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FAIRFAX, Va. — The game wasn't close, but what the players on the Wounded Warrior Amputee Softball Team provided for the crowd at George Mason University Friday night couldn't be measured by numbers on a scoreboard.

Sure, the Iraq and Afghanistan war veterans collected 35 runs on 42 hits against a team from the Federal Bureau of Investigation, but most observers considered them winners even before the first pitch was thrown.

"They're my inspiration," said Jose Cardenal, who played baseball in the big leagues for 18 seasons. "I complain a lot, but after what I saw in the workout this morning, I'm never going to complain [about life again]."

Fred Valentine, a former Washington Senators player who served in the Army and whose son was in the Air Force for 20 years, echoed that sentiment.

"It takes a lot of desire, inspiration, guts and willpower," said Valentine, "because they could easily just give up on life and accept it as it is. But with the endurance they have, and the desire they have, this shows a lot [about] these individuals. They should really be applauded for what they're doing."

Added former Baltimore Oriole Michael Young, "I was able to spend a little time with them this morning, and what I saw was amazing. For me to come here and support them, it's an honor."

Joe Walsh, a supervisory special agent at the FBI and captain of Friday's opposing team, spoke of trying to select a gift for the wounded warriors. They decided on specially-made bats. When the people at team sponsor Louisville Slugger asked him what to engrave on the bats, "I said, put the word 'heroes.' You are true American heroes, and on behalf of my team, thank you very much. You guys are a true inspiration."

Robert Duff, the CEO of the Diamond Dream Foundation, ordinarily works with elementary school and middle school students, but said "we consider these wounded warriors kids. They're 21, 26 ... I'll tell you what, I went to a ball game with them last Sunday, a couple of them, and hung out with them yesterday. They're not handicapped. They are professional soldiers, professional people. They look at their missing leg or arm as an inconvenience that they are working on, and a lot of them have overcome it.

"They've been through a lot of rehab, learned how to walk again. These kids are phenomenal. They're living life to its fullest in spite of what they go through."

Duff's foundation, whose goal is to spark kids' interest in the game of baseball through free equipment and clinics with pro players, presented coach David Van Sleet of the wounded warriors team with a $5,000 donation during the game. In addition, an unnamed fan who won over $1,000 in the 50-50 raffle got a big hand by announcing, "they (the team) can keep it."

As for the game itself, multiple home runs by co-MVPs Nick Clark and Saul Bosquez led the way for the amputees in a 35-10 win.

"For our first game, I thought we had a pretty good outing," said Van Sleet. "The porch was a little short, and we had fun with that, but tomorrow is going to be a little bigger obstacle — we're playing on a regulation men's softball field. But I think we have a lot of talent out there on the field, we had a lot of hits and made some great defensive plays."

gromelskij@stripes.osd.mil

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