Featured image: Blake High School and Wheaton High School line up with the U.S. veterans during the national anthem. (Photo courtesy of Blake Athletics.)
Blake High School’s baseball team hosted its second annual Military Appreciation Night on May 2, honoring local US vets and wearing fresh new uniforms specially designed for the night in a 13-3 win against Wheaton High School.
The story behind military appreciation night and the new patriotic jerseys goes back to last year when Head Coach Steve Murfin noticed his players kicking dirt and staring at the ground while the anthem was being played.
“I felt that my players were not paying respect for the flag,” Murfin said. “I felt they needed to understand why we stand at attention for the anthem.”
That next week, Murfin brought in some war veterans to speak at practice, where they explained to the players how privileged they are to play in nice uniforms and play baseball on a nice field. These talks were meant for the players to think deeper about the national anthem and this country.
Coach Murfin’s and the veterans’ talk to the team definitely had an impact on the players when the anthem is being played. Junior Phoenix Spiller used to just stand with his hand on his heart when the anthem was being played in the past.
“From now on when I do that, I actually pay attention and actually think about it and feel for it.” Spiller said.
The players were not offended by the speeches either. Rather, they were touched by the speeches and a little upset with themselves.
“Seeing that they aren’t honoring the country that it should be improperly like saluting the flag during the anthem just kind of disappointed me because they weren’t respecting what everyone has done for this country,” said senior captain Michael Griffin.
This led to a discussion about hosting a military appreciation night.
Last spring, the team held its first Military Appreciation Night. There was a special ceremony before the game where seven U.S. veterans were invited to be introduced, shake each player’s hand and then throw an opening pitch. After that, the veterans got to keep their own ball with the name and date of the ceremony written on it.
When the season ended, Coach Murfin and Griffin decided to take this event up a notch by customizing patriotic jerseys for this year’s Military Appreciation Night. Griffin started a gofundme.com campaign to raise money to get the jerseys made.
“I kept promoting it on my Facebook and my Instagram and stuff like that,” Griffin said. “I encouraged my teammates to help out too, and they all helped out and got people to join.”
The team ended up with not just enough money for their jerseys, but also enough to donate to the Blake High School community.
This year after two postponements due to rain, Blake’s baseball team hosted their second annual Military Appreciation Night against Wheaton High School. The night started off with a similar ceremony as last year where the veterans were honored and threw out the first pitch.
Retired First Class Army Sergeant Steve Steffan said that he “really appreciated the way the coaches really made us feel welcomed here and the players that they do something like this honoring our veterans.”
“It’s great to see young men and women participating in such a great event,” added Post 86 Adjutant SMD Adjutant Past commander Past County Commander Colleen Mulroney
The game itself was a great game for Blake. Michael Griffin had an outstanding night, pitching five innings and allowing only three runs. Offensively, The Bengals scored 13 runs in a game that ended in the bottom of the sixth inning due to the mercy rule.
A dominant Blake win made for a sweet evening. The message and sentiment of the evening made it even sweeter.