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U.S. Southern Command shares love of the game with South American neighbors

  • Published
  • By Master Sgt. Ellen L. Hatfield
  • Special to 12 Air Force (Air Forces Southern
Airmen here for the Chilean International Air and Space Fair 2008 (FIDAE 08), found out the love of baseball is not confined to the borders of the United States. 

In the first game between U.S. military members and local citizens in South America, the U.S. Air Force met their match in an evening game with the Chilean Little League champions. 

The Santiago Metros are a 19-and-under squad of semi-pros who proved to be more than a match for the baseball loving Airmen, keeping the U.S. military members scoreless for the first few innings. 

The exciting game won't be the last time military members are tested on the diamond as U.S. Southern Command officials have scheduled a baseball diplomacy tour for later this year. All stars from across Central and South America are expected to compete against pilots, medical crews and other military members. 

"It's all just fun stuff," said Staff Sgt. Brandon Vath, a member of the 563rd Maintenance Squadron, Davis-Monthan Air Force Base, Ariz. "I did the same thing in Uzbekistan a few years ago, and you just get a chance to meet people and relax a little. And we're sharing a bit of the American way." 

Another first for the game was the participation of a Major League Baseball team in spreading the 'love of the game' to Santiago residents. 

The Colorado Rockies, based in Denver, regularly spend several months of the year training in Tucson, Ariz. -- the home of Air Forces Southern, the Air Force component responsible for all Air Force personnel and activities in the US Southern Command region. Mr. Andy Finley, working together with Public Affairs officers at Air Forces Southern, Capt. Nathan Broshear and Capt. John Napier, ensured the Rockies were well represented during the airshow and baseball events. 

The Rockies were thrilled to be included in the event, providing dozens of hats, tee shirts, backpacks and other giveaways for the children of Santiago, said Mr. Finley. When the team found out their spring training neighbors at the local Air Force base would be playing baseball with a Chilean team, the opportunity was a perfect extension of the team's overseas promotional efforts through Major League Baseball International. 

"We have a strong connection to the Davis-Monthan Air Force Base community," said Mr. Amerman, a spokesperson for the Colorado Rockies. "We have the Elite Honor Guard present the colors at games, advertise in the base newspaper, the Desert Airman, and sponsor military appreciation days as well as giving military discounts on tickets. We sometimes call upon an Airman to throw out the first pitch at a game, too." 

During the baseball game in Santiago, Airmen rewarded their young opponents with Air Force memorabilia and pats on the back (Final Score: Chilean Little League 8....Air Force 5); but the most sought-after items were Colorado Rockies backpacks and hats. Children and families modeled their new gear after the game for hours as local residents, spectators and players visited with Airmen on the field and discussed tactics for a future rematch. 

The Rockies not only were a hit at the National Stadium where the baseball game was played, their shirts and donated items were distributed during community tours at the FIDAE 08 air and trade show. 

"Children from local orphanages, schools and Make a Wish Foundation were led on VIP tours of our aircraft," explained Capt. Broshear. "The Rockies were with us in spirit as their team hats and shirts were appreciated by our guests as reminders of the special day they shared with the people of the United States." 

"The camaraderie with our new friends in Chile was even more important than runs, hits or even the final score," said Captain Broshear. "We're deeply thankful to the Colorado Rockies for helping make this game, the air and trade show and all of our community events in Santiago a success -- their support made the difference between a sandlot pickup game and an enormously successful community-wide event to be cherished for years."