News: 16th CAB, University Place pitch perfect relationship
Story by Staff Sgt. Bryan Lewis
UNIVERSITY PLACE, Wash. – Soldiers from the 16th Combat Aviation Brigade took on members of the University Place Fire Department and University Place Police Department in an exhibition softball game Aug. 3 during the University Place Festival at Cirque Park.
The festival marked University Place’s 18th year in existence. However, history holds a strong spot in the community’s development.
“I want to really express a heartfelt thank you to the 16th CAB for coming out and supporting our event this year,” said Mayor Pro Tem Denise McCluskey. “Playing baseball is part of America. It creates an esprit de corps … so this is a very special game that carries on that tradition in our city of University Place.”
Key leaders from 16th CAB and University Place, which included Col. Paul A. Mele, 16th CAB commander, Mayor Ken Grassi, Command Sgt. Maj. Stephen D. Tillman, 16th CAB command sergeant major, McCluskey and various University Place council members, led the teams and spectators in the singing of “Take Me Out to the Ball Game.”
“We have to establish trust in a lot of different ways, and the number one person we have to maintain trust with is the American public. About maintaining trust with the American people, you do that by being professionals, and that’s what wanted to show them,” Mele said.
Families that came to the all-day event to enjoy the various vender booths, entertainment spots for children and festival food took time to cheer on their “Hogs” and “Hosers,” who hosted the “Raptors.”
“It will surprise you, but believe me, there are probably people here today that have never ever met American soldiers,” Mele said. “So how you carry yourself in front of these great people, who support us, is a great deal.
“For you, it might have been just another game, but to them, it might have been the one time they ever meet a soldier.”
The back-and-forth action in the nine-inning game ended with the “Raptors” scoring the most runs, but the atmosphere of laughing and camaraderie between the teams had a resemblance more of a pick-up game between old friends.
“I grew up in Pierce County, and JBLM has been such a huge part of our community. The outreach that we’ve received from 16th CAB has been really good for our community,” said Chief Mike Blair, University Place Police Department chief and game umpire. “A lot of military personnel live in University Place, so to have the faces and have the help building the parks and doing park cleanup makes it such a great relationship.”
After the game, spectators cheered as the two teams and their families joined for high-fives, handshakes and photos.
As an end to the community outreach event, every participant in the game received a certificate of appreciation from the mayor and mayor pro tem.
“The Army plays well, not just in a game sense, but they show up to every event we ask them to,” Blair said.