#TGW: A Life Lesson

Nov. 11, 2014

By Jon Cooper
The Good Word

Mewborn Field provides Georgia Tech Softball with a tremendous home field advantage. It’s a place that can be very difficult for Yellow Jackets’ opponents to get comfortable.

That home field advantage won’t be as present on Sunday morning despite what will hopefully be a good crowd, and that’s okay.

It wouldn’t be surprising if Georgia Tech President G.P. “Bud” Peterson and his wife, Val, who are among the dignitaries expected to be in attendance, cheer for the opponent. In fact, it wouldn’t be surprising if members of the Georgia Tech alumni team, itself, who is in the opposing dugout, won’t secretly be rooting for them.

This opponent is the Wounded Warriors Amputee Softball Team (WWAST), a group comprised of former members of the armed forces, each of whom lost a limb or limbs while serving overseas. This group of true American heroes has overcome their individual disabilities, and through softball have not revitalize their lives but travel around the country inspiring others to overcome their disabilities and not lose hope.

“What the Wounded Warriors are able to do is just so humbling and it’ll just be a great event for any player to see,” said Georgia Tech softball coach Shelly Hoerner. “Hopefully a lot of Georgia Tech student-athletes will be out watching the game. What these people do for our country and what they’ve sacrificed is unbelievable and very humbling. I’m very thankful that we’ve kept this connection with this team. Being able to bring them to Georgia Tech is great.”

Hoerner and her husband, Jeff, were instrumental in getting the Wounded Warriors to schedule a stop on the Georgia Tech campus. The Hoerners’ relationship with the Wounded Warriors dates back to Shelly’s days as head coach at College of Charleston. She first saw them play the University of Arizona’s alumni following one of her team’s games in Tucson.

“We were lucky enough to have tickets and watch the game,” Hoerner recalled. “We were in our hotel later that night and we met the manager and a couple of players and just started talking. We were playing Arizona the next day and a couple of their players and their manager talked to our team. It was very humbling. At that point, there was nothing for me to say for a pregame speech. If they didn’t say it all there was nothing left to say. From then on out we’ve had a relationship with the Wounded Warriors team.”

Hoerner had planned a game at C of C but left for Georgia Tech before the game could be played. Getting a game with them at Tech became paramount to her.

“We stayed in contact and they’re coming to Atlanta and there it is,” she said. “The event’s happening and it’s going to be a great event for us. We have a lot of GT Softball alumni coming back and we also have some GT celebrity alumni from different sports coming back. That’ll be great. We’re looking forward to having a huge turnout. It’s going to be a humbling event.”

Getting them on the schedule was not easy. WWAST is on the road 30 weekends a year making stops all over the United States. Sunday’s game is the final scheduled appearance this season — for now — after having played 86 games. That’s in addition to holding a five-day camp the second week of June. They hit 34 different cities over those 30 weekends, a few times playing day/night double-headers. They’ve played as far north as Augusta and Old Orchard Beach, Maine and as far west as Palm Springs and Mission Viejo, Calif. They’ve played in cities as well known as Brooklyn, N.Y., and Cincinnati, Ohio, and as obscure as Sulphur, La., Bismarck, North Dakota and Lake Tomahawk, Wisconsin.

The message is the same at every stop. It’s in their motto, “Life Without a Limb is Limitless.”

Georgia Tech will have a superb group of alumni representing them.

Included are former football stars Kelley and Randy Rhino, and Joe Hamilton, former hoopsters Marvin Lewis and Isma’il Muhammad, Corey Patterson and baseball assistant coach Bryan Prince, and football AND baseball player and current football analyst Roddy Jones. Among the former Yellow Jacket softball players expected are the Class of ’14, Alysha Rudnik, Ashley Thomas, Hayley Downs and Kaitlin Kates. While the current team will not be playing, they will be in attendance helping out.

Hoerner believes that those in attendance will learn a lot simply being there.

“We’re very excited about it. I just think it’s going to be a terrific event and hope there’s going to be a lot of people at it,” she said. “It’s going to be a very fun event that’s very meaningful. I’m about if you’re going to do something make it meaningful.”

First pitch is at 11:00 a.m. Admission is free, but donations are suggested. All proceeds from the event will benefit the Wounded Warriors Amputee Softball Team.

For more information on the Wounded Warrior Amputee Softball Team visit www.woundedwarrioramputeesoftballteam.org.

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