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"Wounded Warrior" makes impression on Franklin softball players

Amputee softball player speaks to teams

May 15, 2012

Franklin resident and Hales Corners native Robert "Bobby" McCardle has reasons not to have a sense of humor.

The 26-year old US Marine, a man with a wife and two children, lost his right leg below his knee in Operation Iraqi Freedom and therefore has had to make a lot of adjustments in his life.

But one he decided he could keep was his love of slow-pitch softball and he does that with his participation in the Wounded Warrior Amputee Softball team (WWAST).

That's why McCardle was out at Bluhm Park in Muskego Saturday morning, making an impression on a lot of tween and teen girls, who were there to take part in the Franklin Flame fast-pitch softball program's round-robin.

"He talked about not taking things for granted," said Flame U-14 manager Devoll Sino, who recruited McCardle for the event. "The kids were a littler awe-struck at first. He talked for a little bit about the program and then took some questions."

And oh yes, that's when the kids found out that McCardle had decided to keep his sense of humor, too.

"One of the kids asked him 'What's the funniest thing that's happened when you've played?'" said Sino, "and he told them that when a fly-ball gets hit to an outfielder who's lost an arm, somebody always yells at him 'Use two hands.' "

Rim-shot, followed by laughter, all with the desired effect.

McCardle's program lasted about 20 minutes and the third annual round-robin softball event, with teams from all over the area including New Berlin and Waukesha, went all day. It succeeded in raising close to $400 for the nationwide Wounded Warrior project, which raises awareness of the more grievous sacrifices that soldiers have to make in defense of our country.

"Our goal is to show other amputees and the general population, that these athletes through extensive rehabilitation and training are able to express their desires and perform the sport they love," it reads on the program's website.

The players are young, competitive, athletic veterans as well as active duty soldiers who have lost limbs in battle in the post 9/11 era. Some have lost both legs, some have lost an entire arm with many other ugly variations in-between.

But they have all chosen to get on with their lives. Some are still in service, while others have gone onto school through the Post-9/11 GI Bill and others still have gone on to new careers.

The team plays celebrity (fully-abled) teams in fundraising and awareness campaigns. They live by their motto: "Life without a limb is limitless."

Sino became aware of the program through a Sports Illustrated column in a 2011 issue.

"It was just a huge inspiration to me," he said. "They talked about these guys playing between games of a college doubleheader. I then went to the website and gave them a small donation.

"Then I figured out that this would be good for our girls. We were figuring out a way for them to give back to the community. We kicked around the idea and then we were able to get Bobby to come."

Sino loved McCardle's speech.

"He talked about people moving on after a tragedy and that you really can't take things for granted," said Sino. "Just because you're playing softball today, doesn't mean you'll be able to play it forever, or even tomorrow. Just like you can't take for granted you'll have two legs or two arms forever. It was really good and we got great participation (from the players and their families) in terms of raffling things off and a 50/50 game."

The Flame are a loose confederation of teams based in Franklin that started about five years ago. They have U-10, U-12, U-14 and U-16 teams that play in the Metro Milwaukee Fast-Pitch Softball League throughout June and July with some weekend tournaments. They are largely a full participation league and only rely on try-outs when absolutely necessary.

Most of the players are from Franklin, but other southern suburbs are also represented, said Sino.

He hopes that most of the kids keep the same healthy life-long attitude that McCardle and his teammates have.

"I think they (the Flame players) really got a lot out of it," Sino said.

For more information about the Wounded Warrior Project, go to woundedwarrioramputeesoftballteam.org. Donations (by check) can be made out to WWAST and sent to James H. Rodio, WWAST Chief Financial Officer, 2121 Eisenhower Ave., Suite 300 Alexandria, VA 22314.

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