71st RQS sponsors local 'boys of summer'

  • Published
  • By Airman 1st Class Spencer Gallien
  • 23rd Wing Public Affairs
As summer approaches, adults and children alike dust off their spikes, polish their bats and oil their gloves in preparation for another season of America's pastime.

The 71st Rescue Squadron began preparing for this baseball season in a different way. They decided to sponsor a Valdosta/Lowndes Recreation Department baseball league for 6-7 year-olds.

"We were looking for a way to give back to the community when sponsoring a baseball team was brought to our attention," said Staff Sgt. Kelby Cox, 71st RQS flight engineer. "The commander was all for the sponsorship, and we decided that we would like to coach them as well."

Fourteen local children played for the 71st RQS Kings in a coach-pitch league. All the coaches came from the 71st RQS to participate in the program.

Although there were no official scores kept and no wins or losses for the team, the coaches felt that the kids really came out winners.

"Most of the kids had never played together and still had a lot to learn about the game," said Master Sgt. Mark Hewett, 71st RQS flight chief. "From being able to judge a fly ball to knowing where the plays were--the kids really improved.

"I think the biggest perk for the coaches was seeing the kids improve," he added. "As the season progressed, the kids started making plays that they just weren't making at the beginning--to see their faces light up afterwards made this a great season."

Throughout the season, the coaches made a point to stress teamwork and game fundamentals, said Sergeant Cox. They began the season with a goal of having a good time and wound up teaching the kids more advanced baseball techniques such as knowing where and when to throw the ball.

"Watching the kids learn and develop their strengths was probably the most rewarding part of coaching," said Sergeant Cox. "From kids who excelled at hitting to the ones who caught on to fielding quickly; everyone made a contribution."

The coaches also pointed out that it wasn't just the kids learning.

"The kids actually taught us what is important in baseball again," Sergeant Cox said. "The kids always had fun--they taught me everything doesn't have to be competitive."

The team concluded the season with a pizza party at the 71st RQS heritage room. The kids not only got pizza, but they took a tour of a HC-130P King aircraft and got to try on a parachute.

"Bringing the kids on base and showing them what we do was probably the biggest highlight of the season for me," said Sergeant Cox. "They were just amazed sitting in the cockpit of an HC-130P or when they tried on a parachute--it was really just great to see them get a kick out of what we do everyday."

Although the season is now over, both coaches from this year said they would like to coach again.

"If I'm still here at Moody, I'd really like to continue to coach a team with Sergeant Hewett," said Sergeant Cox. "The kids were great and we'd love to get the same group again next year."