By Darius Boamah

Last Thursday, 50 children of military families had the experience of a lifetime with USAA and the San Diego Padres at Petco Park

Since 2010, USAA has served as the official military appreciation partner with the Padres. This year they put on a training camp for children aged 8-14. 

The kids participated in 5 activities: pitching, fielding, base running, batting, and bunting. They were divided into 8 teams and competed in each activity. At the end, the winning team was awarded signed game balls. 

A young girl sprints on the dirt in right field during the base running drill while coaches cheer her on.

“It’s not about USAA getting out”, said David Dearie, a USAA Military Affairs Representative. “Our hope is for [the kids] to have a long lasting memory of the opportunity that was created between USAA and the Padres.”

Having kids train on the field is the first event of its kind for USAA. Dearie spoke about other events they have had for military personnel and military families.

“We’ve done several breakfasts, we did a couple competitions here on the field between the Navy and Marines…we did a once in a lifetime raffle last year where we had a military couple get married.”

Giving back to the military community is what USAA is all about, according to Dearie, and San Diego presents a unique opportunity to create an ongoing connection to the county.

“People don’t realize that there are over 250,000 military veterans and military families just in San Diego,” Dearie started. “To be able to honor the military families and specifically their kids of San Diego, it helps build that relationship and partnership between the Padres and the military community.”

Jacobe George, an active member of the army going on 18 years of service, attended the event with his son Evan. He was thrilled to go to the event because of the opportunity it presented for his son. 

“It’s that once in a lifetime situation where a lot of kids from my age didn’t get a chance to do something of this nature”, George said. “I know these kids are going to look back 10 years from now and be like, ‘Wow, I was on Padres field.” 

Evan (center) is a Fernando Tatis fan. “This is why his hair is that color…this is going to be a great experience not just for him, but for all these young guys and girls,” his father said.

Active Padres players Tim Hill, Reiss Knehr, and Steven Wilson were there to cheer the children on. The three pros gave coaching advice to the kids to help improve their baseball skills. 

Tim Hill gives pitching advice to children during the fastest pitch activity.

USAA also had other coaches there to facilitate each activity. Edward Galloway was one of those coaches. Galloway is currently on staff with the Los Angeles Rams where he does work for their youth outreach program. Galloway is also an Army reserve, now in his tenth year, and a former member of the Navy. 

As an active member of youth development, Galloway is always excited to see children given opportunities like these.

“I think any event that we’re dealing with the kids, especially sports related,” he said. “They’re just amazing to see the kids really get together and do what they do and have fun.”

Galloway and his group cheer out before they move to the next station. He coached the bunting drill.

Galloway has previous experience working with USAA on lifetime events.

“This is the most recent event I’ve done with them, and it turned out to be a great event and I hope they’re going to put on a lot more.”

Since USAA is the military appreciation partner with the Padres, more lifetime events like this will come.

As Dearie put it, “We’ve always got the juices flowing.”

Knehr signs a ball after the event is over.