CAMP LEATHERNECK, Afghanistan -- What started off as a game of softball played on Sundays for physical training rapidly turned into an organized softball league at Camp Leatherneck, Afghanistan.
The season started in May with 14 teams comprised of Marines, sailors, soldiers and a team of British soldiers.
“We started playing on Sundays for fun,” said Gunnery Sgt. Cesar G. Swalm, contracting cell staff non-commissioned officer-in-charge with Regional Command Southwest. “People watched us play and the teams started to grow.”
Swalm, from Corona, Calif., and a former All-Marine softball player, found vacant land and sent out schedules to Marines who showed interest and wanted to play. The only equipment available was gear the service members brought themselves or had sent from home.
“Staff NCOs came up with the idea of the league and got with other units to spread the word throughout different commands,” said Lt. Col. Matt K. Seipt, plans officer with RC (SW). “There are softball leagues on every Marine Corps Base. It is great to know that they have brought it to Afghanistan on their own accord.”
Seipt’s father-in-law, Frank Vogel, sent extra gear he had and asked friends for softball equipment donations to be sent to Afghanistan. As the word spread in his hometown of Millersville, Md., more people donated gear.
After the local paper caught wind and wrote a story on what Vogel was doing, he started receiving calls with donations and uniforms.
“This league gives us something to look forward to, especially when we know we are going to have reliable gear,” said Cpl. Will T. Glenn, a current league player and administration reach back center clerk with RC (SW).
Seipt said if they receive enough equipment from the donations and there is interest, he will try to send gear to other bases in Afghanistan as there are currently very few recreational venues for service members.
“I think this is great,” Seipt exclaimed. “These are specific care packages the Marines are asking for,” Seipt said.
The camp commandant office here, which is in charge of all buildings and projects on base, will begin planning a field for service members to play on, but the project will likely not be finished before I Marine Expeditionary Force (FWD) heads home early next year.
“It is unfortunate that it won’t be done for our time here, but it will be a great addition to the base,” Glenn said. “When II Marine Expeditionary Force arrives they will have a great field.”
Glenn, from Denver, said some of the players in the league have been playing for years while others are just learning how to play the game. The service members new to softball are having fun learning the game and relaxing from the stresses of being deployed.
As the season comes to an end, only nine teams remain as units are pushed out to other bases and other units head home.