With the World Series now in full swing, many Americans are headed to the ballpark to cheer on their team. Known as “America’s pastime,” baseball is symbolically American. But as long as baseball has been important to American culture, so too has it held meaning for our nation’s servicemembers.
Baseball, in its earlier forms, traces its relationship with the military to as far back as the American Revolutionary War when soldiers of the Continental Army played ball at Valley Forge. The game rose in popularity with soldiers in of the Civil War and became a popular pastime in forts and camps. The ballgame, and the servicemembers who play, continued to evolve, but one thing remained the same – the courage and dedication of the players as they served their nation.
A group of ballplayers, known as the U.S. Military All-Stars, continues the tradition as they tour the country and represent their respective services to the nation. Part of the more than 20 players who made up this year’s roster was Ensign Graham Sherman, one of two Coast Guard members on the team. Sherman, the team’s shortstop and second baseman, contributed to the team’s success as he helped lift them to wins in the exhibition games. He was also a member of the honor detail, presenting wounded warriors with a Ground Zero tribute flag before the commencement of the games.
The U.S. Military All-Stars team is the only barnstorming team in the world featuring players from all branches of the Armed Forces and first responders. Since 1990, more than 25,000 men and women – including active duty, reserve, guard, officer candidates, service academy, wounded warriors and veterans – have suited-up to play on the team.
“Playing for the U.S. Military All-Stars is truly an amazing experience,” said Sherman. “I’m playing with guys from every service, all with their own unique stories and career paths, and all of whom I have never met before.”
More than learning about the other services, the players also shared the same camaraderie demonstrated in safety and security missions around the globe. This teamwork was pivotal in their success. Battling a lack of consistency within the roster due to operational obligations, the players focused on accomplishing the mission at hand; a lesson taught in all branches of the military.
“Every day new players arrived, some fresh off of a deployment, as others departed to return to military duty,” recalled Sherman. “The most amazing part about this was even with the constant roster changes, unfamiliar personnel and lack of consistent practice, our team managed to win more than 75 percent of our games against professional level ball clubs. Our success directly reflects how military units from different services join forces every day to complete our missions in the field.”
“No matter what is asked of our military personnel, we manage to get the job done effectively,” added Sherman. “That ‘always find a way’ mentality is immediately evident when the U.S. Military All-Stars stepped onto the field to compete.”
Sherman’s time with the team has come to an end for now and he is back aboard his unit, Coast Guard Cutter Spencer. Sherman now uses his experiences with the team as a member of the deck department aboard the cutter where he will continue to rely on teamwork to accomplish the mission. He knows ball field or battlefield, it’s all about coming together as one.