Travel team of military veteran amputees will play OC First Responders; Double-header day of food, festivities, All-Star game expected to draw 1,000 spectators to Mission Viejo’s Youth Athletic Park on Saturday, May 3. Organizers promise an afternoon of family fun and heartwarming inspiration as the City of Mission Viejo and the volunteer organization Red, White and Blue Warriors play host to the third annual softball game between the Wounded Warrior Amputee Softball Team and Orange County First Responders, a team comprised of sheriffs and firefighters from throughout Orange County. Gates open at 11:30 a.m. and games start at 1 p.m. at the Youth Athletic Park in Mission Viejo, 22056 Olympiad Road.
Wounded Warrior Amputee Softball Team members hail from all over the U.S.; the 24 male athletes served their country, sustained severe wounds resulting in missing limbs, and returned to competitive softball through physical rehabilitation. The Warriors play together nationwide at community games, often handily defeating their host teams as they exemplify their slogan, “life without a limb is limitless.”
Proceeds from this event will benefit the annual summer softball camp the team holds in Tampa, Florida for young amputees, where team members “coached the kids on everything from base running to how to tie cleats with one hand,” according to a, October 2013 People Magazine article.
It will be a softball doubleheader of two seven-inning games. Game one will break a tie between the two teams. The Wounded Warriors won the first year of play; at last year’s game, the Warriors were handed a rare defeat by the OC First Responders. The day’s second game will pit the Wounded Warriors against a sports all-star team that includes former Angels pitcher Justin Speier, ex-Marine and former Angels and Dodgers great Jay Johnstone, former NFL punter Mike Horan, former pro baseball player and vocalist-actor Mike “Majik” Boyd, KFI-AM radio host Gary Hoffman, former NFL player and Mission Viejo High School football coach and former NFL player Rob Johnson, and his brother, Bret Johnson, also an MVHS football coach. In attendance will be retired Dodger Roy Gleason and Bob Johnson, MVHS football coach. Additional all-star players will be confirmed.
The ticket price of $25 includes a barbecue meal, bleacher seating, and a raffle ticket offering dozens of items that will be given away throughout the day. Ticket price for youths 17 and under is $10; children age 5 and younger get in free. Active-duty military and veterans receive a $5 ticket discount for entry at the gate. Parking is free. A kids’ zone will include a bounce house, face painting, and a visit from Orange County Fire Authority firefighters with their firetruck. In a separate area adjacent to the ball field, the Old Orange Brewing Company will sell 12-ounce craft beers for $4 each and donate half the proceeds to the Wounded Warriors.
A silent auction will invite ticketholders to bid on a range of items – tickets to LA Clippers, LA Lakers, LA Kings, LA Angels of Anaheim and LA Dodgers games, signed bats, restaurant certificates, a Stellé Bluetooth audio speaker, and more. Tickets are on sale at http://2014event.eventbrite.com
The night before the Mission Viejo game, the visiting Wounded Warrior Amputee Softball Team and the game’s local organizers from Red, White and Blue Warriors will be introduced on the field at Anaheim Stadium as guests of the LA Angels of Anaheim as they open a series against the Texas Rangers. Vocalist Tricia Freeman, who will sing “The Star-Spangled Banner” at the game in Mission Viejo, has been invited to deliver the national anthem to open the Angels game.
“We created this event to express our deep gratitude to the members of our military,” said organizer Victor Gonzalez of Red, White and Blue Warriors, the volunteer group he formed three years ago to manage the event with longtime friend Jeanne Tumanjan. “We wanted to show veterans and amputees and anyone, young or old, who is facing serious life challenges that physical handicaps can be overcome through hard work, determination, and support from people who believe in you.”
Event sponsors to date include City of Mission Viejo, Commerce Casino, Shasta Beverages, Inc., Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim, Los Angeles Dodgers, Gabriel Container, MagnaFlow, Freedom Innovations, and Solutionz Conferencing.
Last year’s event on March 9 drew 700 spectators and raised $50,000for the Wounded Warrior Amputee Softball Team, a nonprofit organization. The 24 players on the Wounded Warrior Amputees Softball Team live in 12 different states and travel to games with their general manager David Van Sleet. All of the players served in the U.S. military and sustained injuries resulting in amputation. Through extensive and often painful rehabilitation, they have again become competitive athletes. The team includes individuals with a variety of amputations of the arm, above knee, below knee, bilateral below knee, hand, and foot. Currently, some team members still serve in the military, others attend college, while others have moved on to new careers.
According to Van Sleet, “The team’s aim is to honor and raise awareness of the sacrifice and resilience of our military, and to highlight their ability to rise above any challenge. These amputees push the limits of modern prosthetic technology.” www.woundedwarrioramuteesoftballteam.org