FOX Sports Kansas City's Hudler gets down with the troops at Fort Bragg
FOX Sports Kansas City announcer Rex Hudler brings 'Spring Training to the Troops' at Fort Bragg -- while getting 'goose bumps' as part of an up-close look at the life of a soldier. Chris Archer, Royce Clayton, Mike Dunn, Chris Hammond, Dave Nelson, Jose Tolentino, FOX Sports Girls
Rex Hudler gets ready to take on the 34-foot jump tower at Fort Bragg.
Photo Courtesy: @MLBONFOX
By Jeffrey Flanagan
As a player and now a Kansas City Royals broadcaster, Rex Hudler always has considered himself a good soldier -- metaphorically, obviously.
Now Hudler is getting at least a glimpse of what being a real soldier is about.
Hudler is one of several FOX Sports broadcasters, and current and former major league players, taking part in "FOX Sports' Spring Training to the Troops," a three-day goodwill trip to the Fort Bragg U.S. Army Base in Fayetteville, N.C.
While bringing some of the fun of spring training to the troops, Hudler and the group have been getting a firsthand look at a typical day of a soldier in training.
"I can't tell you how honored I am to be with these soldiers," Hudler said by phone. "To watch what they do, how they train, how they conduct themselves -- it gives me goose bumps."
Also included in the trip with Hudler are Rays pitcher Chris Archer, former Cardinal Royce Clayton, Marlins pitcher Mike Dunn, former pitcher Chris Hammond, Brewers broadcaster (and former Royal) Dave Nelson and FOX Deportes announcer Jose Tolentino, as well as the FOX Sports Girls.
Hudler was given a choice each morning to either take part in the before-breakfast physical training, or to help prepare breakfast for the troops.
I have so much respect for these soldiers and what they do.
Hudler chose the latter.
"I already know I can do the training -- I try to take care of myself," said Hudler, a longtime major leaguer who now provides Royals analysis on FOX Sports Kansas City. "I was more happy to do the breakfast thing, to serve the guys. I've really enjoyed that. I got to learn how to work one of those big grills.
"They have these four-foot-wide grills, and they were showing me how they do omelets -- I was amazed that they can do 10 omelets in five minutes. And they were good."
Adorned in a Mike Sweeney jersey, Hudler enjoyed fixing breakfast for the troops at Fort Bragg.
Photo Courtesy: @MLBONFOX
Hudler then served the food to the troops.
"I had my KC baseball cap on and I wore my Mike Sweeney jersey that I bought at an auction some time ago," Hudler said. "Mike is one of my favorite all-time guys. I love the guy and I wanted to wear that jersey. But the troops, they kept calling me 'Sweeney.' That was pretty funny. They didn't know me."
Hudler did participate in the afternoon drills, however, right alongside the troops.
"We did a lot of basic training stuff," he said. "We had to climb walls, crawl on our bellies underneath these ropes, do the obstacle course and all that stuff.
Hudler scales a wall at the Company Lifesaver Course.
"And we learned a little bit about taking care of the wounded in battle. They had these mannequins and they would have wounds that we had to dress and treat. Really interesting stuff."
And did they let Hudler fire a weapon?
"Oh, yeah. We got to fire some guns -- paint guns," he said. "You're shooting at these targets and you have a drill sergeant screaming as loud as he can at you right next to you -- it's pretty intimidating. He's screaming, 'Look left! Look right! No, look left!' The Fox Girls, they were scared, man."
In fact, one Fox Girl got so rattled she accidentally shot Dunn in the leg with a paint ball.
"Friendly fire, man, it happens," Hudler said. "He was all right. Probably just stung a little bit."
After spending the week with the soldiers, Hudler's respect and admiration for the military was strengthened even more, he said.
"I tell you what: I feel so safe knowing these guys are protecting us as citizens," he said. "Man, they are so good at what they do. It's just been an honor to be with them. I have so much respect for these soldiers and what they do. I'm thankful every day for them."
You can follow Jeffrey Flanagan on Twitter at @jflanagankc or email email@example.com.