WICHITA, Kansas – – As we celebrate our nation’s independence, those who have served to protect it are enjoying it by taking to the diamond.
The US9 Armed Forces Baseball Team squared off with the Puerto Rico Collegiate Baseball Club at Lawrence Dumont Stadium this evening.
The team is made of 13 active and veteran military personnel from all branches.
First baseman Jeff McClafferty served as a captain in the Army until 2013.
The Sabetha, Kansas resident was stationed at Fort Riley before being deployed to Afghanistan for two tours of duty.
“Independence Day, what a better day to place baseball, as a military team, I mean it is an unbelievable experience to do it,” said McClafferty
As part of the US9 team, he gets to not only play his favorite sport, but also gets to travel the country visiting other veterans.
“We went to the VA hopsital, we got to meet a lot of veterans, from World War 2, Korea, Vietnam,” said McClafferty.
The team is the brain child of U.S. Marine Corp Major Eric Santana, who founded the team in 2010.
“We founded US9 Armed Forces Baseball with the mission and intent to visit different communities and give back,” said Santana.
In the teams five year existence they’ve traveled to various towns in Wisconsin and Florida, visiting the VA hospitals and holding clinics for area kids to teach them the game.
“We just get kids to come out here, do a one hour, two hour free clinic, that’s a way, an opportunity for us to talk about education, school work and leadership at the same time teach them about baseball,” said Santana.
Something the players, like McClafferty say is an enjoyable experience.
“People don’t see a lot of soldiers playing sports, baseball especially, it’s just an awesome event for the veterans we meet with, they get to come out,” said McClafferty.
The US9 is completely a volunteer team, who are afforded the chance to travel and play through various donations they receive throughout the year.