April 4, 2012
By J.D. Leipold
WASHINGTON — The loss of an arm or a leg from combat wasn’t about to stop these band of Soldiers and Marines who make up the Wounded Warrior Amputee Softball Team, or WWAST, as they dominated a Washington area celebrity team made up of sports legends.
In the second annual battle between the teams hosted by the Washington Nationals at their ballpark, the softball classic started with the able-bodied celebrities taking an early lead at 2-0, even though NFL Hall of Famer Darrell Green whiffed three pitches and struck out.
Two more runs were all the celebrities could muster in five innings of play as the wounded warriors, playing with leg or arm prosthetic or no prosthetic at all, couldn’t be stopped defensively or offensively. They gave the celebrities a 17-4 shellacking under a perfect evening sky and full moon.
For Army veteran Greg Reynolds, the loss of his left arm forequarter happened at home following a 15-month Iraq tour when he was hit by a car while riding his motorcycle. His odds were one in 2,000 of surviving and even less while in recovery, he said.
“To be out here today in front of all these people by far exceeds anything I thought possible,” Reynolds said. “This is a really rewarding, humbling experience to play on such an amazing team with my brothers, but to be out and to play with obviously missing a great portion of my body motivates me to the next level because I have this inner discipline and motivation where I want to play better than the guy with his limbs. No one should put limitations on themselves.”
While on a night patrol in Iraq, Matt Kinsey stepped on a landmine, losing his right foot.
“You go from being a paratrooper, which is a very proud thing, and you take a lot of pride in it to missing a foot and your career; it’s not over, but it’s really tough to get back into the infantry and you go from being on top of the mountain to being on the bottom of it,” Kinsey said.
“This is a dream come true, every little kid dreams of getting a second chance as an athlete and I had one and lost it,” the former high school and college ball player said. “This is my second chance, so I play as hard as I can while I’m out here because it can be gone just in the blink of an eye.”
Veteran Soldier Brian T. Urruela, who lost his right leg below the knee to two improvised explosive devices during Operation Iraqi Freedom, said playing ball is like that next step, next phase, but he said it’s been a long, long journey of about five years.”
“Being at this level and maintaining this level, we’re constantly working at improving our limbs and it definitely pushes us to our limits. It’s improved me tenfold,” he said.
In conjunction with various military outreach efforts, the partnership between the Nationals and the WWAST hopes to demonstrate to other amputees and the public that through extensive rehabilitation and training, veterans who were once Soldiers and Marines can be athletes while playing ball and proving life without a limb can be unlimited.