Competitive sports are often described as war.
The Atlantic Collegiate Baseball League (ACBL) All-Stars played the USA Military All-Stars in a fun, meaningful game at Jack Kaiser Stadium at St. John’s University on June 29. It was a tense match-up between teams with solid offensive firepower that culminated in a narrow 5-4 victory by the ACBL.
“To us, what can be more meaningful than to say thank you to all the guys that are helping us to be free Americans?” said former St. John’s Athletic Director Jack Kaiser. “And at the same time, our league is a college league where the players are interested in improving and being seen by the scouts for a possible professional career.”
The military players presented Old Glory before the game and there was a moment of silence for Americans who have died in war. But the peaceful diamond turned into a battlefield following the ceremony.
The contest reached a climax in the top of the eighth inning, when the Military All-Stars were trailing 5-3. With two out, the soldiers started a rally. ACBL Pitcher Ryan Casey walked Dalton Martinez. The next batter, Eddie Waters, smacked a base hit into center field, moving Martinez to third. Then Karl Seiter, who the soldiers call “Primetime” because he “gets hits in big situations,” hit a single into left field, scoring Martinez. But the ACBL got the final out, ending the comeback.
“I thought we could pull something off, but they had good pitching and they didn’t give us many pitches to hit,” Seiter said.
It was not the first time the Military All-Stars showed their grit.
With the ACBL All-Stars leading 3-0 into the fifth inning, the soldiers began to turn the tide. ACBL pitcher Keenan Stare gave up back-to-back walks to start the inning and the following batter grounded out, moving the base runners to third and second base.
Military All-Stars second baseman Brandon Wheeler hit a smoking double past the third base line to score both base runners. The following batter, Christopher Schmitt, hit another double that scored Wheeler and tied the game.
“The attitude was when they tied us up that they are a good team, they’re not just going to quit on us,” ACBL vice president Brian Casey said. “It was just, ‘Let’s get back to work, let’s get another lead.’”
That they did. In the bottom of the inning, the ACBL All-Stars had a pair of doubles of their own. With one man on second base and one out, ACBL infielder Rich Ricciardi hit a double to score Chris Smith and swipe the lead back.
“It was a 1-0 count,” Ricciardi said. “I was ahead in the count, so I’m looking fastball. I decided I’m going to take a swing and luckily I just got a piece of it and it dropped into left field.”
Then outfielder Joe Bamford slammed a double to score Ricciardi, improving the lead to 5-3. It was just enough to last until the end of the game.
Despite the loss, the Military All-Stars earned respect from the college players.
“We were surprised at how well they represented themselves,” Ricciardi said. “We were saying how their pitchers really know how to pitch and their catcher had a good arm. It’s an awesome feeling to play against them and be competitive on the same field.”