Photo by Donna Longacre

Legion players pay tribute to troops

American Legion Baseball team Nor-gwyn Hawks from Upper Gwynedd, Pa., wanted to pay respect to those who make freedom possible. To do so, this past season the team held a pregame ceremony titled “Tribute to the Troops,” where they recognized veterans and active servicemembers, raised $1,000 to support families of wounded veterans and wore camouflage jerseys.

“The whole notion that American Legion Baseball is bigger than the individual, and the fact that we are supported by people who fought for our country, is something I feel is often forgotten or overlooked,” said Hawks coach Kevin Manero. “So we wanted to do something to remind people. We decided that it would be a good combination to bring awareness to those who are currently overseas by wearing camouflage jerseys and then donating money to help the families of those who have already served.”

The “Tribute to the Troops” pregame ceremony included the personal recognition of 10 local veterans, the presentation of colors by North Penn High School ROTC members, and a national anthem performance by Hawks player Nate Heller on his trumpet. And seconds after an active-duty Marine threw out the first pitch, Hawks players took the field dressed in camouflage jerseys for their game against Hatfield Post 933.

The players and coaches wore camouflage jerseys as a way to show support for troops overseas. Moreover, the jerseys were recently shipped to soldiers at Camp Spann in Afghanistan, along with a framed team photo featuring signatures and a message of thanks. Camp Spann is named in honor of CIA agent Michael Spann, who was the first American casualty on the ground in Afghanistan.

And for the $1,000 raised to support families of wounded veterans, $700 of the proceeds came from concession stand sales and donations from a hat that traveled from one Hawk baseball fan sitting in the stands to another. The additional $300 came from the hat reaching the generous hands of Hatfield Post 933 fans, as well as Doylestown Tigers and Pennridge fans – two other teams in the Hawks league.

“Through American Legion Baseball, communities have the opportunity to provide a first-class baseball experience to the community, but just as important is that Legion baseball is a community organization,” Manero said. “The volunteers in our organization and the unmitigated help and involvement of parents, municipal officials, our coaches, etc., is all part of what comes together to provide this experience for our players. When you combine that with the friendships formed with people involved in Legion Baseball and the community involvement, you get something very special. I have only been coaching the Nor-Gwyn Hawks for eight seasons, but many players and families have come through in that time, and the experience has been tremendous.”