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Wounded Warrior Softball Games Knock it out of the Park

Josh Wege of the Wounded Warrior Amputee Softball Team connects with the ball despite having a prosthetics malfunction that kept him out of the first game.
Josh Wege of the Wounded Warrior Amputee Softball Team connects with the ball despite having a prosthetics malfunction that kept him out of the first game.

The doubleheader softball games in Mission Viejo that pitted the traveling Wounded Warrior Amputee Softball Team against Orange County First Responders and a team of Sports All-Stars broke previous attendance and fundraising records. About 1,000 people came to Mission Viejo’s Youth Athletic Park to watch the May 3 games, and nearly $57,000 was raised. Funds will benefit the summer softball camp in Louisville the Warriors will hold for kids ages 8-12 who are amputees or missing a limb.

The Warriors were handed two rare defeats in the seven-inning games. They succumbed to the OC First Responders 22-30, and were then bested by the All-Stars 26-35. The First Responders team was comprised of sheriffs and firefighters from throughout Orange County. The Sports All-Star team included former Marine and Angels pitcher Justin Speier, ex-Marine and former Angels and Dodgers great Jay Johnstone, former NFL punter Mike Horan, former pro baseball player and vocalist-actor Mike “Majik” Boyd, KFI-AM radio host Gary Hoffman, former NFL player and Mission Viejo High School football coach Rob Johnson, and his brother, Bret Johnson, also an MVHS football coach. Also in attendance was Bob Johnson, MVHS football coach.

Opening the games were popular local singer Tricia Freeman, who performed the national anthem, a moment of silence for the fallen, Camp Pendleton’s Color Guard, and Mission Viejo Mayor Trish Kelley, who threw out the first pitch. Opening game two, attendees were treated to a song by recording artist and former Dodgers and Oakland A’s player Mike “Majik” Boyd. He performed his hit, “American Soldier Thank You (For All The Things You Do”), which had fans dancing and singing along.

Bat boys included four Southern California youngsters who use prosthetic legs, all of them active athletes. Former Mission Viejo Marine turned fitness model Alex Minsky, gravely wounded in Afghanistan in 2009, threw out the first pitch for the All-Star game.

The night before the Mission Viejo games, the visiting Wounded Warrior Amputee Softball Team and organizers from the local volunteer group that manages the event, Red, White and Blue Warriors, were introduced on the field at Anaheim Stadium as guests of the LA Angels of Anaheim as they opened a series against the Texas Rangers. Vocalist Tricia Freeman, who sang “The Star-Spangled Banner” at the Mission Viejo event, delivered the anthem before the Angels crowd.

“We created this event to draw attention to the gift of service that our military men and women give to all Americans,” said organizer Victor Gonzalez of Red, White and Blue Warriors, which he formed to manage the daylong event with his longtime friend Jeanne Tumanjan. “We have been so humbled by their service and by the fact that these team members have overcome so many obstacles in order to be here and play their hearts out. It’s an inspiring day that I’m happy to be part of.”

Event sponsors included City of Mission Viejo, Commerce Hotel & Casino, Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim, Ellie Mae, Gabriel Container, MagnaFlow, Freedom Innovations, Southern California Prosthetics, Old Orange Brewery and Shasta Beverages, Inc.

The Wounded Warrior Amputee Softball Team has 24 members from 12 different states and travels the U.S. with their general manager, David Van Sleet, to play at community events like this one. The team’s motto is “Life without a limb is limitless.” www.woundedwarrioramuteesoftballteam.org      

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