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army baseball playerSteve Cummings from West Chester, PA is a pitcher for Army. He has two older brothers who graduated from the Naval Academy. One is deployed in Japan as an M.P., the other is getting ready for his second tour in Iraq.  Steve will finish his degree at West Point and then he’ll begin his mandatory tour of duty. I assume his story is not much different than many of his teammates. A great kid, from a great family who loves playing baseball and loves his country.

When Army came to town last weekend for the NCAA baseball regional nobody gave them a chance. They were the 4th seed in a four team tournament and they had to play Texas. Mighty Texas, the #1 seed in the entire nation. They lost…

But, they came back the next day and beat #2 seed Texas State. And the next day they beat #3 seed Boston College, which meant they would have to turn around and play Texas again that night. Once again nobody gave them a chance to win, so they proceeded to take it to the Longhorns from the beginning. They scored 2 runs in the first inning, their pitcher Steve Cummings pitched his ass off for 4 innings:

Army Black Knights     IP  H  R ER BB SO AB BF  NP
Cummings, Steve.....  4.1  7  4  4  3  0 16 22  72

When Steve left the game, Army led 6-3. They continued to play with heart and intensity that only a group of soldiers could muster. They ran into walls and kept scrapping for runs. I started to secretly root for them to take this game. Why?

They wanted it bad, really bad…more importantly, they needed this win and I needed this win for them. I was watching a young Army fan in front of me and I noticed his New York drivers license when he took out his wallet. Pretty sure he too is a West Point student or recent grad and I started to think about what these young men would soon face when they left the academy. They will soon be young leaders in the Army, many will be deployed to Iraq and Afghanistan to face horrors I wouldn’t wish on my worst enemy.

The young man I'm referring to his the one on the phone.

The young man I'm referring to his the one on the phone.

And I wanted them to have this story to tell their soldiers, to tell each other when they faced the tough challenges ahead.  I wanted them to cherish this moment, this day of glory…

The Texas players have many opportunities for baseball glory, they are part of a legendary program that is expected to challenge for the national championship every year. Many of them will go on to long professional careers in baseball. I’m pretty certain that no Army player will go play professional baseball. This day was the culmination, the pinnacle of their athletic careers, and I wanted for them to defeat the might giant just one time. I knew if they met again on Monday the Longhorns would probably beat them 10-0, but today…I thought today just might be their day.

The 9th inning started with Army leading 10-6. A four run lead is a big lead in baseball and the game seemed in hand for Army. But, Texas is a legendary program for one reason…they win. Texas rolled out 8 runs and won the game 14-10.

But this is still a day these Army players will never forget, and they will still be able to tell the stories to their grandchildren of the day they almost slayed the giant. I pray that Steve and all his friends will have that opportunity.

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