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Royals greats to US visit troops in Middle East

MLB.com @DeeshaThosar

When Bret Saberhagen was asked to visit American troops in the Middle East this month, he didn't hesitate to say yes. In fact, if he had scheduled other plans during the trip, he would've canceled them. For Saberhagen, this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity was not to be missed.

Saberhagen -- alongside other former Royals greats George Brett, Reggie Sanders and Mike Sweeney -- went overseas to visit troops at four locations in the Middle East in partnership with the USO and FOX Sports Kansas City. The USO trip coincided with the Royals' annual Armed Forces Night at Kauffman Stadium on Sept. 11.

When Bret Saberhagen was asked to visit American troops in the Middle East this month, he didn't hesitate to say yes. In fact, if he had scheduled other plans during the trip, he would've canceled them. For Saberhagen, this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity was not to be missed.

Saberhagen -- alongside other former Royals greats George Brett, Reggie Sanders and Mike Sweeney -- went overseas to visit troops at four locations in the Middle East in partnership with the USO and FOX Sports Kansas City. The USO trip coincided with the Royals' annual Armed Forces Night at Kauffman Stadium on Sept. 11.

Brett, Sanders, Sweeney and Saberhagen watched the Royals take on the White Sox on Tuesday night alongside members of the Missouri National Guard 35th Combat Aviation Brigade, which is headquartered in Sedalia, Mo., on American Forces Network. Family members of the 35th CAB were treated to a tailgate hosted by Aramark before attending the game at Kauffman Stadium in Kansas City.

First pitch was 3:15 a.m. in the Middle East.

"We're all together right now," Saberhagen said on Tuesday. "We all went out to the military base, one of them, today. We're getting a couple hours of sleep. ... Getting up at 11 p.m. here tonight and then going until 7 a.m. in the morning. It's some long hours and you're sleeping whenever you can, but very enjoyable."

In addition, FSKC presented its annual "This One's For You" telecast to troops on Tuesday, connecting live with the troops and Royals greats. FSKC host and reporter Joel Goldberg was on the trip to weave the troops' stories into its broadcast of the Royals game.

"I can speak for all of the guys when I say we are incredibly honored and humbled by the sacrifice our military men and women make, home and abroad," said Royals Hall of Famer Sweeney. "We are just as honored and humbled to be asked to represent the Royals, FSKC and our great nation on this outreach to the troops."

The 35th CAB is in its third deployment to the Middle East in support of Operations Spartan Shield and Inherent Resolve, where it provides command and control of several thousand soldiers and more than 100 rotary and fixed-wing aircraft. The unit has been headquartered in Sedalia since 2003.

Saberhagen said he's never travelled anywhere near the Middle East prior to the USO tour. Besides one visit to the base in Norfolk, Va., this was his first experience touring military grounds. Saberhagen said he enjoyed learning about the troops' daily activities -- which include playing softball and basketball -- along with touring helicopters and watching camels run in the desert.

"It's a great experience. I would come back in a heartbeat to visit these men and women," Saberhagen said. "Hopefully, it's not a once-in-a-lifetime experience. I'd love to do it again if the USO opened up again to have me visit the troops. ... Going overseas, especially to the Middle East, is something special."

The USO is a private, nonprofit organization that strengthens America's military service members by keeping them connected to family, home and country throughout their service to the nation. Its programs, services and entertainment tours are made possible by the American people, support of corporate partners and dedicated volunteers and staff.

"It's a great honor to be asked and to join the military," Saberhagen said. "When I got an email asking if I was interested, I hit reply very quickly. It's great to be over here with them, spend some time with them and boost some morale. I tell you what, it's the trip of a lifetime for me."

Deesha Thosar is a reporter for MLB.com based in New York City. Follow her on Twitter at @DeeshaThosar.

Kansas City Royals