Vice Chairman Tosses First Pitch for Baltimore Orioles
By Army Sgt. 1st Class Tyrone C. Marshall Jr.
American Forces Press Service
BALTIMORE, April 1, 2014 One of Major League Baseball’s teams joined a long list of professional American sports franchises in honoring the U.S. military yesterday.
Navy Adm. James A. Winnefeld Jr., vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, throws the first pitch of the season during the Baltimore Orioles’ home opener in Baltimore, March 31, 2014. DOD photo by Army Sgt. 1st Class Tyrone C. Marshall Jr.
(Click photo for screen-resolution image);high-resolution image available.
Navy Adm. James A. Winnefeld Jr., vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, threw out the first pitch of the Baltimore Orioles’ season during their home opener, signaling the beginning of their 162-game schedule.
“It’s just a real honor to be able to represent the wonderful men and women of the United States military here at Camden Yards on a beautiful day,” the admiral said. “It’s really a neat experience.”
Winnefeld noted how “special” it is for service members to be honored by the Orioles franchise, and by extension, the community.
“It’s a very dangerous world out there,” he said. “Our young men and women put their lives on the line everyday all across the world.”
Before the game, the vice chairman toured the facility and was joined by four wounded warriors.
“For them to be able to come to an event like this and see how much the American people treasure their service is very, very special,” Winnefeld said.
“[It’s] special for me to be able to watch it,” he added, “and I know it’s really special for these guys to be able to experience it.”
The vice chairman said although the U.S. military doesn’t seek these types of opportunities, they are “really important.”
“If we’re not careful we will have the civilian side of our country and the military side drift apart after these wars are over with,” Winnefeld said.
“Our American people are in love with their military, and we want to keep it that way,” he said. “They recognize the value of service, and we’re just extremely proud of these young men and women and we want to keep them connected.”
Although this was not his first time throwing out the first pitch -- he did so for the Cleveland Indians as commander of the USS Cleveland – Winnefeld expressed excitement for his opportunity.
“First, it’s a great honor in representing the men and women in uniform in doing that,” he said. “But you know throwing out the first pitch in baseball is something that could create a lot of anxiety if you’re not careful.
“You’ve just got to go out there, stand on the mound, and focus on the catcher’s mitt,” the admiral continued, “and do the best you can to get it across because you sure don’t want to bounce it to home plate.”
But it’s a lot of fun, Winnefeld said, and it’s a real thrill to be able to stand on a Major League Baseball pitcher’s mound and throw a pitch.
Winnefeld also noted while he is a Washington Nationals fan, he enjoys watching baseball anywhere.
“I’m a baseball fan -- it doesn’t matter where I am,” he said. “I’m happy to watch a baseball game anywhere in the country because, hey, baseball is back. It’s opening day! It’s wonderful.”
After throwing an effortless first pitch, the vice chairman spent time during the game talking to the wounded warriors.
“My wife and I have spent a lot of time with these young men and women who have given a little bit more than the average bear to their country,” Winnefeld said. “And it’s just very, very important that we do everything we can for them.
“I think they deserve the best we can give them,” he continued. “Every single day they demonstrate the power of ability over disability.”
Watching these young men and women rise above what’s happened to them, Winnefeld said, “is one of the best things that has ever happened to me in the military.”
(Follow Sgt. 1st Class Tyrone Marshall on Twitter: @MarshallAFPS)