When they talked at spring training, it was San Francisco Giants' All-Star Gerald Dempsey "Buster" Posey who showed deference to high school catcher William "Ryan" Owens, a member of Navy SEAL Team 6.
"He would come to spring training frequently,, and I had the honor of meeting him and his son in 2012," Posey, the Giants' stellar catcher, wrote of Owens on Instagram.
"For me, it is easy to take for granted the life that my family and I get to live every day," Posey said on Instagram, according to the article on Owens' death in the Yemen raid by Michael Daly of the Daily Beast.
"Words don't do justice for the gratitude that I have for people like Ryan that sacrifice their lives fighting against evil, so that we may live with freedom," Posey said.
Owens, 36, who had 12 deployments and earned three Bronze Stars since the terror attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, was killed Jan. 29 in what U.S. Central Command has described as a "ferocious firefight" in an attack on an al-Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula stronghold in Yemen's remote interior.
Three other U.S. service members were wounded in the action and three more were injured in the hard landing of an MV-22 Osprey tilt-rotor aircraft that was assisting in evacuating the raiders.
Owens' death was the first on a mission specifically authorized by the new commander in chief, President Donald Trump. Trump made a personal call to Owens' family and last week made his first trip to Dover Air Force Base in Delaware for the solemn "dignified transfer ceremony" of Owens' remains to his family.
In a statement shortly after the raid, Trump said, "In a successful raid against al-Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) headquarters, brave U.S. forces were instrumental in killing an estimated 14 AQAP members and capturing important intelligence that will assist the US in preventing terrorism against its citizens and people around the world."
"Americans are saddened this morning with news that a life of a heroic service member has been taken in our fight against the evil of radical Islamic terrorism," he added. "My deepest thoughts and humblest prayers are with the family of this fallen service member. I also pray for a quick and complete recovery for the brave service members who sustained injuries."
Two of the three Bronze Stars awarded to Chief Special Warfare Operator Owens, of Peoria, Illinois, came with the combat "V" device signifying valor in action.
Owens, the catcher for the Illinois Valley Central High School's Grey Ghosts baseball team, enlisted in the Navy right out of high school in 1998. By 2002, he had realized his dream of becoming a SEAL and in 2009 made chief.
In his tribute to Owens, new Defense Secretary Jim Mattis said, "Ryan gave his full measure for our nation, and in performing his duty, he upheld the noblest standard of military service. The United States would not long exist were it not for the selfless commitment of such warriors."
"I thank our gallant troops and their families for their dedication to protecting this nation, and I pass our respects to Ryan's family in this most difficult time," Mattis said.
Owens, the father of three girls and a boy, and the guy they called "O-dog" in high school, always had service to his country in mind, high school friend Cody Jackson told the Chicago Tribune.
"People might have thought it was just a kid talking," Jackson said, "but he meant every word of it. He always talked about the greatest thing he could do was serve his country."
-- Richard Sisk can be reached at email@example.com.