by Andrew Huang - Major League Baseball’s Players Weekend has a reputation for big personalities, and this year will be no different. From funky nicknames, to colorful, nontraditional uniforms, to custom equipment, there’ll be plenty of ways for players to put on a show. While Players Weekend is mostly about fun, it’s also an opportunity to bring attention to worthy causes.
For this year’s Players Weekend, Anchor Bat Company has partnered with an active duty U.S. Navy SEAL to produce 27 hand-painted bats. “About 8 months ago, I met Matthew Rollins from Anchor Bat Co. through a mutual friend. We struck up a friendship, and when he came to me with an idea to paint bats for Players Weekend, I thought it was a really great idea,” says the SEAL, whose identity cannot be disclosed for reasons of operational security. The bats are painted in irregular strips of green — camouflage, essentially. “They’re painted in the style we paint our ‘bats’ — our guns, our tools — for deployment,” says the SEAL.
This warrior’s involvement with Anchor Bat Co. and baseball goes beyond a chance meeting with Rollins. He grew up, as many do, steeped in the game. “I was a junior varsity and varsity player in high school, and I played three years in college. Unfortunately, I got by on hard work,” he laughs. He also has a personal connection to Major League Baseball: his little brother, gifted with talent as well as work ethic, now plays professionally.
It’s also a collaboration that is, at its core, steeped in shared values and a love for the game. “Matt and the principles his company is founded on are something that really fit with my personality and the things I believe in,” he says. “It goes back to when I was younger and having to work really hard to get good. What really changed my life was when I started playing baseball in high school. Everybody was so competitive that I had to find a different way to get on the field. That way was through hard work and dedication. That’s allowed me to get where I am today.”
And while his younger brother is a current Major Leaguer, this collaboration brings another element to his appreciation for baseball: “The love for the game is something I’ve never forgotten. It’s being rekindled by being able to do this, but in a different way. My experience with Anchor Bat Co. has been one of the great experiences of getting back involved with this game.”
And while these hand-painted bats are remarkable, one-of-a-kind works of art, they’re not just a vanity project. After Players Weekend, the bats will be auctioned off to benefit One More Wave, a nonprofit founded by former and active duty SEAL Team members. “The whole purpose of One More Wave is ocean therapy, and it goes back to a close friend I knew from Sniper School. He was one of the few talented enough and lucky enough to go to Snipers as a new guy,” the SEAL recalls.
“On his first deployment, his very first mission, he got shot and ended up losing his leg. When he lost his leg, he thought he lost the one thing he loved more than anything except for being in the Teams: surfing. His love for surfing is why he became a SEAL. He got into a funk, but he ended up meeting Alex West, a One More Wave co-founder, at a surf camp. Together, they came up with the idea to create a custom surfboard so my friend could keep surfing. That grew into making custom surfboards so that any disabled veteran can use ocean therapy to get them on a better path.”
As Players Weekend festivities commence, as we enjoy America’s pastime, these green-painted bats serve as a reminder of sacrifice, hard work, and persistence. These values — taught on baseball diamonds across the country — are also the values that sustain our service members as they rush headlong into harm’s way.