UNLV Softball Assists In Saluting The Troops

Nov. 8, 2012

LAS VEGAS (UNLVRebels.com) - The Wounded Warrior Amputee Softball Team (WWAST) will be making its third visit to Las Vegas and UNLV on Veteran's Day - Sunday, Nov. 11. In conjunction with MGM Resorts International, American Airlines and the United Service Organizations (USO), the WWAST will play a pair of games at UNLV's Eller Media Stadium beginning at 2:00 pm. The first contest will see the WWAST go head-to-head with MGM employees prior to squaring off against a team comprised of local Las Vegas celebrities at 3:30 pm. Admittance to the softball games is free of charge.

The softball games will take place on the fourth day of the five-day event, Nov. 8-12, billed as "A Salute to the Troops." This is the fourth year that these organizations have thanked those who serve in the U.S. armed forces with a trip to Las Vegas.

On Thursday, Nov. 8, more than 60 wounded, ill and injured troops and their guests will travel from Walter Reed National Military Medical Center, Bethesda Naval Hospital and other treatment centers to Las Vegas for a weekend packed with entertainment activities and sightseeing.

Some of the players participating for the Las Vegas celebrity team are: Jeff Civilico (world champion juggler that performs at the Imperial Palace); Anthony Cools (hypnotist that performs at the Paris); and six Chippendale dancers - Jace Crispin, Jon Howes, John Cook, Kenny King, Gavin McHale and Nathan Minor - that perform at the Rio.

In previous stops to the Las Vegas Valley, the WWAST would only practice at Eller Media Stadium prior to playing in games against the likes of local police, fire and rescue teams. On their first visit - Oct. 19, 2011 - the squad played a doubleheader on a day proclaimed as "Wounded Warrior Amputee Softball Team Day," in the city of Las Vegas by Ward 5.

Less than one month ago, on Oct. 12, the WWAST practiced on campus before playing three games in a two-day period.

The WWAST is the brainchild of David Van Sleet, a Department of Veterans Affairs southwest prosthetics manager, who has worked in prosthetics for over 30 years and played softball for about the same length of time.

"When the war started in 2003, I saw guys coming back that looked pretty fit," said Van Sleet to UNLVRebels.com a year ago. "I started to keep tabs on who played sports, who was athletic, and how they did their workouts. I came up with this crazy idea, `You know, I think we can field a softball team from guys that played baseball before.'"

This team is unlike any softball team that you've ever seen. The team members are all veterans of the United States military that have lost limbs post-9/11, while serving in the Iraq and Afghanistan wars.

"We had about 250 apply and we whittled it down through their physical therapists and prosthetists. We trained for a week and we kept about 10 guys. We found about 10 more guys from around the country that were even more into it; a little bit more competitive and with a little bit more ability. We've got about 20 guys to choose from and we travel with 11. We travel about two or three times a month."

UNLV's Eller Media Stadium is located on the northeast corner of the intersection between Swenson and Harmon - one block east of the Hard Rock Hotel & Casino.