NewburyportNews.com, Newburyport, MA

Sports

August 21, 2013

Marathon responders and war vets play at Fenway

BOSTON — Josh Wege stepped into the pitch and smacked the neon yellow softball off the Green Monster, churning his carbon fiber prosthetic legs as he rounded first base and headed for second. Eight-year-old Shaun McLaughlin, with an artificial leg of his own, ran out to retrieve the bat.

One night after the Red Sox and Yankees played another of their four-hour grudge matches, Fenway Park was friendly again, hosting a softball game between the Wounded Warriors Amputee Softball Team and a group of Boston Marathon first responders to raise money for victims of the April 15 attacks.

“When we heard about what happened, we just knew it was the right match,” said David Van Sleet, an army veteran who is the founder and general manager of the team. “We get a lot of attention, but this is something special we can do for them.”

About 700 people, many of them wearing “Boston Strong” T-shirts, showed up on a night the Red Sox were on the road to hang out in baseball’s oldest ballpark. The event raised $4,001 in cash donations stuffed into boxes at the gates; it will go to The One Fund, the charity established to help victims of the Boston Marathon bombing.

The team of military veterans received a two-minute standing ovation when they were honored before Sunday night’s game between Boston and New York. The first responders included five police officers, five firefighters and five members of the Emergency Medical Services.

McLaughlin, who was born without his right leg, served as the Wounded Warriors bat boy.

“At this age, I don’t think he understands,” said his mother, Sara, “that these are the true heroes, not the Red Sox and Yankees.”

Pitcher Todd Reed, 52, a native of Newton, Mass., who stepped on a land mine while on patrol in northern Iraq during Operation Desert Storm, sported a Red Sox logo on his prosthetic right leg. Everyone else on the team is younger and enlisted after the Sept. 11 attacks.

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