The members of the U.S. Military All Stars baseball team do not have their last names written on the backs of their jerseys. Instead, members chose to commemorate a piece of the military experience that is important to them.
In big block letters, the word “Brotherhood” arches over the number 13 on U.S Air Force firefighter Brandon Wheeler’s jersey, representing the 13 fellow Air Force firefighters lost while Wheeler was serving in Afghanistan.
“Everything means something different to someone else,” Wheeler said about the team’s jerseys.
On Tuesday, the U.S. Military All Stars baseball team faced off against the high school travel team the Long Island Force in a game at John Burns Park in Massapequa Park.
The U.S. Military All Stars team is composed of active duty soldiers representing all branches of the military. They travel from stations all over the world to compete together in the military league. Tuesday marked the first time the team played on Long Island and the first time it took on a team from a high school division.
Town of Oyster Bay councilman Joseph Pinto, who also has coached little league baseball on Long Island for 31 years, had the idea to invite the Military All Stars to Long Island to celebrate the troops and one of America’s favorite pastimes. He worked with Supervisor John Venditto and Anthony Passalacqua, of Long Island Baseball, to bring the event, which he called the Supervisor’s Trophy, to fruition.
“They work so hard to preserve the quality of life,” Pinto said of the members of the military, “it’s the least we can do for them.”
The event also included a clinic before the game, when Long Island little league members practiced pitching and hitting with the military team, and a home run derby for all the players involved in the game.
For Venditto, the event was not only a way to celebrate the troops, but a way to engage the local community.
“I enjoyed seeing the looks on children’s faces in the crowd,” he said. “If we can get just one child interested in baseball, then the whole night was worth it.”
Before the official game began, the military presented the American flag to the crowd in a special ceremony performed before every game they play. The Town of Oyster Bay was also presented with a special jersey signed by all of the military players.
The U.S. Military All Stars defeated the Long Island Force 8-5, with both teams celebrating their MVPs in a trophy ceremony at the end of the game.
Long Island Force third baseman Dan Daley, 18, of West Islip, said playing against the military was a new experience.
“It’s an honor to be out here playing like this,” Daley said. “As a young player, you never know where you’re going to end up, you just have to keep playing.”