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Rainiers hold a day at the ballpark for service members

Northwest Guardian

Published: 06:17PM June 12th, 2014

While they weren’t standing next to the big-league names like Seattle Mariners Robinson Cano or Felix Hernandez, service members from Joint Base Lewis-McChord and other local installations still got to share the field with the M’s Triple A affiliate Tacoma Rainiers at the team’s Salute to Armed Forces Game Sunday at Cheney Stadium.

Meeting the Rainiers was just as much of an honor for Marine Staff Sgt. Carlos Arroyo of Combat Logistics Battalion 23 stationed at JBLM, one of four service members throwing a ceremonial first pitch.

“In a few years I could say I threw to (Logan Morrison), and he would be an All-Star by then,” Arroyo said. “You never know.”

The other pitchers included Chaplain (Capt.) Roy Swisher of JBLM’s 1st Special Forces Group; Navy (Career) Counselor 1st Class Sara Dozier of Submarine Group 9 at Kitsap Naval Base; and Coast Guard Petty Officer 1st Class Robert Holt, District 13 in Seattle.

Swisher spoke with youth players from South Sound Baseball, some of whom have parents serving overseas.

With 20 years service in the Navy before joining the Army as a chaplain in 2010, Swisher told stories from his days in submarines to eager youths and even practiced his first pitch near the third-base gate.

“One of these children will grow up and after seeing us, they’ll want to come in (the military),” Swisher said.

Teams in the youth baseball league have a high percentage of military youth, and many of their coaches serve on active duty in the military, including Maj. Jerrod Sanders of JBLM Dental Activity.

“It’s a perfect coincidence they have (Salute to Armed Forces) and South Sound Baseball,” Sanders said.

The Rainiers wore gray and white camouflage uniforms with military patches on the backs above the numbers.

The home Rainiers and the visiting Albuquerque Isotopes, the Los Angeles Dodgers’ Triple A affiliate, lined up on the baselines, along with Sailor and Soldier-athletes who participated Monday in an Army vs. Navy softball game. The Naval Hospital Bremerton Color Guard presented the colors behind the pitcher’s mound.

A CH-47 Chinook helicopter from 4th Squadron, 160th Special Operations Aviation Regiment on JBLM, a U.S. flag flying from its tail, passed over the stadium on its way back to base from a training mission moments before Discovery Elementary School choir sang the National Anthem.

Tacoma (25-37) fell in the finale of a five-game homestand to the Isotopes (30-33), 3-2. With two outs in the top of the fifth inning, Albuquerque’s Trayvon Robinson hit a two-run, go-ahead home run.

Tacoma’s Abraham Almonte was responsible for the Rainier’s only score with a leadoff home run on the first pitch of the bottom half of the first inning. Catcher Humberto Quintero also hit a solo home run in the bottom ninth.

The game ended when Logan Morrison grounded out with Almonte on first base.

Rainiers manager Roy Howell said his team’s struggles with runners in scoring position (no hits in five at-bats) are nothing compared to those of the men and women who serve in the military. Playing in front of a military audience, he said, was an honor for the team.

“Anything we can do, (we’re) definitely on call,” Howell said, reflecting his team’s willingness to support the local military.