Fort Riley Festivities Highlight Home Opener

Head Coach Brad Hill

March 2, 2011

MANHATTAN, Kan. – The Kansas State baseball program’s partnership with Fort Riley will take a giant leap forward Friday as the Wildcats host the 2nd Battalion, 16th Infantry Regiment “Rangers” of the 4th Infantry Brigade Combat Team during their game with Western Illinois.

The festivities include the unveiling of the unit’s diamond logo on the outfield wall, a mass reenlistment of the 4th Infantry Brigade Combat Team, a ceremonial first pitch by Captain Walter Gray and a performance of the national anthem by Staff Sergeant Tiffany Monnett, while over 2,100 soldiers and family members will be in attendance for Friday’s 3 p.m. contest.

Friday’s events are the culmination of a partnership three years in the making, including shared activities over the past two years. Since the beginning of the 2009-10 academic year, the K-State baseball program has traveled to Fort Riley twice to go through physical training sessions, take a tour of facilities, and view a demonstration of and practice with simulated weapons.

During the 2009 and 2010 seasons, the “Rangers” have attended several contests in support of the Wildcats, while they took batting practice with K-State prior to a game two years ago.

“Our relationship with the 2/16 Rangers is something that we were definitely interested in three years ago when talks between the two parties began,” head coach Brad Hill said. “This relationship began with Colonel (Paul) Kreis and has continued under Colonel Lambert, and we are very grateful they have allowed us to be partnered with them.

“This is a way for our guys to learn from the Rangers, and in return they can come over and enjoy some baseball at Tointon Family Stadium. It is a chance for our guys to interact with the Rangers and see what they actually go through, and we just want to show appreciation for what they do for our country.”

The 2nd Battalion, 16th Infantry is one of the most storied and decorated units in the Army. It was formed on May 3, 1861, and has fought in every major conflict since the Civil War. The unit is filled with experienced veterans, having spent 24 of the last 36 months deployed overseas. The “Rangers” were welcomed home to Fort Riley this past summer from combat operations in the Northern Salah ad Din Province of Iraq.

The events for the 4th Infantry Brigade Combat Team on Friday begin with a tailgate at Tointon Family Stadium. Following the tailgate, Captain Gray, the Bravo Company Commander for the “Rangers” will throw out the ceremonial first pitch. Captain Gray is a 2005 graduate of Kansas State and was commissioned into the Army through the K-State ROTC Program.

After the ceremonial first pitch, Battalion Commander and Command Sergeant Major, Lieutenant Colonel Kevin Lambert and Command Sergeant Major Mark Belda will join head baseball strength and conditioning coach Scott Bird in unveiling the unit’s diamond insignia on the wall in right field. Also, Kansas State will wear the logo on its home white jerseys throughout the season.

Friday is also a special day as soldiers from the 4th Infantry Brigade Combat Team, “The Dragon Brigade,” will reaffirm their commitment to the United States of America by reenlisting on the field prior to the contest. The Oath of Enlistment is a time-honored tradition that dates back to the creation of the Continental Army on June 14, 1775. The oath demonstrates a soldier’s unwavering commitment to support and defend the Constitution of the United States. The 4th Infantry Brigade Combat Team Commander, Colonel Joseph Wawro and Command Sergeant Major Wylie Hutchison will administer the Oath of Reenlistment.

Following the oath, Staff Sergeant Monnett, the 4th Infantry Brigade Combat Team Public Affairs Office Noncommissioned-Officer-in-Charge will sing the National Anthem before K-State takes the field in its 2011 home opener.

Tickets for Friday’s home opener, other single-game tickets throughout the season and attractive season-ticket packages are available through the K-State Athletics Ticket office. Fans may purchase tickets through the office at www.k-statesports.com/tickets, by phone at (800) 221-CATS or by visiting the office inside Bramlage Coliseum.

Kansas State and Western Illinois continue the four-game series on Saturday with a doubleheader beginning at 1 p.m., while the series concludes on Sunday with another 1 p.m. first pitch. A live webcast of all four-games is available through K-State’s multimedia channel, K-State All-Access at www.k-statesports.com. Free live audio of the series against the Leathernecks is also available at www.k-statesports.com and www.1350kman.com, while SportsRadio 1350 KMAN will have coverage throughout the weekend.