Not everybody in uniform taking the field this season at Miller Park – home of Major League Baseball’s Milwaukee Brewers – was a professional baseball player.
For seven games this season, select members of the Wisconsin Army National Guard were chosen for pre-game recognition or to throw out the ceremonial first pitch, as part of a collaborative effort between the Milwaukee Brewers and the Wisconsin Army National Guard’s Recruiting and Retention Battalion.
According to 1st Lt. Brian Schwalbach, Recruiting and Retention Battalion resource manager, the premise of the partnership with the Brewers was retention and recognition.
“We wanted to bring Soldiers on the field and thank them for extending – recognize them in a public forum, recognize them for their service to our country and our state,” Schwalbach said. “It’s really been a hit with our Soldiers.”
Soldiers representing the 32nd Infantry Brigade Combat Team, 64th Troop Command and 157th Maneuver Enhancement Brigade were part of four pre-game recognition events. Soldiers with significant military and civilian achievements were nominated to throw out the ceremonial first pitch for three other games.
Sgt. Nick Sosa, of the 54th Civil Support Team, was nominated to throw out the first pitch at the May 30 game not only for his work as an operations non-commissioned officer, but for his volunteer work with Special Olympics Wisconsin dating back to 2003. He has served as a Special Olympics chairman for the past 11 years, and is the site coordinator for Polar Plunge Wisconsin, one of the organization’s largest fundraisers in the state.
“I had a first sergeant who was looking for volunteers to assist with the event,” Sosa said. “It seemed like a great program, and I started to meet some of the athletes and the board members. And it’s for a great cause. It just kind of captured my heart. It’s been a great opportunity.”
Other Soldiers were recognized for what they do as Soldiers in the Wisconsin Army National Guard. For example, Company F of the 132nd Brigade Support Battalion sent Soldiers instrumental in improving the company’s overall physical fitness test score to the highest in the 32nd Brigade.
“It’s kind of a rush,” Sgt. Aaron Cobosco, a member of Company F, said of standing on-field before thousands of cheering Milwaukee Brewers fans at the Aug. 23 game. “You get the standing ovation and it’s almost like you can’t hear, because it’s loud. Your heart pumps.”
Spc. Kiam Cook, of the 108th Forward Support Company, could relate.
“It was a great experience,” Cook said. “There was a lot of energy in the room. I’ve never been down on the field – for the first time, that was a great experience.”
Cook was selected for being named the 108th’s Soldier of the Year.
“It’s a great feeling to be honored,” added Staff Sgt. David Hess, of the 257th Brigade Support Battalion’s Headquarters Company, “to be out there on the field and have so many fans recognize what we do.”
Cook and Hess were among the 10 Soldiers recognized at the Sept. 5 game.
Tyler Barnes, the Milwaukee Brewers vice president of communications, said the team greatly appreciates the men and women of the U.S. military and the job they do for the nation.
“Taking the time to recognize local service members, particularly members of the Wisconsin National Guard, is a small token of that appreciation,” Barnes said. “And it’s not just the Brewers organization – our fans also show their support for the men and women in uniform, and I think it means as much to the fans as it does to the folks on the field.”