Things learned, observed on Day 1 of Marine Far East softball regionals
Published: August 8, 2011
Musings, mutterings and the occasional schmahts as Ornauer prepares for four more days in the searing brick oven called Field 1 on Camp Foster:
For a look at complete Day 1 results and photographs, click here.
For a look at complete Day 2 results and photographs, click here.
Another year, another Marine Corps Far East Regional Softball Tournament … another week of wondering and discussing who’s eligible to be selected for the All-Marine tryout camp at Cherry Point, N.C., who isn’t eligible and who really should be.
Of the 90-odd players on the six teams in the tournament, maybe 15, by my early count, are eligible to travel to tryout camp for a spot on the All-Marine team playing in the All-Armed Forces tournament next month at Naval Air Station Pensacola, Fla.
Two players not eligible at this point who would give the All-Marine team a serious boost are Marine Corps Base Camp S.D. Butler left fielder Phillip Eskew and 3rd Marine Division/III Marine Expeditionary Force shortstop Taylor Smith.
This is a pair of five-tool players, who can run, hit, field, throw and think the game. Guys who if selected, guys who if given a shot at this major honor, would represent the Corps well and could potentially be starters on the All-Marine team for years to come.
Yet they might not get that opportunity, because their commands feel they are more valuable to their duty sections and the Marine Corps mission than hitting a wee ball with a club for several weeks in the States.
This may cause some static with high-ranking folks on island and at Iwakuni, but … to deny a worthy candidate a shot at tryout camp is tantamount to a long-term decision made by short-term people.
Yes, the mission comes first; these players were hired to defend the country, not play softball. But with some creative scheduling – and ensuring the players pull their share of the work load when they return from camp and the All-Armed Forces tournament – the mission can both be furthered in the present and in the future.
But the military does fund the All-Armed Forces sports industry, to the tune of $1.75 billion annually, for a reason – to give elite athletes serving the military an outlet to test their abilities, and also as a valuable recruiting and retention tool.
Give somebody like Eskew or Smith a shot at camp and the chances of them staying in the Marine Corps improve dramatically, and you get to keep quality people like them for the long term.
Who knows which of their co-workers see that they’re going off the North Carolina to try to earn a spot on the All-Marine team, not just to represent their team but to represent the Corps. “Man, you mean you can be a Marine and play softball at the highest level? Cool,” he or she might be thinking.
And who knows which one or several players on a civilian team stateside whom the Marines might scrimmage in the run-up to the All-Armed Forces tournament might be suitably impressed by the same notion that he or she pays a visit to the recruiting office the next Monday?
Deny a Smith or an Eskew that chance … and it may be they who seek a spot on a civilian team stateside after their enlistment or commission expires. And you never know what could have been.
So, when Matt Dennis, Bud Wood or Sonny Jones of Marine Corps Community Services Semper Fit athletics on Okinawa approaches you and asks you to give the Askews and Smiths of the world a shot … think about all those things before you say no.
Once again, it was great to see command representation at the Far East Regional Tournament opening ceremony. Just like old times. The III MEF band couldn’t be there Monday afternoon for the festivities, but Sgt. Maj. Brent Cook of Marine Corps Air Station Futenma was there, along with MCB command chaplain 1st Lt. Robert James Gelinas. Cook and Anna Borum of the camp services office threw out the first ball before an appreciative crowd and the six teams each lined up in the infield.
A big tip of the cap to the MCCS Semper Fit staff and Gunners Fitness & Sports Complex ground crew for putting Field 1 into playing shape so quickly after the devastation wrought by Typhoon Muifa over the weekend. After it had passed Okinawa, each dugout was filled two-feet deep with water, as much as anything else. It was all cleared out, with opening ceremonies and the start of play Monday delayed only a few minutes.
Unusual bit of rule changing marked the start of play in the tournament, involving games featuring Marine Corps Air Station Iwakuni and the fact that they somehow were not informed of an important change in this year’s tournament.
Unlike the last two years when MCCS Semper Fit provided the bats for all the teams, as was done at the All-Armed Forces level, we’ve gone back to each player swinging his own composite. Iwakuni found out about this at the pre-tournament coaches meeting on Sunday.
Initially, all the teams agreed to reverting to the rules of two years ago, but that was changed again on Monday. All teams may swing their own bats except when playing Iwakuni; then, each team must swing the MCCS Semper Fit-provided bats.
Gave it a few minutes to digest. Fair enough. Better communication would have averted this, for sure.
As I did during the Firecracker Shootout tournament last month, also on Camp Foster, I continue to hold my breath and hope and pray that no harm come to any children who venture into the dugouts for a drink of Gatorade or water – which belong to the players, by the way – or sit on the dugout ceiling to get a better view.
As I stated then, the tournament’s bylaws addressing who may venture into the dugouts are quite clear and are there for a reason – the concrete surfaces are extremely unforgiving, and can do some serious damage if one of the children falls. Please, please, please, curb your children when your team is playing. There are many grassy areas surrounding the field where playtime can be far less harmful.
Where Hospital cleanup batter Scott Cyr is concerned, the apples did not fall far from the tree. Cyr, 39, a Navy chief petty officer assigned to U.S. Naval Hospital Camp Lester, has two athletically gifted children attending Kubasaki High School, sophomore cross-country runner and wrestler Austin and senior cross-country and track distance runner Tyeler. The elder Cyr has had his children on the athletic field from virtually the time they were old enough to walk. Tyeler and Austin also serve as lifeguards at the Camp Foster 50-meter pool. Originally from Hartford, Conn., Cyr calls Gainesville, Fla., home now; Tyeler is planning to do her college undergraduate work at the University of Florida and eventually end up in politics. First, there’s the matter of Austin hoping to return Kubasaki’s wrestling team to its former glory, and Tyeler says she’s already looking ahead to next spring and redemption for Kubasaki’s girls track team, which came up just short in its bid for a Far East meet team title.