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Here's a patriotic game of catch at 35,000 feet

@RichardJustice
January 9, 2020

If you’re going to invite Major League Baseball players on a USO tour, you’re going to get some things you don’t normally get. You know, like players using the interior of a cavernous Air Force C-17 cargo jet to get in a quick bullpen session. Did we mention that this

If you’re going to invite Major League Baseball players on a USO tour, you’re going to get some things you don’t normally get. You know, like players using the interior of a cavernous Air Force C-17 cargo jet to get in a quick bullpen session.

Did we mention that this happened 35,000 feet somewhere above, say, Boston? In the ninth hour of a 10-hour flight from Poland to Washington, Nationals reliever Aaron Barrett whispered, “I’m going to play some catch.”

He whipped out a pair of gloves and a baseball and did just that with a string of comedians and military officers.

Then teammate Adam Eaton joined in and what had been a cautious "let’s not break anything" warmup became a full-fledged length-of-the-airplane throwing session.

By the time they were done, an exhausted travel party had been energized with laughter and cheers and dares, all with cameras rolling.

“I would have to say it’s the most exotic location I’ve gotten to play catch with active Major Leaguers,” comedian Brad Morris said. “This is a couple of dreams come true smashed into one. Pretty amazing.”

When it ended, Barrett turned to Ramon Colon-Lopez of the Air Force, senior enlisted advisor to the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and tossed him the glove he’d been using, one with his name inscribed across the thumb.

Nats share 'humbling' experience on USO tour

For one of this country’s highest-ranking military officers, it was the thrill of a lifetime.

“Oh, man,” Colon-Lopez said. “I didn’t know what to say. I’m a huge ball fan. Honestly, I’m a little star struck by these guys.”

So was Chris Lucas, a member of the country rock group LoCash.

“You don’t get many opportunities like this,” he said. “For me, it was a dream. I wanted to play Major League Baseball, and I’m playing with two of the World Series champs right here. They are great human beings and fun to be around.”

Barrett and Eaton had played catch while LoCash did their soundcheck before a show in Romania on Tuesday. So why not on a C-17, one of the world's largest aircraft?

“I was told that no one’s ever thrown a baseball on a C-17,” Barrett said. “They said Dan Marino threw a football on it. Why not be the first one [to throw a baseball]?”

As Eaton put it, “It was cool to see everyone get involved, and what’s more American than playing catch on a C-17?"

Richard Justice has been a reporter for MLB.com since 2011. Follow him on Twitter at @RichardJustice.