Softball tournament brings veterans, community together

3 weeks 4 days 23 hours ago October 02, 2016 Oct 2, 2016 Sunday, October 02 2016 Sunday, October 02, 2016 3:13:00 PM CDT in Sports
By: Jake Schnierow, KOMU 8 Sports Reporter

COLUMBIA — The weekend of October 1 and 2 marked the 5th annual Home Runs for Heroes softball tournament.

The tournament raises money for Central Missouri Honor Flight and other military charities. Now with a new high of 80 teams competing from around the country, the tournament is expected to generate a record donation amount. 

Teams have even elected to play in this tournament over the United States Specialty Sports Association (USSSA) Slow Pitch Softball Championships in Orlando, Florida. Home Runs for Heroes Executive Board member Andrea Seeley said it's the people that make this tournament so special.

"It's passion, it's about doing something for others that really we aren't always considering is necessary," Seeley said. "I think it's the way we feel so strongly."

The tournament is also special for veterans, even those who can no longer play like World War II and Korea veteran John Rhein.

"It's just something that goes back, I played a lot of ball," Rhein said.

Rhein accompanied other military veterans to receive a check for last year's tournament totaling $13,000. Each veteran signed a ball and thew out a ceremonial first pitch. 

And then Rhein decided to take a trot around the bases. 

"I wish I could be out there (playing)," Rhein said.

By brining back veterans who have already completed their honor flights, the tournament acts as a bridge to connect them to current and retired military members.

"One year or two years down the road, we'll be in that situation where we'll be the ones, the veterans that have served," army veteran Orlando Galarza said. "It's great when you have the community giving back to veterans. It's a good opportunity."

Army captain and one of the coaches of the Louisville Slugger Wounded Warriors softball team Chad Agustin said softball is a great way for everyone to de-stress.

"One of the things that softball brings is the individual joy and outlet," Agustin said. "No matter if you are in the military, or civilian, or anything, you don't have a job, there is a lot of stress that you build up. Softball has that outlet to take out that stress."

Galarza, a teammate of Agustin's for the Home Runs for Heroes tournament, echoed that sentiment. 

"We just forget everything that's happened in the past, camaraderie comes out, and integrity and everything and we have a great time," Galarza said. "We love it."

Seeley said they will not have the total amount this year's tournament raised until after the games end on Sunday. However, she does expect it to break last year's record. 

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