GCU Baseball Team Makes New Fans Among Vets
“I love this,” said junior Tyler Bair. “I want us to make this an every-year thing. This is awesome, and it’s the least we can do.”
The team’s visit to the Arizona State Veteran Home in Phoenix was prompted by a letter to the Arizona Republic written by 66-year-old Steward Mathews, a former Army paratrooper who resides at the home.
In the letter, published in late March, Mathews said he had been told by several major-league teams training in metropolitan Phoenix that they didn’t have time to make such a visit. Antelopes Coach Dave Stapleton saw the letter and went to work on setting up the outing.
The players distributed white GCU Baseball T-shirts to the vets and exchanged some high-fives. More significantly, they worked a large room that had been set up for the occasion, actively engaging the residents in spirited conversation.
“I read (the letter) and thought it was a perfect opportunity,” said Stapleton, a former major-leaguer whose brother served in Vietnam. “There’s a lot of (major-league) players who would do this. But it’s an opportunity for us to do something way beyond the game of baseball.
“These veterans gave us the opportunity to walk out on the baseball field. It’s touching to see their smiles and the smiles on our players.”
Mathews, a native of Brooklyn, N.Y., said he played baseball at the University of Northern Colorado. He said he contacted four big-league teams about visiting, and the San Diego Padres and Texas Rangers sent merchandise to him.
“We want to see players,” Mathews said. “Many of us can’t get out to games.”
KPNX-TV (Channel 12) covered the visit, which involved 30 players and four coaches from GCU.