April 9, 2010
Rome, Ga. - Anytime our country's service men and women are granted the opportunity to return home, appreciation is certainly in order.
The Shorter College baseball team is taking that appreciation to another level.
On Saturday, April 17 during their Southern States Athletic Conference doubleheader with rival Lee University, the Hawks, in conjunction with the United States Army National Guard, will host Military Appreciation Day beginning at 12 p.m. at the Robert H. Ledbetter Baseball Complex.
The event will provide an opportunity for the Rome and surrounding communities to show their support for all of the men and women who so graciously sacrifice their own lives for our freedom.
More specifically, the Shorter Baseball Military Appreciation Day will honor the 108th Cavalry Squadron, which returned home from its latest tour of duty in Afghanistan on March 9, and other soldiers native to Northwest Georgia, all while providing fans with an incredible array of interactive events that is sure to be a hit.
"Someone in Washington, D.C., got wind of the Military Appreciation event, and with us being the local National Guard recruiter, they wanted us to be involved," said Staff Sergeant Tom Cauffman, who worked closely with Shorter to iron out the event details. "They contacted me to be the liaison and help set this up to be a fruitful event. It's a combination of the National Guard Bureau looking to help out Shorter College and ourselves having the chance to educate the community on what we do.
"We are thrilled to have the opportunity to help Shorter College make this such a special event."
"My first reaction was that someone was playing a joke on us, but after Staff Sergeant Cauffman firmly stated in his powerful sounding voice that he had direct orders from Washington, I knew it was real," said Shorter head baseball coach, Matt Larry, who was surprised, but delighted to hear of the magnitude of the Army's desired involvement from SSG Cauffman via telephone. "I am completely blown away by what has transpired for this day, which started out as a small event to support local troops.
"The players are extremely excited to play in this game and to wear the camouflaged jerseys in honor of the men and women in the United States Armed Forces," Larry added. "The players know how I feel about the military and what they have done and continue to do for our safety and freedom and I only hope that after the day is over, more people will gain a stronger respect for our soldiers."
This is no ordinary weekend get-together, as promotional items ranging from a real NASCAR stock car to authentic U.S. Army Hummers and even an interactive peddle car course will provide entertainment in addition to what figures to be an exciting SSAC twin bill on the diamond.
All of the following events will be open to the public at noon on Saturday.
The Dale Earnhardt, Jr., No. 88 National Guard Chevrolet car and trailer will be on site and available for fans to take photos alongside the race car. Photos taken with the No. 88 car can be purchased online after the event.
Also making the trip to Rome are three U.S. Army Hummers, including the Patriot (painted red, white and blue), the Orange Crush (sporting a green and bright orange paint scheme) and an authentic model.
The Guard will set up an interactive peddle car course in which children of all ages - including willing adults - will have the chance to cruise around the specially designed track.
Fans can write and design "Thank You" cards that will be sent to the troops overseas as well as interact with and thank personally the approximately 30 soldiers from the Northwest Georgia area that will be on hand.
Robert H. Ledbetter will be decorated with a multitude of flags, the College will place a 1954 Army Jeep on display and donation buckets will be located throughout the complex for those who wish to give to the Georgia National Guard Family Support Foundation - a charitable organization established in 1994 to provide emergency relief assistance during times of financial crisis to the members and families of the Georgia National Guard.
Camouflage t-shirts will be on sale with all proceeds benefitting the aforementioned foundation.
"We are truly excited to host an event of such magnitude on Shorter's campus," said Rachel Rogers, Shorter's Director of Athletic Development who played a large role in the organization of the event. "This is a wonderful opportunity for the residents of Northwest Georgia to come out and support their local troops."
The game itself will also serve as a fitting tribute to our troops.
The Hawks will don camouflage uniforms that are schedule to be auctioned off at the conclusion of the doubleheader to benefit the Georgia National Guard Family Support Foundation. Shorter is providing camouflage armbands to the umpires and Lee players to wear during Saturday's games.
Pregame festivities include the recognition of soldiers in attendance, a rendition of "God Bless America" by Trevor Roberts, presentation of the colors by a full dressed blue color guard and the singing of the National Anthem by E.J. Laird.
Justin Evans of Rome, a Combat Medic and Cavalry Scout in the U.S. Army's Alpha Troop of the 108th Cavalry Squadron, and Shorter baseball player, Ryan Evans, who has already served three tours of duty in both Iraq and Afghanistan, will throw the ceremonial first pitch.
"I am really proud to have someone like Ryan be a part of our program," said Larry. "He brings a humility everywhere he goes and the players really respect what he has accomplished already in his young life. It's a great honor to have Ryan throw out the first pitch and we are truly blessed to be in his company."
Game 1 of the doubleheader is scheduled to begin at 1 p.m., but because of the events surrounding the game becoming open to the public at noon, fans are encouraged to come to the ballpark early to participate in what is sure to be a memorable afternoon. Admission is free and all events are open to the public.
"As a community partner, we are always looking for opportunities to open our gates and have people on campus," said Rogers. "We hope that everyone will make plans to attend and will join us in our excitement for this event."