Prep Baseball Report

VA/DC/MD Pitchers Lead 'Strike Force' to Aid Special Ops Families

Operation Hawkeye

Six high school pitchers from Virginia and Maryland are using baseball to rally others in support of the military’s special operations community through Operation Hawkeye: STRIKE FORCE, working with Gold Star Teen Adventures (GSTA), a leading non-profit organization that serves the surviving youths of special operations personnel who lost their lives in the line of duty.

Since 1980, over 1,000 heroes have made the ultimate sacrifice for our freedom, including Navy SEALs, Army Green Berets and Rangers and Night Stalker aviators, Air Force pararescuemen and combat controllers, and Marine Raiders. When they died, whether in training or on the battlefield, many of these warriors left behind loved ones, including teenage sons and daughters (Gold Star teens). Every strikeout thrown by STRIKE FORCE members between June and October raises funds for GSTA, thanks to the generosity of individuals and enterprises committed to the cause.

STRIKE FORCE Pitchers and Fundraisers are actively seeking monetary pledges and donations at their fundraising site in a campaign modeled on those of Max Scherzer and other Major League Baseball players. Every pledge and donation increases the value of each strikeout thrown by the STRIKE FORCE. According to Will Thomas, the rising Gonzaga College High School senior who launched Operation Hawkeye in 2011 and leads the STRIKE FORCE initiative, “we hope to throw at least 130 strikeouts during the campaign – one for each of the 130 Gold Star teens seeking to participate in a GSTA program in 2016.” “We are already up over $50 per strikeout,” said Thomas, “but we need to push the value up to $190 per strikeout to accomplish our goal of raising $25,000.”

Several baseball enterprises have stepped up big to help the pitchers reach their fundraising goal. STRIKE FORCE Partners, including national companies like Marucci Sports, SmartKage, and Jugs Sports, as well as local businesses such as R&D Baseball Academy in Tyson’s Corner, VA, and Complete Game in Manassas, VA, have placed significant donations, made match pledges, and/or donated products to spur pledges, donations, and participation by others. By supporting the campaign, everyone who makes a pledge or donation is automatically entered to win prizes, including baseball memorabilia, gear, and training equipment donated by these firms.

The campaign also features a branded “STRIKE FORCE” performance tee from Marucci Sports, with all proceeds benefiting GSTA. “Marucci Sports is proud to support the Operation Hawkeye: STRIKE FORCE campaign to honor fallen special operations warriors and their families,” states Kurt Ainsworth, Co-Founder and CEO of the company, adding “We’re forever grateful for the service and sacrifice of our country’s bravest heroes, and we’re honored to help support their families and communities.”

GSTA will use this money to help fund participation by teenage children of special operations heroes in adventures that enable healing, foster enduring relationships, and develop character and leadership skills. Kent Solheim, Executive Director remarked: “This is a unique fundraiser as young teens are stepping up to support the GS teen community. Their efforts on and off the baseball field set a great example of their character and patriotism.”

“We don’t need much motivation on the mound,” said Thomas, but “knowing our Ks help the Gold Star teens gives every pitch special meaning.”

The STRIKE FORCE Pitchers are all on Stars 17U Red, and the staff includes:

Our Lady of Good Counsel's Ronnie Orie
Oakton's Toma Shigaki-Than and Owen Lamon
Millbrook's Anthony Simonelli
Rock Ridge's Nick Stewart
Gonzaga's Will Thomas 

The STRIKE FORCE has notched 128 strikeouts after last weekend's Marucci World Series, raising over $15,000 so far on the summer, with the drive continuing through the completion of Stars Red's 2016 season in October.

Operation Hawkeye