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Mariners roll out red carpet for military community

Fourteen-year-old Sammy Brooks prepares to make her pre-game announcement with the Mariner Moose before Tuesday’s game at Safeco Field against the Texas Rangers. Brooks, the daughter of a retired master sergeant in the 62nd Maintenance Squadron, joyfully shouted “Play ball!” to kick off the festivities on Military Appreciation Night. (U.S. Air Force photo/Airman 1st Class Kirsten Wicker)

Fourteen-year-old Sammy Brooks prepares to make her pre-game announcement with the Mariner Moose before Tuesday’s game at Safeco Field against the Texas Rangers. Brooks, the daughter of a retired master sergeant in the 62nd Maintenance Squadron, joyfully shouted “Play ball!” to kick off the festivities on Military Appreciation Night. (U.S. Air Force photo/Airman 1st Class Kirsten Wicker)

SEATTLE -- Military Appreciation Night is the annual event which helps kick off the 2008 season of Seattle Mariners' baseball at Safeco Field and honor those who serve, past and present. While more than 3,000 military service members from across the Air Force, Army, Navy, Coast Guard and Air and National Guard got the chance to enjoy Mariners' baseball, one young girl had the opportunity of a lifetime Tuesday night.

Sammy Brooks, 14, the daughter of retired master sergeant J.R. Brooks, now a civilian employee in the 62nd Maintenance Squadron, confidently announced the ceremonial "Play ball!" phrase prior to the start of the Mariners second game of the season
against the Texas Rangers. The Mariners' friendly mascot, Moose, was also there to encourage Sammy, who was also one of the "biggest fans" at the game.

For as long as he could remember, Sammy has been a big fan, Mr. Brooks said.

"I got to meet a lot of players from the Rangers and Mariners, but Ichiro is my favorite player," Sammy said.

Sammy's infectious smile alone would have been enough to warrant this once in a lifetime chance, but being born with spina bifida, a birth defect in which the bones of the spine (vertebrae) do not form properly around the spinal cord, gave her a chance to show the strength behind that smile. Because of her birth defect, she has to use a wheelchair and has a much smaller frame than her teenage peers.

But despite her small stature, Sammy has a huge heart and a love for baseball, especially her favorite team, the Seattle Mariners.

"I think it's so cool to be able to do this and thank you (to everyone who made it possible)," Sammy said.

In addition to Sammy's shining moment on the field, five Airmen from the 62nd Airlift Wing had a chance to represent the Air Force and the active duty community from the base during the pre-game ceremony.

Senior Airman Anthony Cabanillas, 62nd Security Forces Squadron; Airman 1st Class Elisa Wick, 62nd Medical Support Squadron; Airman 1st Class Gary Woo, 10th Airlift Squadron; Airman 1st Class Tyler Haueter, 62nd AW; and Airman 1st Class Girard
Quicho, 62nd Maintenance Operations Squadron; all stood shoulder-to-shoulder with the professional baseball players from the Rangers during the playing of "Taps" and the national anthem.

"I felt it was a distinct honor to represent McChord and the United States Air Force on Safeco Field," Airman Haueter said. "This opportunity meant the world to me and truly made me feel honored and blessed to be part of this great cause."

Airmen from the 446th Airlift Wing and the Western Air Defense Sector also participated in the festivities.