Astros Score Off The Field
July 23, 2005
Astros Score Off The Field While Visiting Injured Troops
By Samantha Levine
WASHINGTON - The Houston Astros won their game against the Washington Nationals on Friday night, but earlier that morning they scored in an even bigger way.
Several players, along with owner Drayton McLane and a half-dozen members of the Texas congressional delegation, lit up the faces of seriously wounded soldiers when they visited and hosted a barbecue at Washington's Walter Reed Army Medical Center.
"These are the heroes, these are the guys I feel privileged to meet," relief pitcher Brad Lidge said. "They were so optimistic about everything. You don't feel sorry for them at all because they won't let you."
The visit, during the Astros' four-game series against the Nationals this weekend, was McLane's idea. Reporters were not permitted to attend.
McLane sounded like a proud papa as he described the sight of his athletes eating hot dogs and hamburgers with soldiers their own age who are learning how to get by without arms and legs, or the lives they knew before the fighting in Iraq and Afghanistan.
"At first, they were apprehensive because these are soldiers who are badly injured," said McLane, who, visiting on his birthday, shared a surprise cake with a young soldier who lost most of one leg and all of the other. "But when they got here, they just lit up. It lifted my heart."
The Astros also hosted several soldiers from Walter Reed at each game and will visit the National Naval Medical Center in Bethesda, Md.
Anyone who meets the soldiers comes away feeling humbled and inspired, said Rep. Gene Green, D-Houston, who was with the Astros and frequently stops by the medical center on his own.
"These young people's frame of mind could teach a lot of us," he said. "We get frustrated if traffic is not moving or if we can't find a parking place. These people have lost one limb, or three, and they have to deal with it."
Green said he plans to talk to McLane and other Major League Baseball officials to encourage all teams to visit wounded troops when they come to Washington for a game.
Rep. Chet Edwards, D-Waco, helped McLane set up the visit and agreed other teams should follow suit.
"It would make all the difference in the world to these soldiers if professional athletes would visit them," he said.
Lidge won't soon forget the troops' positive outlook and undeniable grit.
"We complain about playing in hot weather or something, and then you realize how silly it is when you consider these guys in 130-degree heat and dodging bullets," he said. "These guys are mentally strong like you wouldn't believe. It puts it all in perspective for me."