The Sunlake softball team doesn’t have a winning record. After their home finale against the Zephyrhills Bulldogs, the team won’t be thinking about a state championship.
The game also won’t affect the Class 5A-District 8 standings, where the Seahawks are near the bottom.
Still, the game on April 10 might be the most important one of the season.
Sunlake’s game will not only feature two softball teams looking for a win, it will serve as a benefit for the Wounded Warrior Project, a nonprofit organization that provides assistance and services to injured military service members. Attendees can support the organization by making a direct donation at the game, or by purchasing arts, crafts or T-shirts that will be on sale from a variety of booths.
A portion of those proceeds will go to the organization.
Coach Nelson Garcia, who organized the event with his wife Denise, isn’t surprised that a team starting four freshman would endure some growing pains in the win-loss column. But he believes that supporting charitable organizations as a team — the Seahawks also had a Pink Out event earlier in the year to support breast cancer awareness — helps them grow in important ways that go beyond the playing field.
“They’re learning not only goals of softball, but in life and giving back to the community also,” Garcia said. “They’re very excited to do it. They can’t wait.”
Garcia spent 14 years with the fire department, so he understands the importance of serving the community. But while the team is eager to show support for the military and will wear special green camouflage shirts during the game (Zephyrhills also is participating, and will don orange camouflage shirts), the issue is particularly important for their coach and his family.
Garcia’s son, Sgt. Anthony Michael Garcia, was wounded in 2011 during his first tour in Afghanistan. He was approximately 15 feet away from an improvised explosive device, more commonly known as an IED, when it exploded.
Garcia’s son recovered and is now serving in his second tour of the region. But he realizes that many members of the military have worse outcomes and often need support, and the organization helps with everything from prosthetics to post-traumatic stress disorders.
“It seems like people forget that they go over there and they’re serving right now and they’re getting wounded,” Garcia said. “How many don’t come back, or don’t come back all intact? The great thing about the Wounded Warrior Project is they help all the military personnel in all the branches to get their lives back together when they come back.”
The event is open to the public and begins at 6 p.m., with the game starting at 7. There also will be giveaways, a hospitality tent for active and retired military, and a U.S. Army recruiting booth.
Sunlake High School is located at 3023 Sunlake Blvd., in Land O’ Lakes.
For information about the Wounded Warrior Project, visit WoundedWarriorProject.org.
Published April 9, 2014