Pictured from top left to right: Skyler Brent Adams, John K. Maggard, Blake Kilgore, Dewayne Weaver, Mitchell Harvey, Yodie Martin, Jacob Grindle, Jesse D Jennings, Tyler Arthur, Brandon Vaughn, Matt Prater, Maddie Weaver, Ty Combs, Ethan Maggard, Joe Scott, Cody Hunter, Trey Combs, Dakota Gilkison, Nick Duff and Cory Murphy. Not pictured are Taylor Staton, Cole Cooper, Corey Oney, Kyle Bias, Jimmy Alexander, Jordon Mills and Dave Valdepena. Photo by Kellie Maggard

Legion players honor Marine with a patch

The Kentucky Morehead Mustangs Post 126 American Legion Baseball team is making history. Since the start of the 2010 season, the players and coaches have been wearing a 3rd Battalion 8th Marines (3/8) patch sewn on the right sleeve of their uniform in support of Matt Prater, a former player and current U.S. Marine.

Prater always knew he would join the military after high school; it was just a matter of choosing between the U.S. Army and the Marine Corps. After speaking with family and friends, and hearing real-life stories shared by Morehead Mustangs’ coach John Maggard, a Marine himself, Prater made his decision.

Therefore, when the 2008 Legion Baseball season got under way, Prater played his last four games with the Morehead Mustangs before leaving for boot camp to become a Marine.

After Prater finished basic training, he joined the 3/8 infantry battalion and watched half of his unit deploy to Afghanistan. But through it all, the former Morehead Mustangs player never left the minds and hearts of his teammates. Because when the team heard about Prater’s unit, they decided to show honor for their friend and teammate by wearing the 3/8 patch, designed by the Marine Corps.

“We knew we wanted to do something for him because joining the Marines is a big sacrifice, and it’s a big deal,” Maggard said. “With Prater being one of our guys, we wanted to show our support for him and his unit overseas.”

And for Prater, shaking the players’ hands in the dugout for their support was a blessing for him.

“I am very honored that the team would go as far as wearing my unit’s patch to support me,” Prater said. “For them to do that for me is wonderful, whether they realize it or not.”

While the patches are a token of honor for the Morehead Mustangs, the team tackled through a lot of red tape to receive permission to wear them. It took nearly a year for permission to be granted, as the Kentucky baseball commissioner had to bring the concept before the state legislature and American Legion National Commander Clarence E. Hill. But according to Maggard, it was worth the wait in order to support Prater, his entire unit and the nation’s troops.

“I try to impress on my boys that we don’t want to forget our veterans because they are the ones that gave us the freedom to play the game,” Maggard said.

In the meantime, as Prater is stationed in Fort Knox, Ky., standing by for deployment to Afghanistan, he remembers the Morehead Mustangs.

“I wish the Mustangs good luck this season, and I appreciate everything they are doing for me.”