U.S. Olympic gold medalist Jennie Finch-Daigle. (Michelle Higginbotham / Special to the American Press)
Last Modified: Wednesday, July 11, 2012 5:56 PM
An all-star team, the likes of which Southwest Louisiana residents has never seen before, comes calling in Sulphur today and tomorrow.
They’re the Wounded Warriors Amputee Softball Team and they are the epitome of the word hero that is, sadly, too often expended in our culture.
They’re scheduled to play a group of local all-stars, headed by U.S. Olympic gold medalist Jennie Finch-Daigle, at Sulphur’s McMurry Park tonight and Saturday evening.
The Wounded Warriors consist of a team of 15 men who lost limbs in the decade of U.S. warfare following the attacks of September 11, 2001. The players have a variety of amputations of the arm, above knee, below knee, bilateral below knee, and foot.
Most of the players rely on prosthetic limbs as they compete in dozens of celebrity and exhibition charity games annually to raise awareness for wounded military veterans and modern prosthetics and to witness that “life without a limb is limitless.”
Players are spread across the country — from Puyallup, Wash. to Bethlehem, Pa. — and fly in for the exhibition games. Recently, they played an exhibition at Cooperstown, N.Y., the mecca of baseball.
What binds the team together is what they endured, what they’ve lost and what they’ve overcome.
“With a lot of these guys, they didn’t think they are going to live. Then they didn’t think they were going to walk, and all along they certainly didn’t think they were going to play a high-level sport, or any sport, again,” said the team’s coach, David van Sleet. “The camaraderie on this team is absolutely unbelievable.”
Finch, who in short order has become one of Southwest Louisiana’s premier ambassadors, served as the catalyst for the team’s appearance here.
‘‘She’s a heavy hitter down there, and she could help us as much as we could help her, we thought,’’ van Sleet told the American Press. ‘‘... Once we got to thinking about it, we thought it was very important for us to go down there and play.’’
The mark of a champion, we’re told, is not how many times the person gets knocked down, but how many times they get up.
These players have all absorbed blows, endured pain, wrestled with anxiety and self-doubt that none of us can imagine. And yet they have risen from the canvas to run and throw and catch and hit again.
The Wounded Warriors will be the visiting team in Sulphur, but in reality, they are the home team. And they can lay claim to the title of America’s Team and deserve it more than in other squad.
They’ll keep score this weekend, but those numbers are mere window dressing.
These Warriors have already won.
This editorial was written by a member of the American Press Editorial Board. Its content reflects the collaborative opinion of the Board, whose members include Bobby Dower, Ken Stickney, Jim Beam, Dennis Spears, Crystal Stevenson and Donna Price.