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Veterans Home visit memorable for Bears

by Jeff Lajoie
Sports Reporter

Winnisquam Regional baseball head coach Fred Caruso and freshman Mikey Lowery talk with veteran George Nichols at the New Hampshire Veterans Home in Tilton on Saturday. Nichols threw out the first pitch on New Hampshire Day at Fenway this past weekend. Courtesy Photo. (click for larger version)
May 20, 2014
TILTON A trip outside of the baseball world proved to be an eye-opening experience for the Winnisquam Regional High School varsity team last weekend.

The Bears visited the New Hampshire Veterans Home in Tilton on Saturday, where the squad sat with, chatted with, played games with and listened to the stories of the men and women there.

"It was an uplifting and heart-warming experience," said Winnisquam head coach Fred Caruso. "I think it's important for our team to know the sacrifices that were made by all the men and women here at the Veterans Home. The kids got so much out of it. And the veterans were ecstatic that we were there. They loved talking to the team. Meeting and talking with the them really left an indelible mark on our guys."

Winnisquam junior Greg Hunt fondly recalled the trip to the Veterans Home, and the impact that talking to vets like Bob Blanchard had on him personally.

"He taught me things that will help me for the rest of my life," said Hunt of Blanchard. "Nothing will defeat you, I will conquer it' he told me to say that to myself every time you enter a battle or a challenge in life. He told me to never let anybody tell me I can't do something and chase your dreams. His last words were 'Win that damn state title and come back."

While the Winnisquam Regional High School baseball team didn't have any home games last week, the Bears still made their presence known in relation to Operation Hat Trick.

The OHT Initiative supports service members and military veterans, with teams wearing specially designed camouflaged hats in their honor. OHT generates awareness, support and funding for the recovery of America's wounded warriors, both active service members and veterans. It pursues these goals through the sale of OHT branded merchandise, proceeds of which are distributed to selected organizations that provide direct services to our wounded warriors. Operation Hat Trick's New Hampshire High School Initiative has now raised over $100,000.

Operation Hat Trick was founded in 2007 at the University of New Hampshire in answer to the question, "What is the one thing most wanted by head wounded service members returning from Iraq and Afghanistan?" The answer was a baseball cap to cover wounds, burns, swelling and bandages. The effort was named 'Operation Hat Trick' after the University of New Hampshire's rich tradition in hockey.

The Bears were slated to honor alum Matt Prince (Class of 2001) by having him throw out the ceremonial first pitch at WRHS. Prince played four years of baseball at Winnisquam, and he also played Babe Ruth baseball for Caruso. His two high school coaches, Tom Charbono and Bill Prescott, were slated to be on hand for the ceremony prior to the Bears' game against Bow.

After high school, Prince served in the Army National Guard and was deployed to Iraq, where he spent much of January 2004 through February 2005. He currently works part-time for the Northfield Police Department and full time in construction.

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