, Newburyport, MA


August 21, 2013

Marathon responders and war vets play at Fenway


Some are missing one leg; Wege (WEH’-ghee), a former Marine lance corporal, lost both to an improvised explosive device in Afghanistan Operation Enduring Freedom. Still, he was the Most Valuable Player of last month’s celebrity softball game the night before the major league All-Star Game.

Outfielder Greg Reynolds had his camouflage-patterned jersey sewn shut where his left arm would be. But in the field Reynolds handled several plays flawlessly, catching the ball in his glove, flipping first the ball and then the glove in the air, and then grabbing the ball in his bare hand to make the throw back to the infield.

It’s all part of the motto: “Life without a limb is limitless,” a message the team wanted to spread to those who lost limbs in the Boston Marathon attacks. Van Sleet said several new amputees from the bombing attended the game and talked to the players afterward.

And the message clearly resonated with their bat boy.

“I think he gets it,” said Sara McLaughlin, who watched her son with the rest of their family from the seats behind the visitor’s dugout. “I think that’s how he lives. But I think it’s great for him to see these athletes out there doing it, too.”

The team of military veterans, which has been together for about 2½ years, plays about 25 weekends a year and only against able-bodied teams, according to Chris Visser, a volunteer. They win about 75 percent of the time.

“For want of a better description, they are the Harlem Globetrotters of inspirational softball,” Visser said.

And for this game, their opponents were impressive as well.

John DuBeau, a lieutenant with Ladder 17, has run in 11 Boston Marathons; he didn’t work this one because he worked the night before. Phil Byrne, who works on Engine 39 in South Boston, was inside the barriers on Boylston Street and made his way to the bomb sites within minutes.

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