Now in its 30th season, the 2019 U.S. Military All-Stars begin their tour in Clark County this week
They arrived in the region last week, most meeting each other for the first time.
They practiced at the University of Portland, training for a tour of Washington and then the Midwest.
They have yet to play a game but in so many ways beyond the sport, this just might be the finest baseball team ever assembled.
Talk about your Dream Teams.
The U.S. Military All-Stars will start their 2019 tour right here in Clark County, competing in the Hanson Cossman Tournament, which features 24 club teams from throughout the Northwest and beyond.
The Military All-Stars have players from all branches of the armed forces as well as a first responder.
“It’s a great program. We get to play a sport we all love. A lot of us haven’t played for a while,” said Tim Duncan of the Coast Guard. “And we get to honor veterans, present and past, including the ones who aren’t with us anymore.”
The All-Stars will play five games over the four days from Wednesday through Saturday, in hopes of reaching the final day of the tournament Sunday. Their Wednesday game is 6 p.m. at the Ridgefield Outdoor Recreation Center. (There is also a game scheduled for Clark College. For the entire schedule, see the tournament’s website at: https://www.showtimebaseball.com/page/show/4542037-2019-hanson-cossman-tournament)
The servicemembers will stick around the region for another week or so. They will play in Centralia on July 2, then return to Clark County for a game against Showtime South in Battle Ground. Those two teams will play again at a special game on the Fourth of July, back in Ridgefield. The team is expected to be part of Ridgefield’s parade, as well.
Oh, there’s more.
On July 5, the all-stars will be special guests of the Ridgefield Raptors during Military Night.
The All-Stars will then head north to play in Tacoma. That is where Jordan Falcon is from, so it will be a home game for him. His last name is Falcon so, naturally, he is in the Air Force.
He said it is cool to be part of such a special group, that he gets to play baseball again, and it is a good break from the intensity of military life. Don’t get him wrong, though. He wanted to make it clear that he loves being in the Air Force.
This summer, though, he and his teammates get to do a little something different.
“It gives me the opportunity to play and represent everybody in the military,” said Joe Morris of the Navy.
Brandon Perez, from Texas, is the lone first responder on the roster.
“I couldn’t pass up this opportunity,” he said.
David Haun, a Marine from Florida, said this was a chance to play baseball again and “honor the veterans we are going to be seeing.”
Ross Kalins is in the Army and enjoys being on the team representing the chaplain corps.
The players often wear their team gear while out and about, and they got noticed real quick in Vancouver last week. Chick-fil-A treated them well, they said.
“When you wear the uniform, a lot of people take notice of that,” Perez said.
“People ask us what’s going on,” Morris added. “They said they are going to make a point of coming to see a game. The community has been phenomenal.”
Over the weekend, the All-Stars attended Heroes Night at the east Vancouver Costco. That is an annual event that celebrates present-day military members, veterans, and first responders. The baseball team fit right in.
The team’s website gives details on all the players, noting their baseball experience before joining the military. The site also details how this is not just a group of guys getting together for a vacation every summer.
“It’s more than just baseball,” the team’s website declares.
The mission is to “promote the awareness of all Americans in support of the honorable sacrifices our armed forces make at the ‘tip of the spear.’ The prominent yellow ribbon in the shape of an ‘S’ located ‘front and center’ in our distinctive ‘USA’ logo symbolizes “Support” for our troops and veterans,” the team’s site says.
Players will visit VA hospitals during off-the-field hours. At many games, there are pre-game ceremonies to honor local heroes. On the schedule for the Fourth of July this year is a swearing-in ceremony for local recruits.
The U.S. Military All-Stars started in 1990. The team plays between 30 and 60 games a year.
After leaving the Puget Sound area, the team will travel to eastern Washington. For the second part of the tour, the team will play in the Midwest, concluding its tour in Chicago at the end of July.
Billy Hayes, the head coach at Battle Ground High School and the founder of Showtime, is the all-star team’s general manager this summer. Thomas Eaton of North Carolina is the team’s field manager.
“We are all a band of brothers here,” Eaton said.