SOTO CANO AIR BASE, Honduras –
Baseball is known as America's pastime, but tucked away off the coast of Honduras is an island that considers baseball their own and invited the Soto Cano AB baseball team to test its skills against their baseball teams.
"Baseball is what everyone on Utila grew up playing," said Garret Ramon, one of the Utila shortstops. "We love sportsmanship and we enjoy competing against different teams from Honduras."
The Soto Cano AB baseball team, made up of servicemembers, squared off Feb. 13 and 14 against two Utila baseball teams to start Utila's baseball season.
"This was an awesome opportunity that we were offered," said 1st Lt. Logan Smith, Soto Cano AB baseball coach. "The Utila teams have some really great baseball players and we knew going in that it would be some tough competition."
This wasn't the first time that the Soto Cano AB baseball team went up against the teams from Utila.
"We came here in November to play and we had a good time," the coach said. "I think they enjoyed playing someone different, so we got invited back to open their baseball season."
While the ball was in play it was serious business for both fan and player alike, but when the play was over the players and fans joked and poked fun with each other equally.
"We enjoy watching our baseball teams compete," said Whitney Inestrosa, one of more than 200 fans that came out each day to watch the different Utila teams play against the baseball team from Soto Cano AB.
During the first game the Soto Cano AB team was dominated by the seasoned Utila team. While the servicemembers played well it was clear from the beginning who would come out on top.
"These guys play year around and are very talented athletes," said Coach Smith. "We have had practices but nothing can prepare a team for game-speed action."
However for the fans, it was entertainment they had been looking for since the last season ended. The stands were filled with locals eating chili fries and hot dogs and washing them down with cold drinks. Old and young alike were carrying on as they watch the home team score run after run culminating in a 20-3 rout of the Soto Cano AB team.
With game one over the two teams headed for a cookout in honor of the Soto Cano AB team.
"They were the most gracious hosts," Coach Smith said. "Everyone on the island knew who we were and the score of the first game by the time we were back at our hotel."
Before Sunday's game the Soto Cano AB team made adjustments to make the second game more competitive.
"We started the second game swinging," Coach Smith said. "Our first game we really were watching a lot more of the pitches instead of swinging at them. We felt that if we could get the ball in play we would have a better chance of winning."
And the crowd was not disappointed; from the first inning the two teams squared their shoulders and tried to out-field as well as out-hit the other. For the first few innings the Soto Cano players kept the game close.
But as good teams always do, the Utila team pulled away from the players of Soto Cano slowly but surely with a final score of 18-8.
"They (Soto Cano) played a lot better the second game," said Ramon. "We figured we would still win but they made us work for it."
"This was great opportunity for us to show off our talent," said Coach Smith. "We didn't win, but we were definitely more competitive than last time. We've made some lifelong friendship and memories, and that's what this is about."