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Military Kids Prep for White House T-Ball Game

By Donna Miles
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, June 21, 2006 – It won't be the traditional "Air Force-Navy" game most people might think of, but Little Leaguers from McGuire Air Force Base, N.J., and Naval Submarine Base New London, Conn., are gearing up for one heck of a T-ball game later this week at the White House.

The 4- to 8-year-old players, all military children, will face off for the first Air Force-Navy "T-Ball on the South Lawn" June 23 at the White House.

Marine Gen. Peter Pace, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff -- who was named to the Little League Hall of Fame in 2003 -- will serve as the game's honorary commissioner.

McGuire's "Yankees" and New London's "Indians" will compete in a one-inning game, followed by a picnic on the South Lawn. Team members will take turns hitting a ball off a batting tee set on home plate and move around the bases, but no score will be kept.

President Bush is expected to watch the game. A Little League Hall of Famer himself, Bush launched his White House T-Ball initiative in 2001 to promote interest in baseball and a spirit of teamwork and service for the country's youth.

The upcoming game is the third to feature teams of military children. Teams from Fort Belvoir, Va., and Naval Station Norfolk, Va., faced off in 2003. One year later, teams from Bolling Air Force Base in Washington, D.C., and Cherry Point Marine Corps Air Station in North Carolina competed.

Danielle McPeak, who coaches the McGuire team with her husband, Air Force Master Sgt. Todd McPeak, said she's not sure the 12 players "really understand the enormity" of being invited to the White House.

"They know who the president is, and they know about the White House, but I don't know how much more they understand," said McPeak. "Basically, I think a lot of them are excited just to go on a trip."

McPeak said she's excited about the opportunity to represent McGuire Air Force Base as well as her husband, who won't be able to join her because he's deployed to the United Arab Emirates.

Leslie Dawson, president of the Dolphin Community "Dolcon" Little League Indians at New London, said her 11 players "are really excited" about their upcoming White House adventure.

"It's a once-in-a-lifetime thing for them," but amid the excitement, it's also bittersweet, she said. Shortly after Friday's name, several of the children will be packing up and moving with their parents to new duty stations. "It's sort of sad for me, because they'll never get to play against each other again," Dawson said.

The wife of Petty Officer 2nd Class Patrick Dawson and the mother of four, Dawson said she's happy to see a White House event for military children. "It's good that the president is recognizing military kids and giving them something special to look forward to," she said.

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