Make us your home page
Instagram

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Softball game pits wounded warriors against cops, firefighters for charity

ST. PETERSBURG

Just two days before he was supposed to leave Iraq in 2006, Army Sgt. Taylor Urruela was riding in a Humvee that hit a roadside bomb, mangling his right leg.

After 35 surgeries, the Tampa 27-year-old agreed to have his leg amputated. Before long, he was diagnosed with post traumatic stress disorder and was drinking away his pain.

Last year, he and a fellow veteran founded VETSports, a nonprofit sports league with roughly 100 players in several cities — all of them wounded vets. The idea is to help them overcome their injuries through physical activity and teamwork.

On Sunday afternoon, a team of wounded warriors faced off against St. Petersburg firefighters and police officers in a pair of hard-fought softball games at Al Lang Field.

The games were to raise money for charity — for VETSports and for the Kiwanis Miracle League, a St. Petersburg-based organization that gives disabled youngsters a chance to play baseball.

Urruela, who runs the bases on a metal prosthetic blade where his right foot used to be, was joined on the field by combat veterans from the Army, Navy, Air Force and Marines. They've all been dealing with the challenge of readjusting to civilian society.

"We all go through it," Urruela said. "This is rehabilitation, whether physical or psychological or social. We want to change the way they look at life."

The wounded warriors' dugout was a place of baseball gloves, Gatorade bottles, prosthetic limbs and surgical scars.

Take third baseman Jeremy Spoerle of Houston, who suffered a traumatic brain injury in Iraq in 2007 when an improvised explosive device took out his Humvee.

"I'm here for the feel of being part of a military family again," he said. "Civilians don't understand."

Or first baseman Roberto Cruz, 32, of Tampa, who was shot by a sniper in Iraq in 2005. The bullet lodged in his spine, paralyzing him for two years.

"They told me I wasn't going to walk again," Cruz said. "I'm here to prove there's no such thing as a disability. No matter how injured you are, there's so many things you can still do."

Tampa Bay Rays Brandon Gomes and Sean Rodriguez stopped by the softball exhibition. The ceremonial first pitch was thrown by Ireland Nugent, the Palm Harbor 3-year-old who lost her legs in a lawn mower accident earlier this year.

On a day when ice storms were freezing much of the rest of the country, a crowd of about 125 spectators at Al Lang tried to stay out of the hot Florida sun, clustering in the shady spots in the stands.

Besides the $10 admission tickets, money was raised through a silent auction where people could bid on a baseball signed by Evan Longoria, a football signed by Darrelle Revis or a hockey stick signed by Martin St. Louis, among other items.

No final tally was available Sunday for how much money was raised.

"We're out here to support the wounded warriors," said St. Petersburg Fire Rescue Lt. Jon Fair. "It's a great cause."

Mike Brassfield can be reached at [email protected] or (727) 445-4151.

Softball game pits wounded warriors against cops, firefighters for charity 12/08/13 [Last modified: Sunday, December 8, 2013 10:35pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times

    

Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

Loading...
  1. Astros rout Yankees to force Game 7 of AL Championship Series

    Ml

    HOUSTON — Justin Verlander pitched seven shutout innings to outduel Luis Severino for the second time, and the Astros bats came alive in their return home as Houston routed the Yankees 7-1 Friday night and forced a decisive Game 7 in the American League Championship Series.

    The Astros’ Brian McCann, who has struggled during the ALCS, breaks a scoreless tie with an RBI double during the fifth inning off Yankees starter Luis Severino.
  2. Review: Faith Hill and Tim McGraw shower love, star power on Tampa's Amalie Arena

    Blogs

    Near the end of their potent new duet Break First, Tim McGraw stopped singing, and let Faith Hill's powerhouse voice take over.

    Faith Hill and Tim McGraw performed at Amalie Arena in Tampa on Oct. 20, 2017.
  3. Senate to take up AUMF debate as Trump defends reaction to Niger attack

    World

    WASHINGTON — The Senate Foreign Relations Committee is taking up a long-awaited debate about authorizing military force against the Islamic State as President Trump comes under unprecedented public scrutiny for his treatment of dead soldiers' families, following an ambush on troops helping to fight Islamic …

  4. In fear and vigilance, a Tampa neighborhood holds its breath

    K12

    TAMPA — There was a time, not long ago, when Wayne Capaz would go for a stroll at night and Christina Rodriguez would shop whenever she wanted. Michael Fuller would go to his night job as a line cook, not too worried about his wife at home.

    More than 50 people gathered and walked in the Southeast Seminole Heights community Friday to pay respects to the victims of three shootings. The crowd took a moment of silence at the corner of 11th Street and East New Orleans where Monica Hoffa was found dead. [JONATHAN CAPRIEL  |  Times]
  5. Fennelly: What's not to like about Lightning's start?

    Lightning Strikes

    BRANDON — No one is engraving the Stanley Cup. No one has begun stuffing the league MVP ballot box for Nikita Kucherov.

    The Lightning, with a win tonight, would match the best start in franchise history, 7-1-1 in the 2003-04 Cup season.