As the intramural softball season winds down this week with playoffs, for one ballplayer, there will be another tournament yet to play.
Staff Sgt. Andre James, Co. A drill sergeant with the 244th Quartermaster Battalion, 23rd QM Brigade, will be heading to the All Army Softball camp Wednesday at Fort Benning, Ga.
James, a 16-year Army veteran, has served in Germany, Korea, Saudi Arabia and Iraq and holds a military occupational specialty as an automated logistics specialist. The St. Louis native was a high school football quarterback and spent most of his athletic endeavors away from baseball, other than a few years in little league. It was not until he joined the Army when he discovered a newfound love for the game.
“When I came in the Army, I played flag football and basketball, but I really enjoyed softball,” said James. “It was rough at first, because I was swinging at the softball with a baseball swing,” said James. “I played defense well, threw the ball well and was a good outfielder.”
But this naturally talented athlete soon discovered his swing, and excelled on several post teams, including his current success on the Fort Lee Travellers softball team and the top-seeded CASCOM intramural team.
“Every post I’ve been to, I’ve played on post level or traveling softball teams,” said James. “Now I have a chance to play on the All Army team, and I couldn’t be more excited about the opportunity.”
James said he couldn’t imagine a season without softball, since it has been with him since he joined the Army. He finds a sense of pride in being a Soldier-athlete.
“Sports have helped me through a lot of things over the years,” said James. “It is my stress-reliever. Everywhere I’ve been in the Army, I’ve played sports, and I’m so used to it now, I need to keep playing. I don’t know what I would do without sports.”
James describes the CASCOM team as “the team to beat” this season, and looks forward to helping them advance in the playoffs. It was fortunate, he said, that he’ll be able to finish the season before All Army Softball tryouts begin. He is also appreciative of the brigade command and his fellow drills sergeants for allowing him the time off to go to All Army tryouts. This has been an unfulfilled goal for quite some time, and being invited to the trial camp is as close as he’s gotten to achieving it.
“I’ve been saying for the last six years that I wanted to put in an application, but never did,” said James. “This year I went into the Sports Office and finally put my name down. I owe my commander, first sergeant and battle buddies for their support. They’ve told me not to worry about things here – just go and make the team and do good things. That kind of support has eased my mind, because they understand why I want to go and this opportunity doesn’t come around often.”
If James is successful in tryouts, James will continue playing with the All Army team in competition at Eglin Air Force Base, and then at the Armed Forces Tournament.
“For me, this opportunity means I get to represent along with some of the best softball players in the Army against the best of other Armed Forces teams,” said James. “Wearing that All Army uniform means the world to me, because only a select number of people can say they’ve worn the black and gold and have represented the Army on this team.”