Each spring in America, colored stirrups are excavated from the bottom of sock drawers, hardened orange clay is knocked loose from cleats and home plate is dusted clean so the local baseball diamond – and community – can come to life.
In Dothan, Alabama, the game has evolved beyond America’s pastime to become the way this small town says thank you to the men and women who protect their freedom.
Organized by a self-proclaimed stay-at-home wife who “couldn’t stay at home while service members sacrificed,” Hits for Heroes Director Angela Dunning brought more than 20 teams together in her local area to participate in a two-week baseball tournament to raise awareness of the sacrifices America’s troops make and to raise money so the USO can provide them more comforts when they’re away.
Players and coaches wore camouflage Hits for Heroes jerseys at each game. And during the fifth inning, Dunning invited everyone who is a veteran or military family member onto the field to be honored.
“Our community has just wrapped its arms around it,” said Dunning, who canvassed Dothan to gather corporate sponsors and participants.
“It’s more about the cause than it is about baseball, but because you’re including baseball, we get so many more people participating. And since every single person in America needs to thank our military, it has … become the way this town says ‘thank you.’
“And when it comes to the best vehicle in which to deliver that message of thanks, the USO is a no-brainer.”
This year’s Hits for Heroes tournament raised $23,000 for the USO, bringing the three-year total donation to more than $60,000.
“I’ve yet to meet a single person who has a relationship with the military — either through their spouse or themselves — who doesn’t have a great story to tell about the USO,” Dunning said. “So we feel honored to partner with the USO and hope we can continue this effort for years to come.”