CAMP FOSTER, Okinawa — As an outfielder, Stephen Garcia would like to be selected for September’s All-Marine men’s softball tryout camp at Cherry Point Air Station, N.C.
But as a Marine, Garcia knows where he’s needed. Work calls for him to return to Marine Corps Air Station Iwakuni in Japan after this week’s Marine Forces Pacific Regional Tournament.
“It’s frustrating,” Garcia said of being unable to attend camp and perhaps bid for a shot at playing at the military’s highest level, in the All-Armed Forces tournament. “But we all understand. There is a mission.”
Trying to support that mission and the $1.5 billion industry that is the All-Armed Forces sports program becomes a delicate balancing act, players, coaches and organizers said.
In addition to crowning a Far East regional softball champion team, the five-team, 75-player tournament also serves as a gauge to help select six players to represent the region at the All-Marine camp, scheduled for Sept. 2-15 at Cherry Point.
Players selected to the All-Marine team then travel to Eglin Air Force Base, Fla., for the All-Armed Forces tournament Sept. 16-21.
All that has to be balanced against the mission, and Marines play a vital role in supporting operations Iraqi and Enduring Freedom.
As a result, only 15 of the Marine players in the tournament were eligible to go to camp. All players on U.S. Naval Hospital Camp Lester were released to go, but the medical center’s 24-hour, 7-day-a-week operation already has forced the corpsmen to forfeit two games.
“We can’t change reality,” said Gerald Sharber, a sports specialist with Marine Corps Community Services Semper Fit Athletics, which oversees the Far East regional sports program. “We know there’s a war on. We understand that. Being Marines first, you have to do your job first and support the All-Armed Forces program as best we can.”
The Marines face a case of triage. They would like to play ball and represent the Marine Corps, which hasn’t won the All-Armed Forces tournament since 1999. But “we have to remember what we’re here for,” said Garcia, a 35-year-old gunnery sergeant assigned to Iwakuni’s Headquarters and Headquarters Squadron.
Yongsan’s Colbert, Army get closer to Armed Forces titleHow valuable a presence has Vivian Colbert of South Korea’s Yongsan Garrison been for the All-Army women’s softball team?
Worth her weight in gold, coach Robert Bailey said of the nine-time All-Army first baseman, whose clutch hitting on Wednesday at Hill Air Force Base, Utah, helped Army get within reach of its first All-Armed Forces tournament gold medal in three years.
Trailing two-time defending champion Air Force 7-5 entering the bottom of the seventh, Army rallied for three runs to win 8-7. Colbert singled to load the bases, then Rebekah Moore of Hanau, Germany, singled in Tammy Baldwin of Fort Riley, Kansas, with the winning run. Colbert finished the game 3-for-4 with three RBIs.
Army (6-0) entered Thursday’s final day of the three-day tournament needing one victory in its three scheduled games to dethrone Air Force (4-2), which needed to sweep its three games.
“We’re more experienced this year,” Bailey said of the difference between the 2005 and 2006 All-Army teams. “Having Vivian playing. … She’s played an outstanding tournament.”
Earlier Wednesday, Colbert went 3-for-5 with a home run and three RBIs in Army’s 19-12, 8-inning victory over Navy. Colbert then was 4-for-5 as Army crushed the Marines 23-6.
Still, Bailey said he wasn’t satisfied with just winning the tournament. Recalling that just one team in the event’s history — Air Force in 2002 — ever swept all nine games, Bailey said: “We want all nine. I want to match that.”
Marine Forces Pacific RegionalAt Field 1, Foster Field Complex Camp Foster, Okinawa
Game 1-Iwakuni Air Station 7, U.S. Naval Hospital Camp Lester 0, forfeit
Game 2-3rd Marine Logistics Group 11, Marine Corps Base Camp S.D. Butler 9
Game 3-1st Marine Aircraft Wing 12, Iwakuni Air Station 11
Game 4-Marine Corps Base Camp S.D. Butler 17, U.S. Naval Hospital Camp Lester 5, 6 inn., 12-run mercy rule
Game 5-1st Marine Aircraft Wing 15, 3rd Marine Logistics Group 11
3rd MLG 11, Base 9
Base.....051 100 2-9
3rd MLG.....011 045 x-11
3rd MLG, Matt Rosenberg 1 SF, grand slam HR; Billy Nicely 3-for-4, 1 RBI; Eduardo Santiesteban 3-for-4; Joseph Caskey 2-for-3, 2 RBIs. Base, Michael Gregory 2-for-3, 1 3B, 1 BB, 2 RBIs; Seth Roach 2-for-4, 2 RBIs; Dave Pensante and Allan Weeg 2-for-3, 1 RBI each.
Wing 12, Iwakuni 11
Iwakuni.....230 021 3-11
Wing.....302 133 x-12
Wing, T.C. Gray 4-for-4, 3 2-run HRs; Keith Gilchrist 2-for-4, 1 HR, 2 RBIs; Abel Sandoval 2-RBI single. Iwakuni, Gary Watson 2-for-2, 2 BB, 2 RBIs.
Base 17, Hospital 5, 6 inn., 12-run mercy rule
Base, Trever Carico 1 HR, 2 SF, 5 RBIs; K.J. Basso 3-for-3, 2 RBIs; Seth Roach 2-for-4, 1 2B, 2 RBIs; Mike Gregory 2 RBIs. Hospital, Richard Kleber 2-for-3, 1 2B, 1 3B, 1 RBI; Jeremy Norris, Jaime Torres 2-for-3, 1 RBI each.
Wing 15, 3rd MLG 11
Wing.....215 104 2-15
3rd MLG.....063 200 0-11
Wing, Matt Frisvold 3-for-5, 1 HR, 4 RBIs; William Lampton 3-for-4, 1 HR, 3 RBIs; Joshua Armstrong 3-for-4, 2 RBIs; Keith Gilchrist 1 HR, 2 RBIs. 3rd MLG, Matt Rosenberg 3-run HR; Paul Yeater 2-run triple; Bari Williams, Eduardo Santiesteban 2 hits each.