17 February, 2007

Two of My Favorite Things

...Padres and Marines.

The Padres announced Tuesday that they have agreed to terms on a Minor League contract with Brannan, a 22-year-old right-hander who as a Marine corporal was wounded in Iraq but came back to the U.S. to find his dream of playing baseball was still very much alive.

"I never figured when I was in Iraq that I'd be given this opportunty again, coming back from there," Brannan said Tuesday morning.

Brannan was an infantry squad leader during his second tour and suffered serious grenade damage to his left hand, but he says it hasn't affected his ability to pitch and field the ball.

Wearing his new Padres camouflage jersey over his military fatigues, Marine Cpl. Nels Cooper Brannan stood at a podium Tuesday morning, overwhelmed by emotion.

Before paying gratitude to the Padres executives responsible for the improbable news conference at the Marine Corps Recruit Depot, Brannan tried to salute his fallen comrades ---- soldiers, like him, who fought bravely for their country in the war in Iraq. He faltered. The words became lodged in his throat.

"They say Marines don't cry, right?" Brannan said, his soft tone belying his strapping 6-foot-4, 235-pound frame.

Brannan was a star for the Marine Baseball Team, but was so modest a friend had to chat up the Padres CEO about him.

The Padres, both organizationally and individually, are tremendous supporters of the many Sailors and Marines stationed in the San Diego area. Their CEO is a former Marine (Vietnam veteran) and their longtime senior broadcaster was a Marine colonel who served as a pilot in WWII and Korea. The team regularly holds special events for military families, and the playing of the Navy Hymn and the Marines' Hymn for attending Navy and USMC contingents is a highlight of each Sunday home game.

Much more here and here, along with video and a great radio interview here.