Air Force, Navy baseball players visit Kinston veterans, soup kitchen
Air Force Academy baseball players, from left, Christian Gambale, Kaden Cook, Ben Hauser, Tyler Mortenson, John Byrnes and Cole Blatchford listen to a story from retired Army Sgt. Major Bryan Mosberg during a visit to the North Carolina Veterans Home in Kinston. Photo by Linda Whittington / Neuse News
EDITOR’S NOTE: Neuse News is the official media sponsor of the 2019 Freedom Classic at Historic Grainger Stadium.
Before the first pitch was thrown in the Freedom Classic on Friday, players from both teams took the opportunity to make a difference in the Kinston community.
Players from the Air Force Academy team continued the tradition of visiting the North Carolina State Veterans Home on Hull Road in Kinston. The players and several of their coaches were able to interact with many of the veterans who live at the home, and hear about their experiences serving in the armed forces.
Air Force senior Ethan Nichols said this was his second time visiting the home while in Kinston for the Freedom Classic, and he said that is something the players always enjoy.
“The veterans always have a story to tell, and they make it fun for us,” he said.
In past years, players from the Naval Academy have visited children at Vidant Hospital in Greenville, but several of the players were suffering from the flu, which prevented them from visiting this year. Instead, arrangements were made for a visit to Mary’s Kitchen in Kinston. Players toured the kitchen and shelter, and then helped serve meals to those in need.
Executive director Jim Godfrey of Mary’s Kitchen said the visit was incredible.
“I think it was eye-opening, but I think [the players] thoroughly enjoyed it,” he said.
Navy sophomore pitcher Jared Leins said the visit was a humbling experience for the players, but he hopes they are able to do it more frequently.
“I’m glad we were able to come help,” he said.
Godfrey said he also hoped a visit to Mary’s Kitchen could become a part of the Freedom Classic tradition in years to come.