FOX Sports brings spring training to troops

From Feb. 4-8, FOX Sports brought Spring Training to the troops as

current MLB players, Hall of Fame legends, FOX Sports broadcasters and

the FOX Sports Girls paid a visit to U.S. Army Garrison Grafenwoehr in

Germany. It’s the Army’s premier training base for U.S. and

international troops. The following is a look at the trip from Brittany,

one of the FOX Sports Girls who took part in it all:

When I got the email that I was going to Germany I couldn’t have been

happier, but I was also a little apprehensive. I had heard we would be

doing physical training with the troops each morning and playing Wiffle

ball—and let’s just say I’m not the most athletic or graceful of people.

I was being sent to represent our region but was hoping beyond

belief that I could keep up and not completely embarrass myself. My

experience ended up being one of the best things I’ve ever been through

and I am so honored to have afforded the opportunity to go.

After

these few days of spending time with the troops I have a deeper

understanding and respect not just for everyone serving in the military

but also their families that stand with them. 

Day 1

Annilie,

Liddy and I arrived around 9 a.m. in Nuremberg, Germany. We had

traveled for hours and it was around 3 a.m. back in Atlanta, but Liddy

and I hadn’t slept much on the plane. Anilie was the lucky one—she was

able to sleep the entire time.

We were surprised to be so wide

awake at this time of day. It must have been pure excitement and

adrenaline keeping us going. At the airport, we had the warmest of

welcomes from the troops that met us. Eventually, we gathered the entire

group to head to U.S. Army Garrison Grafenwoehr.

Arriving at

Grafenwoehr was intimidating and beautiful all at the same time. The

German countryside looked like the sort of pictures you see in travel

brochures and coffee table books.

We checked into the hotel,

received our itineraries, had a slight briefing and headed out to lunch

with the troops. All of our meals were with soldiers and we tried to

find people that were from our region. These were some of the most

memorable and touching moments of the trip; we got the chance to speak

one-on-one with the soldiers and learn more about their lives since

joining the Army and how their lives have changed.

The girls and

I listened intently as soldiers spoke about the weekend trips many of

them planned to nearby countries, their families, their specialties,

what they have previously achieved, where they have been and what being

in the military means to them.

Next up we visited a middle school

on base where the students could ask questions of some of the MLB

players and alumni (David Justice, Heath Bell, Rollie Fingers) about

their journey to make it to the major leagues. Liddy and I were there

and had some fans, too, who wanted to know about what we did and who our

favorite teams were, it was a little surreal to have so many young fans

wanting us to sign everything from backpacks to tee shirts to cell

phone cases.

The fun didn’t stop there, though.

We then

moved to the baseball clinic where many of the students we saw earlier

could actually engage and learn from our talented group of MLB stars. I

helped out at the batting station but left most of the teaching up to my

co-teachers David Justice, Tim Salmon and Wade Boggs. While the boys

took care of teaching the students, I spent time speaking with the

children waiting in line and their parents.

What really

impressed me was the baseball love I was feeling from this group. It

wasn’t just the children; the parents were huge fans as well. One of the

student’s mothers started telling me how she was a huge David Justice

fan years ago when he played with the Braves and how she never thought

she would be in the same room with him and certainly never imagined her

child would be taught by him firsthand. Bishara and Kayla arrived at the

batting station a little while into the clinic—delayed due to flight

complications—and jumped right in and started making friends with the

children and parents, too.

After the clinic we were given a small

break to get ready for dinner, and we needed it! I power-napped like

crazy in those 40 precious minutes and got ready for a meet-and-greet at

the Patton Fireside Lodge. At the dinner we met some of the commanders

and soldiers that played a major part in us being there, and had the

chance to draft our Wiffle ball teams. I was placed on Liddy’s team, the

Black Scarves, even though I had warned her of my athletic “skills” …

at least I am good at cheering on the team.

At a certain point

it was time to get back to the hotel and get some much needed sleep.

After all, I did plan on being up and going for PT at an extremely early

hour. 

Day 2

As soon as my

alarm clock went off at 5:20 a.m., I immediately started to question why

I had opted to do PT, but I knew I had come here to get the full

experience and I was going to do this no matter what. I dragged myself

out of bed, donned my warmest workout gear and headed out the door to a

dark German morning that not only was draped in a fresh new layer of ice

but featured snow coming down like crazy.

