ENGLEWOOD, Colo. — A group of injured marines and navy corpsman are in the metro this week learning the ins and outs of an entirely new battlefield.
For these wounded warriors, the Slammers Sports Complex is the start of a new brotherhood for some and an escape for others. It’s here they are preparing to leave the military and training to become part of America’s pastime.
As they step onto the Turf at Slammers South fourteen of America’s Warriors prepare for training of a new kind.
“This is valuable. Being able to come out here and be connected with another brotherhood and another association, group, a network of friends that will keep in touch with you, help you out, talk to you when you need it,” said Anthony Gourley, a U.S. Marine who’s already had six knee surgeries. “It’s definitely an amazing opportunity for us.”
Some of men walk with a cane, others hide burns and scars, but all are wounded combat Marines and Corpsmen ready for a new start.
“Most of them are purple heart recipients. They have PTSD, they have TDI, they have various limb injuries. They’ve been blown up, they’ve been shot,” said lead instructor Jimmy Craig, himself a former Marine. “But the physical wounds will heal; it’s the mental wounds that we don’t see that don’t always heal. This is a great way for them to get therapy.”
They are here for the Wounded Warrior Umpire Academy, a nine day training camp that will soon then put them on a field of their own.
The camp aims to give injured soldiers the ability to umpire a baseball game, a skill that organizers say will give them a new job that will supplement their pay, but more importantly, provide a complementary form of rehabilitation.
“This program right here saves lives,” said Phillip Lopez, a Navy Corpsman injured in Afghanstan by an IED. “This gets them out of that negative thought process of ‘I can’t do anything’ and ‘I have nobody there for me’ and shows them they can do it. It shows them they are still cared for.”
Organizers of the Wounded Warrior Umpire Academy hope to make this an annual camp growing to 40 marines in umpire training next year.