AL ASAD AIR BASE, Iraq --
The bat cracked, sending the baseball soaring into the outfield where a Marine’s failed attempt to catch the pop-fly elicited a commotion of cheers and jeers from each team, while the batter simultaneously took this chance at running the base paths. The catcher stood ready to catch the ball, intending to tag out the runner before he reached home plate but to no avail, the Marine ran home safely.
The Marines of Mobile Security Detachment, Headquarters Company, Regimental Combat Team 8, took time out of their busy schedule to borrow some bats, balls and gloves from the Morale, Welfare and Recreation office and challenge their fellow Marines in a game many consider America’s national pastime.
They used green sandbags to create the baseball diamond and had a conjoined dugout, a squared-in-area next to the field, where they grilled sausages, steaks and hamburgers. There weren’t any gripes today as they took turns at bat, playing in the field, and munching on the grilled food.
“Baseball really has brought the platoon together,” said Sgt. Matthew Veniskey, a vehicle commander with the Mobile Security Detachment. “Plus it’s been able to get our minds away from work for half a day.”
The platoon, normally separated into three squads, has always been competitive to boast who has the most squared-away Marines, what squad has the most completed missions, and who has the best weapons knowledge. But today, the competition was between two teams, splitting up squads and working together to be the best baseball team for that game.
“I think it’s really great that our senior leadership was able to organize this for us,” said Cpl. Robert Dillon, a machine gunner with the MSD. “We’re usually in squads but today it feels like we’re a whole team.”
For many of the Marines, baseball was a normal part of their past but some have never played for an organized team.
“I’m glad we got to do this,” said Cpl. Jason Morris, a vehicle commander with the MSD. “It’s been since 2002 that I’ve gotten to play this sport. Everybody’s been having a blast.”
Sergeant Jeffrey McCarty, a section leader and the self-dubbed “morale technical expert” for MSD said that even the guys who are obviously new at this, are having a great time.
“That one year of T-ball as a child definitely paid off,” said Lance Cpl. Douglas Gruebel, a machine gunner with the MSD.
Many of the Marines were jovial about their lack of ability to play but to some, the day’s game was pure relaxation.
“I don’t know what it is,” said Lance Cpl. Brandon Swillinger, a Marine with MSD, “maybe it’s the sound of the game, the crack of the bat or the smack of the mitt.”
Pitch-after-pitch, swing-after-swing, for the stern-faced men of MSD, today was a day to relax, eat freshly grilled food and play some ball.
For more information on the ongoing mission in Iraq’s Al Anbar province, visit www.iimefpublic.usmc.mil/iimeffwd.