I may have mentioned

that I’m not the most graceful of people, but I underestimated how hard

it is to do PT and run on ice. It was fun, but I’m pretty sure one of

the camera men has video of me falling over.

I was in Jenny and

Danielle’s group for PT. Jenny is definitely the athletic one; she kept

up with the group so well that it made me vow to add an extra session of

Pilates to my weekly workouts. 

Finishing PT, as opposed to

quitting, really made me proud of myself and even prouder of the men and

women out there that morning. They did this every morning and never

once complained nor quit. The girls and I were given Challenge Coins for

doing PT, and I’ll admit when I went to shake the soldier’s hand and

received the coin I was not quite sure what was going on. I quickly

realized this is one of the things I had heard about: the exchanging of

coins. I grabbed one of the FOX coins to thank the man in return.

Simulations were later in the day and that was one of the craziest things to do!

We

did a computer simulator where I got to drive a Humvee in what seemed

like a video game, Orestes Destrade shot out of the top of the Humvee

and two soldiers taught us how to go into combat. The funniest part of

this simulator was that all of the FOX girls were driving the Humvees,

so there were many jokes about the ability of our driving. Liddy even

rear-ended me and a few of the girls (myself included) took out a few

hostile trees along the way. However, I think the award for worst

soldier goes to Luke Gregerson for shooting FOX Detroit girl Lauren

accidently.

Our next two simulators included a shooting range

and a rollover exercise. The rollover exercise was so much fun! Liddy,

Jenny and I were placed in a modified Jeep that was rolled over to train

soldiers on how to get out of an upside down vehicle. We didn’t get to

try to get out of the Jeep but we did get to roll over twice, which was

amazing and scary all at the same time.

After a short break we

went to the physical fitness center for our much-anticipated Wiffle ball

game where we were greeted not just by the soldiers playing alongside

us but a huge crowd of spectators. I was so worried about being terrible

at Wiffle ball, but, much to my surprise, I hit the ball when Wade

Boggs pitched it to me! I don’t care that I was out as soon as someone

caught it, I made contact. I actually hit the ball!

Even though I had a personal win our team didn’t have to same success and we lost and had to do 20 push-ups.

Day 3

Our

last full day in Grafenwoehr started with the Commander’s Challenge

obstacle course, and it was intense. This is a five-mile course that has

stations meant to put soldiers to the test. I was partnered with a

great team of people who, thankfully, didn’t laugh at my inability to

run the entire way.

We started off with a Humvee push, then

moved on to a log carry and then to the extremely scary litter carry. I

say it was scary because I was the one being carried on the litter and I

was holding on for dear life.

Even though I had full faith in

my team, there was a good amount of switching off who was carrying me

and some severe height differences that made me a little on the nervous

side for the mile run. After safely making it to the next station we

were supposed to run with a gas mask—easier said than done—and I sat

that one out, but watched as Liddy kept up in her constrictive and

fogged up gas mask. In the end, my team came in second and I could not

have been prouder of them. One of the soldiers taught me how to assemble

and disassemble one of the M4s after the course and I have to commend

those soldiers because doing that in freezing weather with cold hands is

no picnic.

Next, we went to the Wounded Warriors center and this was probably the most touching memory that I have.

Some

of the soldiers spoke about what had brought them to the center and

their stories were haunting, but also really inspirational because they

refused to let things get them down. One man had taken live rounds to

the chest while another had shrapnel in his back, these types of wounds

had stories that touched each one of us who visited and I will never

forget the sacrifices that these men and women have made for our

country.

Our last on-base activity was the Stryker ride to the

2nd Dragoon museum. The Stryker ride was amazing, cold and hilarious.

Being in a Stryker with David Justice, Luke Gregerson and Jose Tolentino

is one of the funniest things I have ever experienced. The three of

them figured out that there was a radio to the other Strykers and had a

field day with that.

When we arrived at the museum we were

greeted with a great museum showcasing the history of the 2nd Dragoon.

We were given a very thorough tour of the museum and even got to see

soldiers dressed up in historically accurate uniforms from different

time periods and battles.

We had our last dinner off base at a

local microbrewery, which had amazing food and a delicious beer called

Zoigl that they were known for. There were many toasts, goodbyes and

thank yous exchanged over dinner and I was sad to leave that evening but

was thankful that I was able to experience this.

Nothing could

compare to the experience that the girls and I had out there and none of

us could have anticipated the overly warm welcome we received from the

troops stationed at Grafenwoehr.