Sara's blog from her trip to Germany
From Feb. 4-8, FOX Sports brought Spring Training to the Troops as current and former 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 the FOX Sports Ohio Girls Sara.
I’m home from Fox Sports’ recent trip to Germany where I visited the troops at Grafenwoehr Army Base. The purpose of this trip was to bring “Spring Training to the Troops” and help them experience a little bit of home and baseball!
I’m trying to wrap up how amazing this trip was in one word… but words really can’t describe how honored I am to have gone on this journey and met so many incredible soldiers and families. I thought I had a good sense of what it means to serve because my Dad was a Marine and I have several family members in the military, but after this trip, I’m really coming home with a new perspective on the sacrifice of our servicemen and women.
Here’s a look at my week…
We arrived at the base and headed over to the Field House to help out with a Youth Sports Baseball Clinic with the MLB players, Hall of Famers, and Fox Sports Broadcasters. I was teamed up with Lauren, the Fox Sports Detroit Girl, and we helped Wade Boggs, Tim Salmon, and Jose Tolentino show the kids tips for pitching and hitting. The kids really seemed to enjoy learning the “cracking the egg” pitching technique.
---- Read Sam Amico's article on Sara bringing Spring Training to the troops ----
After the clinic, we headed back to the hotel to settle in before having dinner with the military community leaders and support staff. It was nice meeting everyone and getting to know a little more of Grafenwoehr.
After dinner, it was time for bed… I knew I had to be up and at ‘em at 5:30 a.m. for morning PT (physical training). I was pumped… but a little scared at the same time!
The 5:00 a.m. wake up call came early as expected. As I was getting ready, I couldn’t stop thinking about how the soldiers get up every morning to do what I was about to do. It was about 28 degrees and snowing but we were excited to head over to the Non-Commissioned Officers Academy to start our training. Our workout included circuit drills on the cold pavement, push-ups, and running. I can’t believe I made it though the morning…I definitely understand how these soldiers stay “ARMY STRONG” now.
Well, after that workout we worked up an appetite… so we headed over to breakfast. One of my favorite parts of the trip was that we ate with the soldiers for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. I almost always found one or two soldiers from Ohio, so it was really nice to sit and chat with them about home… and of course, Ohio sports.
After breakfast, we participated in a few different simulations. The first one was at a computer station where we drove Humvee’s during a mission where our base had been attacked. In our next simulation, we were placed in a Stryker vehicle and flipped upside down. I was told these vehicles flip every so often, so they use this to train the soldiers on what to do when and if it actually happens. It was a very cool experience…but crazy to think that this happens for “real” and that these guys are ready for it when it does.
Now it was almost time for the Fox Sports/Grafenwoher Wiffle Ball game and I was starting to get a little nervous. Why? Well, I was asked to sing the “National Anthem” for the game! I’ve sung the Anthem several times for many different events, but there is nothing like singing it to our very own men and women that serve our country. As I started to sing, I looked out and could see our American flag hanging over the men and women in uniform. I focused on the flag because I’m a very emotional person and I wanted to keep my composure and make it through the song. I’ll never forget what happened after I finished…. I walked off the floor and one of the commanding officers told me that I did a great job and placed a 172nd Infantry Challenge Coin in my hand as we shook hands. It was a very cool moment that I will never forget.
After that, it was time to PLAY BALL! I gave out goodies and helped cheer on the teams from the stands with the soldiers and their families. The other Fox Girls, MLB players, Hall of Famers, and broadcasters were split between two teams – the 172nd Infantry and the MP’s. It was really fun game to watch… Wade Boggs pitching, Heath Bell sliding into home…everyone was cheering on their team from the stands. And of course, Wade Boggs had his famous “chicken leg” before walking out to play.
We wrapped up the day with a “Meet and Greet” with several soldiers and their families after the game and ended the day with another lovely dinner with troops. I even had the opportunity to try a few German beers. My favorite was one called Helles, although the Zoigl was pretty good as well.
It’s Thursday, our last day on the base. The week had gone by so quickly… I couldn’t believe it was almost time to go. On the agenda to start the day was the Commanders Challenge over at Vilsek. It’s basically an obstacle course… a really hard obstacle course! It was cold outside, probably about 28 degrees and snowing… but nothing this OHIO girl couldn’t handle. We were all placed on teams, and I happened to be teamed with Tim Salmon and 7 other soldiers. The course spread out for approximately 3-4 miles. It consisted of pushing a vehicle, a half-mile run, flipping tires, another half-mile run with a log, 50 chin-ups collectively (out of our group of 11), another half-mile run, carrying/running with someone on a stretcher for a half-mile (luckily I was on the stretcher!), running with a gas mask on (by the way, this is really difficult!) and assembling rifles. My team was incredible. It’s called the Commanders Challenge for a reason - it was extremely difficult! I am so glad I was able to experience it. And, one of the best parts was that I had two other teammates from Ohio: one from Cleveland and another from the Geauga County area.
Our last activity for the day was the Stryker ride and on-base museum tour of the 101st Airborne Museum. The museum had real soldiers dressed in various Army uniforms that dated all the way back to 1836. I even met another Ohio soldier at the Desert Storm exhibit. She was from Toledo, Ohio!
As part of our last goodbye to Germany, we headed off-base to a restaurant called Puettner Braeu for dinner. Here, we got the chance to try some local food. I recommend the spaetzle - it was awesome! I’m part German, so I really have an itch to learn how to make some of their awesome food now. I also had some great conversations with some military families. I even met the wife of one of the commanding officers whose father, like mine, was also a Marine. We laughed about how we knew how to sing the “Marines Hymn” as kids and remembered our Dads always saying “Once a Marine, Always a Marine”.
I’ve always had the upmost appreciation for our troops, but I’m walking away from this trip with a much deeper appreciation of them. It’s the kind of appreciation you get when you’re up close and personal and see and feel what they do every day. I wish everyone could have this experience.
To all the men and women that serve our country – THANK YOU from the bottom of my heart.