BASEBALL: Ball State to show appreciation to military
WWII vet to throw out first pitch Wednesday
The reality of being in a military family hit home for coach Greg Beals when the Iraq War began in 2003 and his brother in-law began flying combat missions half a world away.
Beals didn't have much of a military background of his own, but his wife, Kathy, had a long family tradition of service. Her brother, John Carroll is upholding that tradition as a major in the Marine Corps.
As American ground troops advanced in Iraq, Carroll provided aerial support, flying 38 night missions.
Having a family member in a combat zone was tough for Beals, but he said it was worse for Kathy.
"He's family to me and I have tons of respect for what he does," Beals said. "But when it's your own flesh and blood it's a just a little bit more."
Looking for a way to show his support for Carroll and other veterans, Beals decided to make Wednesday's game against NAIA member Huntington University Military
Appreciation Day. Carroll will fly over Ball Diamond in a T-45 training jet, and a veteran of World War II will throw out the first pitch.
Beals said he got the idea from other teams holding similar events and sought to bring it to Ball State.
"I wanted to physically recognize those people," he said. "Let them know that there are other people in our community that respect them and respect what they have done."
Carroll, who is based at Wright Patterson Air Force Base in Dayton, Ohio, will be on a training exercise that includes Wednesday's fly over.
Utility infielder Mitch Widau can also relate to Military Appreciation Day's message. Widau's older brother, Jake, is in the Navy and is stationed in Hawaii.
Though Jake is an electrician who works on planes and is not a frontline soldier, he still served in Iraq for six months.
"You think about your brother over in Iraq and everything that's going on over there," Widau said. "The most dangerous part for him was going in and coming out because he worked on the base and didn't really have to go out. You obviously worry about it."
Beals has visited the local veteran groups, including the American Legion, VFW and AMVETS, to encourage them to attend the game. Ball State is closely tied to the local American Legion post, which sponsors a summer league baseball team many Cardinals have played on.
Widau also played for an American Legion post in Richmond and appreciates all that the veterans have done for him.
"They're fighting for us to be able to play the game," he said. "I think is good that we dedicate a day to them and what they do for us."
Huntington at Ball State
Game No. 41
First pitch: 3 p.m.
Pitching matchup: RHP Xyan Adkisson (1-3, 6.75 ERA) vs. RHP Brad Piatt (1-3, 8.04)
Weather: 60 degrees, sunny, WNW at 9 mph