By: Brandon Vickrey
Whiting, Ind. – July 22, 2019 – All who attended Monday’s game at Oil City Stadium will remember the night for the rest of their lives.
A baseball game took place, but it was no ordinary evening for the Northwest Indiana Oilmen. For the fourth time in team history and the first since 2016, the Oilmen welcomed the barnstorming team comprised of all active duty servicemen known as the U.S. Military All-Stars. The group travels the country to honor all who have fought for our freedom in any branch of the armed forces.
“It was a blast to be a part of this event,” Oilmen manager Kevin Tyrrell said. “The ceremonies that took place were emotional. The event was very well put together, and (Oilmen President) Don Popravak and the U.S. Military All-Stars did a great job.”
An emotion-evoking pregame ceremony took place as the U.S. Military All-Stars held a salute to the American flag, then joined the Oilmen in honoring individuals from three gold star families – Debbie and Paul Rosenwinkel, Vicki Vicari and Tammy Smith. Those three families operate Indiana Fallen Heroes, an organization that seeks to honor those who have lost their lives in battle since Sept. 11, 2001.
“Our goal is to raise awareness that our freedom is not free,” Debbie Rosenwinkel said. “We want to make sure that soldiers who gave their lives for our freedom are honored and remembered by all.”
To achieve that goal, the Indiana Fallen Heroes organization creates placards to honor each solider who has lost his or her life in battle. The organization has grown after being inspired by a Boone Grove Middle School project. The group currently has 300 placards and is attempting to raise the funding and resources to provide an additional 200 since there are currently 500 Indiana fallen soldiers.
When Monday’s game reached the end of the fifth inning, an unforgettable moment took place as everyone in the stadium stood for those who cannot. Members of the Indiana Fallen Heroes organization handed out placards to all fans and members of both teams, so each individual had the opportunity to represent a fallen hero during an extended moment of silence that moved some fans to tears.
When the game reached 9:11 p.m., play was halted mid-inning for another emotional tribute as the two teams and the audience stood for the playing of “God Bless the U.S.A.” in remembrance of those who lost their lives on Sept. 11, 2001.
Countless veterans were in attendance to show their support for the U.S. Military All-Stars and vice versa. Jessica Lopez Schmidt delivered a rousing rendition of the National Anthem, and Don Porter of BP Whiting threw out the ceremonial first pitch.
On most nights at the ballpark the final score is the most important item, but in this instance it was a mere footnote. The Oilmen used a seven-run sixth inning to break open an eventual 17-1 win. Every available position player saw action for NWI and the team had six pitchers take the mound.
“It didn’t feel like an exhibition game, because it wasn’t to the U.S. Military team,” Tyrrell said. “Those guys were out here to win. They were serious and ready for us. We’ve got a very talented team and we punished some baseballs early on, but those guys were intense and ready to play.”
The Oilmen will return to regular season activity on Tuesday as the Bloomington Bobcats make their way to Oil City Stadium for a 7:10 p.m. first pitch. It’s a $2 Tuesday with all preferred seats available for the discounted price of $2. For those who can’t attend, Brandon Vickrey and Blake Toman will have the call on the Oilmen Broadcasting Network, which is available via Facebook Live.
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