Injured Army veteran part of A's Memorial Day
OAKLAND - In the A's clubhouse, Josh Donaldson walked in with camouflage cargo shorts, and in the team kitchen, Australia native Grant Balfour practiced memorizing the U.S. national anthem.
But before the A's-Giants series opener Monday, the meaning of Memorial Day was most apparent on the field.
Staff Sgt. Dale Beatty, a Purple Heart recipient and veteran of Operation Iraqi Freedom, tossed the ceremonial first pitch. Beatty was deployed to Iraq in 2004, and on Nov. 15, 2004, his vehicle hit a land mine and as a result, Beatty became a double-amputee below the knees.
Beatty was at the Coliseum also to help raise attention for the Fisher House Foundation, whose homes allow soldiers and their families to stay at no cost while they are receiving medical treatment. Beatty and his family stayed at a Fisher House, and he's now a trustee of the organization.
"It was an irreplaceable asset to have a home away from home," Beatty said. "It was a support system for my family and for all the families there."
The Fisher House Foundation has 60 homes around the world, including one in Palo Alto and one at Travis Air Force Base in Solano County, where a second is under construction.
Beatty said he played baseball as a youngster, just like his son does now, for their hometown youth league in Statesville, N.C. That team's colors? Green and gold, just like the A's. But, Beatty said, "I'm neutral."
Oakland reliever Jerry Blevins and many other players Monday put on their special camouflage A's caps as soon as they saw them hanging in their lockers.
"It's a national day," Blevins said. "This is about letting people gather today and as a society, as a people, taking the time to appreciate it all. As much as baseball is America's pastime, what they do is much more important."