After three straight losses in the regional finals, the Palmetto Bay (Fla.) Westminster Christian School softball team finally broke through in a big way, and the Warriors have a true hero to thank.
As relayed in a fantastic Miami Herald feature, Westminster coach Scott Doan went in search of a rallying cry after three early season losses, and he found it in Afghanistan, where former Warriors football, basketball and baseball standout turned Army Ranger Jon Maduro was serving another tour of duty.
Maduro began sending motivational emails to Doan's softball charges, a group that included eight seniors who had experienced the heartache of failing to reach the state final four the previous three seasons. But there misery was nothing compared to the life-or-death scenarios Maduro faced on a daily basis.
“You and I are WARRIORS,” Maduro wrote, according to the Herald. “Although our missions are different, there is only one approach to being a Warrior. A Warrior prepares for conflict with everything he has … To be the team you guys want to be, every practice has to be tougher than the game. Every ball you throw has to be with a purpose, every base you run is all-out because that is the way a Warrior plays.”
Impressed? Wait, there's more: “Even though you are tired, even though you are stressed with school, even though you have to miss that party, are you willing to do what is necessary? SACRIFICE! Both you and I have already missed out on fun occasions, dealt with higher levels of stress than our peers, and had to deal with being broken and tired. WHY NOT GO GET YOUR REWARD!?”
Since Maduro's first contact with the Westminster girls, they have not lost. Using the mantra "On a Mission," they're riding a 16-game win streak, including an 11-0 regional final victory this past weekend.
“He’s been a real big influence to our team with the whole ‘On a Mission’ mantra,” University of Northern Colorado-bound senior pitcher Kelli Kleis told the Miami Herald. “For us it’s just a game. For him it’s life or death, but we can see it as the same thing in the playoffs.”
Even better, Maduro has since returned from Afghanistan and threw out the first pitch in their 1-0 regional semifinal victory. Of course, he also threw out the first pitch at a recent Braves-Marlins game, but it was the Army Ranger's connection to the Warriors of Westminster that made the former a bit more special.