Easing the transition from the battlefront to the home front for deserving heroes was the focus of an exhibition softball contest at Cane Bay High School’s Cobra Park on Oct. 19,
The event, hosted by Pulte Group home builders and the Del Webb Mens Softball Club, was a fund raiser for Operation Finally Home, an award-winning program created by the Bay Area Builders Association in support of our troops. The Pulte Group, along with local contractors, vendors, and housing partners, has teamed with Operation Finally Home to provide custom made, mortgage-free homes to the families of wounded or disabled veterans. Festivities began around 12:30PM as the starting lineups were introduced along the lines at first and third base. A four-man Color Guard, provided by the Del Webb Veterans Club was on hand for the presentation of colors, and Del Webb resident, Dennis Morrill, “the singing Marine”, performed our National Anthem.
USAF Staff Sergeant (retired) Robert Wright, his wife Bethany, and their four children, daughters Elizabeth, Abigail and Julianne, and their son Mikey, were all on hand for the ceremonies. The Wright family learned in September that they would be the recipient of a new home built by Pulte in the McKewn sub- division in Ladson. The home will be ready for occupancy in December, and community-sponsored fund raisers such as this provide additional support to aid the family with the move to their new home.
After the introductions and anthem, Pastor Charlie Swain from the Church at Cane Bay offered a benediction, and young Mikey Wright threw out the ceremonial first pitch.
The main event was, in fact, a doubleheader, featuring two five inning games between the home team Del Webb “Codgers”, a collection of one-time athletes, most of whom are long past their primes, and a roster of young bucks from the PulteGroup’s regional offices. A special ballpark luncheon, consisting of a hot dog or burger, chips and a drink, was included for all patrons who purchased a $10 ticket to the game.
In the first game, the Codgers could not break through on Pulte pitching stud Jamie Waite, who stymied the old timers with an assortment of off speed arc pitches. When the Codgers did make contact, the Pulte defense was there to make the big plays and turn back nascent rallies.
The visitors broke out on top in the first inning on Scott Koerber’s two-run homer in the first, and added two more in the second to open up a 4-0 lead. Codgers’ left fielder Steve Petersen made several diving catches to snuff out even more scoring opportunities for Pulte, and third baseman Eric Walke had two clean hits trying to spark rallies for the home team, but the Codgers couldn’t get the big hit off Waite.
Pulte tacked on three more in the third, before the Codgers stiffened and shut down the mighty Pulte attack the rest of the way, but the damage was done and Pulte prevailed in the opener, 7-0.
In the nightcap, Pulte got a run in the first when Ryan Leaphart tripled home Mike Kowalski, and peppered Codger pitching for five runs on seven hits in the second. Trailing 6-0, the Codgers finally broke through against Pulte’s second game starter when Dan Morphett drove home Joe Kohut with the Codgers’ first tally of the day. Pulte scored three more in the top of third, aided by John Kowalski’s home run, but the game Codgers finally found their mojo in the bottom of the fourth. Kevin Scott hit a long home run with one aboard to start the inning, then Morphett and Bob Schlindwein each followed with RBI singles as the home team plated four runs to close the gap to 9-5. Pulte broke the game open with four runs in the fifth, including Scott Koerber’s second homer in as many games, to earn a sweep for Pulte with a 13-5 win.
But the day belonged to the fans as broadcasting team Ross Baglio and Bob Hayes regaled the crowd with play-by-play narrative and player anecdotes. More than 100 Del Webb residents and Pulte employees filled the stands and raised close to $2,400.00 in ticket sales and private donations for the Wright family.
It bears mention that no matter how worthwhile a benefit event may be, you still need a place to stage it. The organizers are most grateful to the administration of Cane Bay High School for the generous use of their field and facilities. We would like to thank the Principal, Dr. Lee Westbury, the Athletic Department, and the Booster Club for its support of this worthy cause. Special mention is also deserved for the school’s Athletic Director, Mr. Tim McDowell, and his staff, for all their work in preparing the field and the concession area for today’s event.
The PulteGroup is to be commended for the top notch show that they sponsored, from the food and beverage product they supplied, to the Jump Castle and Splashdown amusements provided to keep the young children in attendance entertained. Pulte’s vice president of Construction, Mr. Charlie Tipton, spoke between games of the doubleheader to thank the Cane Bay community for its support and participation. He noted the tremendous work being done by the Bay Area Builders Association for Wounded Warriors through Operation Finally Home, and is proud of his company’s affiliation with the foundation.
He did take a moment to acknowledge Pulte’s Del Webb Project Manager Mark Baker who organized this event, and several like it, from among the Del Webb chartered clubs. Tipton led the cheer for the Del Webb Codgers, whose President, Chuck Salley, “manned the galley” in making the concession stand as big a draw for fans as the game.
There might have been winners and losers on the field, but for this program there were only winners. The Pulte All Stars were gracious in victory, the Codgers noble in defeat, and the fans came away knowing that even a little bit can go long way in improving the lives of deserving heroes.
Just ask little Mikey Wright, who came to bat three times in the nightcap, ripping three hits and scoring two runs. Seeing the joy in that young boy’s face as he rounded the bases toward home, and the pride in the eyes of his parents, was worth the price of admission. The next time Mikey “crosses home”, it will be at the doorstep of a brand new home, with his grateful sisters and Mom and Dad who can finally rebuild their lives through Operation Finally Home.