Doug McBrierty grew up on Cape Cod, a die-hard Red Sox fan. So when he returned from the Iraq war with a traumatic brain injury, it was a given that baseball would be part of his recovery, thanks to the Wounded Warrior Project.
Five years ago, the nonprofit gave McBrierty a $3,500 scholarship to attend the Red Sox fantasy camp in Fort Meyers, Florida. Even though he hadn’t played catch in twenty years, McBrierty felt welcome at the camp staffed with former Red Sox players.
“Ability didn’t matter,” McBrierty told Mary E. O’Leary of the New Haven Register. “They greet you with open arms. It’s like a family reunion every year,” he said. McBrierty, who is now a firefighter, struck up a friendship with Gary Allenson, a former Red Sox catcher who currently manages the New Hampshire Fisher Cats, a minor league baseball team.
Today, McBrierty attends the camp every year to help other wounded veterans play ball. “There are a lot of people there with disabilities, but they take the time to teach them,” McBrierty said. Rico Petrocelli, a former Red Sox shortstop and third baseman who helps at the camp, recalls a veteran who’d lost an arm in combat and learned to hit again, and another vet who walked with a cane, but “made a diving catch in right field.”
Now McBrierty, Petrocelli and others are working to raise money to send more veterans to baseball camp. Many former Red Sox pitched in autographed items for a silent auction that was held a couple of weeks ago in New Haven, Connecticut.
The Wounded Warrior Project funds a variety of adaptive sports experiences for injured veterans — from skiing to skydiving to scuba diving.
For those veterans who grew up dreaming of being on the baseball diamond, the chance to join the boys of summer at a fantasy camp can’t be beat.
MORE: This Amazing Nonprofit Helps Injured Vets Rebuild Their Lives