Wounded Warriors center fielder Greg Reynolds made quite possibly the most amazing play I’ve ever seen in softball or baseball.
Reynolds had his left arm completely amputated while serving for the United States Army. Seeing him run out to centerfield with his glove on his right hand, I was very confused as to how he was going to throw the ball if it was hit to him. Early in the game he showed me as a towering pop fly “flew” to his direction. Running underneath the ball he made the catch with ease. What he did next was a jaw dropping moment for the huge crowd in attendance as well as for myself.
After the catch he flipped the ball up in the air with his glove. Then, in one swift motion, flicked his glove off his right hand then proceeded to catch it with said hand and threw a rocket to first base in order to keep the runner on first from advancing. His play showed to everyone, including myself, that the Wounded Warriors were not going to let these amputations define who they are.
The second game today featured the Wounded Warriors battling the Notre Dame Celebrity team. This team featured head coaches, Mike Brey and Mik Aoki, as well as Notre Dame Leprechaun, Johnny Romano and ESPN analyst, LaPhonso Ellis. Managed by the head coach of the hockey team, Jeff Jackson, this team was one who was ready to play.
This second game was a real treat to the fans. Seeing a Leprechaun playing shortstop and a basketball coach pitching at Melissa Cook Stadium was something no one could have conjured up seeing before today.
The big highlight of the second game was an inspirational moment as a little boy, who had his left leg amputated from the knee down, stepped into the batters box for the Wounded Warriors in the sixth inning. The stadium erupted with applause as the young boy worked the count and delivered a single to center field.
It seemed like the “luck of the Irish” was not in Notre Dame’s favor today as the Wounded Warriors won the second game by a score of 22-9. However, everyone, including myself, was cheering on the Wounded Warriors despite whether they were a Notre Dame fan or not.
A record was set today for Melissa Cook Stadium by the Wounded Warriors as they hit 23 homeruns between the two games.
The atmosphere at the stadium today was filled with laughs and smiles. It was a real treat to see so many people in attendance supporting our troops. Next weekend the Irish head to Chicago as their “fall ball” schedule takes them to the “Windy City” to play Heartland Community College and UIC.
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