Teams from the military youth version of little league baseball faced-off on the baseball diamonds at Joint Base Anacostia-Bolling (JBAB) recently kicking off a season filled with youth sports and teamwork.
“It’s a perfect day for baseball,” said Rebecca, head coach of the Nationals military youth baseball team and Air Force spouse, as her team warmed up in two-player throwing drills.
Rebecca and her assistant coach, Roxanne, prepared their team of nine- to 12-year-old players to take on a rival from Joint Base Andrews (JBA) in the first game of the season.
“We are getting ready to play the Cardinals from Andrews,” Rebecca said.
Cardinals’ coach, Air Force Senior Airman Matthew Walsh from the Malcolm Grow Medical Center, started baseball drills and fielding practice with his team in advance of today’s game.
“We had our first practice about three or four weeks ago,” said Walsh, a native of Johnston, Penn.
He said the sunny day and pristine ball field at JBAB was the perfect start to a new baseball season.
“It is a beautiful day for baseball. We are playing the Nationals today in the first game of the season,” Walsh said referring to the little league team led by Coach Rebecca.
Both youth baseball teams are from JBA.
Nationals coach Rebecca said the teams will play all of their games at JBAB.
The team coaches have experience working with youth in other sports like soccer, but teaching kids how to pitch, hit and run in a baseball game, is a new experience for them.
For Rebecca and Roxanne, the opportunity came when the previous coaches vacated their positions.
“This is our first year coaching baseball. We’ve been with the program [as military families] for six years, but our husbands were the coaches up until now,” Rebecca said.
“We took over after our husbands moved on to coach the District of Columbia little league,” Roxanne said.
Walsh, who had previously coached youth football, embraced the opportunity to coach youth baseball.
“Our kids are having fun and that is the most important thing for this age, just to have fun,” he said.
Comparing his players’ performance weeks ago to what he sees now, he said their skills are improving.
“They are having fun, learning and getting better every day,” Walsh said.
Walsh had tapped Paz’s son, who was warming up his arm in the designated bullpen, to be a relief pitcher in today’s game.
The younger Paz may have been a little anxious, according to his father. “My son is little nervous because he has never pitched before,” Paz said.
Paz’s other son, a player for the Rangers, had just played in a game against the Red Sox from JBAB.
“We just had a game against JBAB. We lost, but he had a very good game. JBAB performed very well, they take their baseball very seriously,” Paz said.
Coaching military youth through baseball is a good platform to bring young people together and teach them about teamwork and camaraderie, coach Rebecca explained.
“They are really good kids and it is hard to bring links together military-wise because they are all different age groups. Some kids have been here eight years and some kids have been here six months. Everyone has a different speed of playing and it is fun to watch them all come together with their different skills,” she said.