Fox Sports Ohio Girl Sara helps bring Spring Training to the Troops
FEB 12, 2014 1:25p ET
From Feb. 4-7, FOX Sports brought Spring Training to the troops as current MLB players, FOX Sports broadcasters, and the FOX Sports Girls paid a visit to U.S. Army Fort Bragg in North Carolina. The following is a look at the trip from Sara, one of the FOX Sports Girls who took part in it all.
I'm back home in Cleveland after spending a few days visiting our troops at Fort Bragg Army Installation in North Carolina to bring "Spring Training to the Troops." Wow, what a week. It really brings a new perspective to the sacrifice our soldiers make when you're able to experience their training, go through their drills, and get a dose of what it's like in the daily life of a solider.
Here's a look at my week...
My alarm went off at 5 a.m. and my feet hit the floor ready for some PRT (Physical Readiness Training) with the NCO Academy. It was cold and rainy, but the energy these soldiers had in the morning calling cadence brought out the energy in me too. We started off with some basic exercises in a group before heading off for our run. They usually have longer runs for PRT but they went a little easy on us and we ran about two miles. Our PRT concluded and we handed out baseballs, T-shirts, posters, etc. as a thank you to all of them. After that, it was on to eat breakfast with the troops. I thought it was pretty cool that I just happen to sit down next to a soldier from Parma, Ohio.
Up next, we visited Albritton Jr. High School on the installation. The kids there were so excited to meet former and current MLB baseball players. It was so heartwarming to see their faces light up when they met everyone. We had a question/answer session with them and all the players signed autographs and took pictures with the kids. One of my favorite moments in the assembly was when Tampa Bay pitcher, Chris Archer, spoke to the kids. He told them his story about being cut from his seventh grade baseball team, and then a few years later having a coach tell him that he'd never play Div. 1 baseball. And now look at him - he's a starting pitcher for the Tampa Bay Rays. The kids really seemed to enjoy hearing from him and the players. Seeing them smile and get so excited was really special.
Our next activity took us to the Parachute Packing Facility where we learned how to pack our own parachute and then had a rigging completion competition amongst the Fox Sports Girls and MLB players and broadcasters. I didn't win, but I can tell you that packing a parachute is hard work! One of the soldiers let me try on the parachute with all their gear to experience what it's like to carry it all. Whoa -- with all my gear on it weighed around 95 lbs! I couldn't believe how much work went into packing the parachute and then wearing it. And they told me they sometimes have to wear it for hours at a time.
Next up was the Medical Evacuation Simulator at Pope Field. At this activity, we learned how soldiers are trained to respond when fellow soldiers are critically wounded in the field. It was intense and very realistic. As part of this training, we were taught how to dress a wound depending on the type of wound and severity. Then we were assigned to groups and sent out in the woods where a command officer guided us through a war scenario. During the war scenario, we were partnered with a soldier and had to use injured mannequins and correctly take care of their injuries based on the training we had received earlier in the activity. At one point, we were in a room with bomb sounds going off, lights flashing, and chaos around us trying to take care of our injured mannequin. I couldn't help but stop and think of how chilling this would be in a real-life scenario.
As the afternoon arrives, we're off to the Youth Sports Baseball Clinic at Tolson Youth Center. At this activity, children on the installation were able to get pitching and batting tips from our MLB players. I assisted with MLB pitcher Chris Archer from the Rays, and Mike Dunn from the Miami Marlins. The kids really seemed to enjoy being able to get baseball tips from some of their favorite players.
It's evening now and time for dinner. At this dinner, we drafted our wiffleball teams for the next day. The wiffleball teams consisted of soldiers, Fox Sports Girls, current and former MLB players and broadcasters. I wasn't going to share this next part, but I actually think it's pretty funny, so I will. We all know in a draft someone is going to get picked last. Well, this year it was me. Chyna from Fox Sports Wisconsin Girls was our team captain and said she "saved the best for last" when she picked me and it turns out she may have done just that. Well, at least for this one instance in our wiffleball game, because, coming up to bat, my team was down 7-0 and I was able to score the first run of the game! My team, "Midnight Warriors," still lost, but it felt good to help out a little.
The next day we wake up early again, only today I'm helping to serve breakfast to the soldiers after their physical training. It's great to once again sit with the soldiers and listen as they share where they're from and their stories with us.
After breakfast, it was time to jump from the 34-foot tower! There's no parachute on this jump, but a type of zip line that catches you after you jump. I was talking a big game about jumping until I got up there. It was scarier than I thought it would be at first. The soldier on top of the tower with me helped me by giving me a little confidence boost before takeoff. I had to yell out my name and walk off the ledge! And off I went... Sara from Fox Sports Ohio -- AIRBORNE!!!! I loved it. What a thrill! A cool little side note about this jump is that on my way home I found out this tower is the very tower my Dad learned to parachute jump from when he was a Marine stationed at Camp Lejeune in North Carolina. I didn't realize Camp Lejeune is only about 2 hours from Fort Bragg and he had done some training there when he first joined the Marines.
The next activity up for the day was a very special treat. I feel extremely honored we were able to meet and get one-on-one training with the USASOC (United States Army Special Operations Command). I was able to test my skills at target practice with a Glock, AR 15, and Sniper Rifle, with their assistance.
And now, finally, it was time for the highly anticipated wiffleball game between current and former MLBers, FOX Sports Girls, and service men and women. I was honored to get things started by singing the National Anthem before the game. Let me tell you, it is a very special feeling to sing our National Anthem to a crowd full of men and women that make it possible for us to sing the song.
The wiffleball game was a blast. And like I said earlier, it was a cool feeling to score the first run for my team. One of my favorite parts of the game was when I was running out to the outfield and a group of soldiers in the stands stood up and shouted out "O-H!" How cool is that? I must admit I had a little Nick Swisher moment there and immediately responded with an "I-O!" My team however continued to struggle, especially when former MLB shortstop Royce Clayton gave up two back-to-back home runs when he was pitching! After that it was time for a pitching change, so we brought in former MLB pitcher, Chris Hammond. We ended up losing but we had a lot of fun, so that made up for it. I even helped out a little during the game and led everyone in "Take Me Out to the Ballgame" for the seventh inning stretch - just like we were at the ballpark. After the game, we got to hand out baseball bats, hats, and all kinds of goodies to the troops and their families.
Our last dinner at Fort Bragg was with the Command Leadership consisting of General Chinn, Colonel Sanborn and other high-ranked officials at McKellers Lounge on the installation.
It's our last morning at Fort Bragg... So that means one more day of PT! On this day, it's a little different because once a month on payday they have a special "Payday Run" and only half-day of work. This dates back to World War II when soldiers would line up to get their paycheck and have to go out and pay their bills in the afternoon. So on our last day at Fort Bragg we were able to join them. Once again, they took it a little easier on us for the run (thank goodness!).
I really can't describe how honored I am to have gone on this journey and meet so many incredible soldiers and their families. Even though my dad was a Marine and I have several family members in the military, I'm really coming home humbled and with a fresh perspective on the sacrifice of our service men and women.