U.S. All-Star Military Baseball Team vs Western Nebraska Pioneers

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Western Nebraska Sporting EventsU.S. All-Star Military Baseball Team vs Western Nebraska Pioneers

| SPORTS EVENTS |


It’s rare to hear the local fans cheer as loudly for the competition as they do for the home team. But when the opposing team made the first double play of the game, the crowd couldn’t help themselves. That’s what happens when the local heroes take on a group of national heroes.


| IN SERVICE OF AMERICA

The U.S. All-Star Military Baseball team made its first visit to Gering, Nebraska, to face off against the Western Nebraska Pioneers for its first stop on this year’s Red, White & Blue Tour. The team, made up of active-duty and veteran service members, is owned by a veteran and also coached by a veteran.

What began in 1990 as a Navy baseball team has grown to include members from all branches of the armed forces. Tank Stone bought the team in 2012 and expanded it to what it is today including making it a 501c3 organization and fully self-sustaining with no aid from the military itself other than the release of its players.

What draws a service member with an already critical, full-time job to take time away to play on this team are the same things that draw them to service in the first place – honor and duty. That’s what attracted the first baseman Bill Quenga to the team. Originally from Guam, Quenga has been playing baseball since he was three years old. He played in college until he left to enlist in the Marines where he is now a supply chief stationed in Las Vegas. The service, outreach, and opportunities to connect with veterans and impact communities across the country that is offered with the U.S. All-Stars were even more exciting for Quenga than playing ball again.

Every game the All-Stars play features a pre-game ceremony honoring the flag, country, and local veterans. A choreographed display and presentation called “Passing the Flag” is performed with owner Tank Stone narrating the history of the flag and its prominence in the American landscape. The “Walk of Honor” reveres the services of local veterans at every stop. Gold Star Families – families who have paid the ultimate sacrifice for America’s freedom – are also honored at every opportunity.

The different locations the All-Stars visit choose how and where to showcase the All-Stars for the greatest community impact. The Pioneers designed special red, white, and blue camo jerseys which were worn by the players during the game and auctioned off during the game. All proceeds were donated to the Western Nebraska Veterans Home in Scottsbluff.

This exhibition game against the Western Nebraska Pioneers has been two years in the making. Originally scheduled in 2020, the visit had to be postponed numerous times and even this year’s game features a skeletal team when 20 players of the original roster were deployed to the Balkans and Europe to offer support in the war in Ukraine. The 2020 tour was expected to travel nine states over six weeks and feature members from every branch of the military including the newly established Space Force. This 2022 Red, White & Blue Tour will visit only 3 states over a week and a half with just three branches of the Armed Forces represented.

Another downsized factor of this year’s tour is the preparation. Most years there is a tryout process, but with Covid restrictions still in place in many of the branches, this year’s roster was filled using applications and phone interviews. While normally the team would have three or four days together before starting the tour, Coach Bodie Ball did not meet most of the team until the day before the game against the Pioneers. The rest of the team met at the field the day of.

With just barely two hours of practice time before the first pitch, it’s probably not a surprise that the Pioneers won the game 11-1. But that single run for the All-Stars garnered raucous cheers from the stands and the home dugout. That first double play had the flawless precision of a team that has played together since little league.

While the U.S. Military All-Stars would ultimately end their 2022 season without a win, the scores were the least important aspect of the tour. Getting back out on the field – from battlefield to ballfield as owner Tank Stone calls it – was the first step in getting back to normal after the Covid shutdowns.

It would be hard to build comradery in a group of guys in less than 24 hours were it not for the bonds of service. It would be hard to coach a team of players from all walks of life, of all ages, from all over the nation were it not for the elite training already instilled from years in the United States Armed Forces. And this is what sets the U.S. Military All-Star Baseball Team from just any barnstorming baseball team in the nation.

| RESOURCES

Story & Photography by: Toni Warburton
Editor: Hawk Buckman



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