KINGSPORT, Tenn. - The Colonial Heights Rebels eight-and-under baseball team is learning about sacrifices.
Not sacrificing flies or bunts, but about the sacrifices of veterans. "It popped into my head one day when I had a World War II veteran come to a ballgame," Coach Jay Duncan said. "I thought, baseball and America, that goes together. So that's how I came up with it, and it's been going ever since."
Before the first pitch of his games, Coach Duncan picks out and surprises a military veteran in the crowd. This game it was Air Force veteran Ed Billips. "This was quite a surprise. I had no idea," Billips said.
The veteran then takes the mound, and each and every member of the Rebels and the opposing team shakes hands with and thanks the veteran for his service. "They've already fought for our country and I think they might need it," said second baseman Drew Odham. "They might feel the joy, might feel the praise for just helping their country."
For first baseman Alex Ireson, it's also a way he honors his late great grandfather. "He fought in World War II and he got shot in the head," Ireson said. "But, he still made it through the war."
So what's the final score to all this? Well, it's not whether these kids learn balls and strikes but, that they learn they'd be out of the freedom to play ball in the first place without the sacrifice of these veterans. "They fought for our country so we can play baseball and basketball and go to church and do all these fun things," said catcher Cade Duncan. "It's super enormous huge important."
"It's nice to know that young people are being taught to appreciate the military," Billips said. "And it's a special treat to have two grandsons come out and jump in your arms it's pretty enjoyable, can be pretty emotional."