Air Force steamrolled their would-be challengers Friday night at the Armed Services Classic, holding Army scoreless through four innings and cruising to a 9-2 victory.
The Classic, a softball game at Nationals Park in Washington, D.C. as part of Major League Baseball’s All-Star Week, was the culminating event of a tournament featuring teams from every branch of military service.
Each of the five armed services – Army, Navy, Marine Corps, Air Force and Coast Guard – held tryouts to field the best possible team to send to the tournament.
This was no casual, beer-infused softball game of the likes found on any neighborhood diamond. No, this was business.
“We can joke, we can laugh even on the field we have a good time, but when the ball’s in the air and we’re at bat, it’s go time,” said Air Force Tech Sgt. Adrian Ortiz.
The stands weren’t exactly packed to the rafters Friday night, but a healthy – and boisterous – crowd of friends and family were on hand to take part of a moment more than a few players said was one they’d cherish for years to come.
“As kids we all dream of this,” Air Force Master Sgt. Matthew Campbell said. “Just to be able to come out and enjoy one night with all of my friends — it’s a dream come true.
Campbell pulled double duty for Air Force, not only anchoring the team’s offense, but also representing his service in the home run derby that took place immediately following the game.
The top two hitters in that competition – Navy’s Petty Officer 3rd Class Russ Newbern and Army’s Staff Sgt. Jacob Hensal – have now earned the chance to step back onto the field at Nationals Park, this time with a few more eyes on them. On Monday night, during MLB’s All-Star Game home run derby, Newbern and Hensel will participate in the slugfest, crushing home runs alongside some of professional baseball’s top stars.
Newbern, a lifelong baseball fan, said the chance to step onto the field was a great experience, but taking part in one of the most electric events of Major League Baseball is a “once in a lifetime opportunity.”
© 2018 the Stars and Stripes
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