Photo Information

Petty Officer 1st Class Daniel Barrassco, 40, pitches to Petty Officer First Class Paul Campagna, 45, from Salem, Mass. inside the new batting cage built by the Seabees at Combat Outpost Ubaydi, Iraq, Dec. 12. Both sailors are builders with Navy Mobile Construction Battalion 27. The batting cage gives the Marines and sailors operating within sight of the Syrian border a way to relax when not operating in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom.::r::::n::

Photo by Cpl. Sean P. Cummins

If you build it, they will play

17 Dec 2008 | Cpl. Shawn P. Cummins

Baseball, America’s pastime, has helped Marines and sailors stay connected to home for years, no matter where they are in the world.

The Seabees of Naval Mobile Construction Battalion 27 have brought a touch of home to the Marines near the Syrian border here with a new batting cage.

“(One of the Marines) wanted a batting cage and (Petty Officer 1st Class Paul) Campagna, being a very aggressive and enthusiastic petty officer, fulfilled his wish,” said Petty Officer 1st Class Daniel Barrassco, a builder with NMCB 27 stationed here.  “Campagna designed it and we started building it.  Some people came out to help on their down time.”

The batting cage gives the Marines and sailors operating within sight of the Syrian border a way to relax when not operating in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom.

“Morale has gone up,” said Barrassco, 40, who is from Peabody, Mass.  “It’s for whoever wants to swing a bat and play ball.  It is a gift to the Marines who are (working) every day. I’ve seen guys on convoys getting out of their trucks and running to the batting cage to play.”

Plans for the cage started long before the building and many of the Marines and sailors couldn’t believe it was actually going to get built, including the Seabees themselves.

“I can’t believe I’m building a batting cage in Iraq,” was heard frequently during the building of the cage, according to several Seabees and Marines.

“Why did we build it? Because we love baseball, and there’s no batting cage here,” said Petty Officer 1st Class Paul Campagna, 45, a builder with NMCB 27 from Salem, Mass.  “We talked about it for about a month, but I don’t think any of the higher-ups really believed that we were going to do it.  Then they saw it going up and they were pretty shocked.”

While Campagna admitted to building some “pretty wild stuff” in his 25 years of building, including a pool table and golf tee in Afghanistan, this is the first batting cage he’s ever made.

“I enjoy using the batting cage; it’s a good way to get a little stress out when you get off post and off a hard work day,” said Cpl. Cory J. Stuard, 29, a team leader with Kilo Company, 3rd Battalion, 7th Marine Regiment, Regimental Combat Team 5, from Cedar Hill, Tenn.  “In my younger days, I played a lot of little league back in Tennessee.   On my free time, I try and get in there and take some swings.”

Despite having to scrape together scraps of material from other projects to put the cage together, the satisfaction of another finished project and the memories the sport brings back have made all the work worth it for the Seabees.

“We’re in the middle of the holidays, and I think on every deployment, regardless of where you are in the world, when you’re away from your family you still miss that little piece of home.  It’s a beautiful feeling to hear that bat crack and that ball hit the wood and the fence and these guys cheering and finding that little peace of mind,” said Barrassco.  “We feel as Seabees that we’ll build anything, we’ll do anything and we don’t mind doing it.  We do not mind building for the Marines and supporting the Marines. We’re family.”