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Tuesday, July 3rd, 2007

Military All-Stars had fun in Celina

By Gary R. Rasberry
It's not often at Jim Hoess Field that the opposing team gets as much, if not more, cheering from the fans than the Grand Lake Mariners.
Considering who the opponent was on Monday, it was understandable.
The United States Military All-Stars, made up of active duty military personnel from all the branches, came into Celina to face the Mariners in a competitive exhibition game.
So competitive was the game that nine innings could not contain the game as The All-Stars won 6-4 in 12 innings.
The team, traveling the country playing college teams and other baseball clubs, came to Celina on Sunday to take part in the Freedom Days celebration and stayed in the area overnight. Today the team is in Lima to play the Lima Locos.
The 450 fans that came to the game cheered the All-Stars through the game. The team in return gave the fans a look at a team that was very competitive.
"It's great It's a good example of how our country supports our military," said Cadet Mitch Brown, who pitched for the Air Force Academy before joining the team last month. "I love it."
The team, bedecked in camoflauge uniforms, is a team in flux. The players are on loan from their units and a number of players have been deployed this season.  
"It's a unique opportunity to represent the military in the way we do as ballplayers," said Brown. "As far as our teammates who have gone back to their assignments and are deployed around the globe, our thoughts and prayers are always with them and we play for them. They're in the back of our mind when we're out here playing."  
The team got the chance to stay in condos in Celina overnight on Sunday. On the road, the All-Stars have also stayed at military barracks near their games and have had the chance to stay with host families.
There was plenty of celebration before the game, which included color guards from local American Legion and VFW chapters and Celina's Andy Piper sang the National Anthem. Coldwater's Jeremy Bertke, who just returned from a tour of duty overseas, threw out the first pitch.
Brown was very high on what Celina offered him and his teammates during their stay.
"It's fun. This town has really accepted us well," said Brown. "It's something to be proud of what they've done, for the support of our military and our team. It's been great."
Mariners skipper Scott French was impressed with the All-Stars' play.
"Those guys know how to play. They're grown men who know how to play the game," said French. "No doubt about it. They played very well.  
"We hung out with them a little bit. The players did a little more talking with the guys. They're just great guys. A class act. Being around them and watching them with the enthusiasm they bring. They've been to all these other places. ... Our guys might take it for granted with the situations they're in. Hopefully they gain something from that."
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