Morgan and Parker Sauer of Alexandria waited inside the USO Warrior and Family Center on The Walter Reed National Military Medical Center the late morning of April 30. Preteenage sons of a United States Marine, the boys looked out the large front windows with nervous anticipation.
The young Nationals fans itched to see which ballplayers were going to visit the Bethesda, Maryland, USO Center.
They kept their fingers crossed for pitcher Sean Doolittle and infielder Trea Turner to be a part of the group who would sign autographs and converse with fans. Ten minutes later, the boys’ wish came true when Turner, Doolittle and 12 of their teammates walked off the bus and strolled into the USO building for a military meet and greet and lunch.
Following a photo with Naval Support Activity Bethesda Commanding Officer Navy Capt. Mary Seymour, the players, coaches, broadcasters and team owner Ted Lerner dove into the crowd of Marines, Soldiers and Sailors to shake hands and sign anything from baseball cards to bats.
The players attending were Anthony Rendon, Ryan Zimmerman, Carter Kieboom, Howie Kendrick, Yan Gomes, Matt Grace, Kyle Barraclough, Patrick Corbin, Justin Miller, Tony Sipp and Adam Eaton. Manager Dave Martinez and bench coach Chip Hale talked baseball with the crowd which totaled close to 200 fans.
Before the USO visit, the team visited Military District of Washington wounded warriors and workers at the medical center.
“It’s always inspirational,” Martinez said of the hospital visit. “This is why we live in America. We met people like this who risked their lives for us and for us to be free. I can’t thank them enough. It truly is an honor to be here.”
The entourage also had the honor to meet Sully, the Labrador retriever/service dog who served the late former President George H.W. Bush and now works for the Walter Reed National Military Medical Center’s Facility Dog Program.
“This is about gratitude and showing appreciation,” said television analyst Bo Porter, who joined fellow broadcasters Dan Kolko and Bob Carpenter at the hourlong meet and greet. “I said this to several of the people we visited with today — I’ve been in other organizations, but the Washington Nationals do the best job in professional sports, in my opinion, with the military and the veterans.”
Pentagram Staff Writer Jim Dresbach can be reached at email@example.com.