SULPHUR — Not bad for government work.
The Wounded Warriors Amputee Softball Team, all of whom gave an arm or leg, sometimes two, in defense of America’s various freedoms, have a little different routine in the dugout between innings than your garden variety ballers.
America has done its best to give back, to make it better, to fix it as best they can with state-of-the-art replacement parts.
The two high-tech prosthetic legs that Saturday’s Wounded Warrior MVP Josh Wege used to leg out a triple and two singles cost $40,000 apiece, surely a small price for the country to repay for his sacrifice.
The Wounded Warriors two-game sweep of the Battle of the Bayou was mostly a testament to the determination and will of the ex-military players, but also to the technological advances made in putting them back together.
The results are still not perfect.
Particularly in the kind of heat this area delivers in July, the replacement limbs get a little warm and sweaty where they connect to the upbeat former soldiers.
It gets slippery. So to peek into the dugout is to see the prosthetics coming off, wiped off, aired out and reattached.
Adjustments have to be made.
Part of their game.
In fact, when the Warriors got the signal to line up for the National Anthem for Saturday’s Battle on the Bayou, most of the team almost got caught with their legs off.
Fortunately, they can laugh about it. One even waved his leg in mock anger.
I can report this, though their skilled performance might have suggested otherwise: They’re human and they put their legs on one prosthetic at a time.
Often once an inning.
The two-day, two-game trip to Sulphur was one of their more challenging, facing a team made up of as many ex-Major Leaguers and Olympic softballers as out-of-position civic leaders and NFL offensive linemen.
After a blowout Friday night, the Warriors completed the sweep Saturday by rallying late for a honest 7-5 victory — pushing across two runs with daring BASERUNNING in the top of the seventh for the victory.
These guys can play — most amazingly, there seems to be no handicap big enough to keep them from making every play in the field, whether it was Saul Bosquez’s diving-stop, perfect-throw deep in the hole at third base or Kyle Earl using his only hand for a diving catch in leftfield.
Yes, there are prosthetic incidents. It’s not unusual, given the hectic style with which they attack the game, for their store-bought limbs to come off.
The game stops momentarily. The readjust and put them back on.
They deal with it.
But maybe it’s not as easy as they make it look.
Wege, the MVP, also pitched the entire game while dealing with a knot at the end of what’s left of his legs. It was rubbing painfully up against his high-tech replacements.
It’s not unusual in that sensitive area, below which is still missing somewhere in Iraq after an unfortunate encounter with a land mine.
In this case, it was just an ingrown hair that puffed up to golfball size.
Wege pitched through it, ran through it, ignored it to instinctively snag back-to-back screaming line drives hit back up the middle at him.
As did shortstop Matt Kinsey, though his injury was more common to athletics.
He limped off, noticeably wincing, after making a diving-stop, crawl-to-the-bag final out in an inning
"My leg is fine,” Kinsey said between innings. “My hamstring is killing me.”
His hamstring, for the record, is original issue. And he played through it, making the game’s final out on a diving catch of a blooper up the middle.
That’s some amazing handiwork, some heartwarming science.
Watching them run, watching them from the waist up, you’d never know they weren’t wearing their own legs.
Sulphur responded — with heart more than techno-gizmos.
(Well there was at least one major scientific advancement on display at the McMurray Park hospitality room. Leave it to Southwest Louisiana — now birthplace of a breathtaking five-star, gourmet attempt at the common cracklin.)
It should be no surprise by now, but Sulphur did it again.
During an extended fourth-inning stretch, the event’s organizers presented the Wounded Warriors with a check for $202,000, with a few more nickel and dimes still being collected.
And there will be more. Wallets were being emptied in the capacity crowd long after the final out.
What a deal. Apparently you can go to a very entertaining softball game and, if you bring your wallet, ante up to have the public official of your choosing arrested, handcuffed and hauled off to the pokey.
It added up.
“That’s more than all our previous stops combined in the 16 months we’ve been doing this,” Wounded Warrior organizer and coach David Van Sleet said.
In fact, congratulations, Sulphur (well, all of Southwest Louisiana). In one patriotic, uplifting gift-of-giving weekend, you just footed the bill for a season’s worth of the Wounded Warriors’ goodwill tour.
“Yeah,” Van Sleet said. “I looked it up. Last year our season expenses were about $160,000.”
I have a feeling they’ll be back. Once again, Sulphur doesn’t do anything half way.