A couple of days ago, I received an email from my friend Jim Prime, who is an author of many fine books about the Red Sox, including, "Ted Williams: The Pursuit of Perfection." Jim told me a very inspiring story about the American and Canadian navies and their assisting the Haitian people after the disasterous earthquake of last month.
In this story, it turns out that officers from both navies were Red Sox fans, and they let the team know about how they helped. (With thanks to the Bluenose Bosox Brotherhood, who are a group of Red Sox fans in Nova Scotia.)
The Power of Sport
During the Vancouver Olympics we will no doubt be reminded ad nauseam about the power of sport to unite and inspire.
A few weeks ago, I was party to a real life example of that power. I received an email from Lieutenant Commander Jeff Hutt, a native of Lower Sackville, NS and Combat Officer aboard the HMCS Athabaskan, recently deployed to Haiti to assist with the humanitarian relief effort in that devastated country. Like countless other Maritimers, Jeff is a Boston Red Sox fan and is, in fact, a member of the Bluenose Bosox Brotherhood (BBB), a group of some 200 Nova Scotian supporters of the Boston franchise.
In the midst of the chaos and the overwhelming sadness that permeates this catastrophe, people look for bright spots. Admittedly this is a small one, but nonetheless a telling one and in some ways an important one.
The Athabaskan was assisted in their mission by the USS Fort McHenry (LSD-43), an amphibious ship with a tremendous capability in landing people ashore. Usually the men who are landed are US Marines, but this time they were Canadians there to help the people of Haiti. The USS Fort McHenry had just returned from a long deployment to the Arabian Sea and had to recall all the sailors and MEU (Marine Expeditionary Unit) from leave to respond to the crisis. Instead of well-earned rest and relaxation, the American officers and crew headed straight to Haiti to lend a helping hand.
In the midst of turmoil strangers always look for points of connection, something to bring them together. For Jeff Hutt and the officers of the USS Fort McHenry, that point was baseball. The scene was a forty minute ride to a beach landing off the coast of Haiti. Hutt quickly discovered that Commanding Officer Nate Moyer hailed from New Bedford, Massachusetts and was a “huge Red Sox fan.” So was Executive Officer Nathan York from the state of Maine. In the midst of rubble and the stench of death, images of green fields, cheering fans and baseball are an escape – if only a very fleeting one. “Red Sox Nation are truly everywhere,” concluded Hutt.
Lieutenant Commander Hutt was emailing me to ask a favour - not for himself, it should be duly noted, but for his new American colleagues. Since the two U.S. naval officers had gone above and beyond to assist the Canadian mission, he asked if I could use my Red Sox contacts to help recognize these men who had been so instrumental to the Canadians and, more importantly, the Haitian people.
As Lieutenant Commander Hutt put it, “This cooperation and generosity from the US Navy is significantly improving our ability to offer aid to Haiti. I was hoping (that) someone in the Red Sox organization may be willing to recognize this contribution through some means. They are class acts. I just don't want to understate our gratitude to them. The Canadian Navy and USN have a long history of excellent cooperation, but this is a much higher level than normal - they have gone to great lengths to include us in their very busy operations.”
Within 48 hours, the Red Sox organization came through in the form of the following email from Red Sox President and CEO Larry Lucchino.
Dear Commander Moyer and Commander York,
On behalf of John Henry, Tom Werner, and our entire ownership, I’d like to send our sincere gratitude and respect to you both for your efforts in Haiti. We heard about your participation, and that of the USS Fort McHenry, from our friends at the Bluenose BoSox Brotherhood, and we’re deeply appreciative of your call to service (especially taking time away from your leave, after a long deployment in the Arabian Sea). We’re proud to have you both as loyal members of Red Sox Nation from Massachusetts and Maine. You both are great representatives of the many distinguished, caring, and dedicated citizens that make the Red Sox fanbase the most loyal and passionate in all of baseball.
Good luck in Haiti. Your generosity and commitment will make a difference in the lives of the many affected and displaced from these earthquakes. We salute you and thank you.
As luck would have it, the timing of the emails was perfect. Landing craft from the USS Fort McHenry had just completed another massive transfer of almost 200 Canadian soldiers that had been picked up in Jamaica the previous day. As if that weren’t enough, Commander Moyer and Executive Officer York were scheduled to come to The Athabaskan for dinner that very night. Lieutenant Commander Hutt couldn’t wait. “I’m sure his first question will be ‘What is the Bluenose Bosox Brotherhood?’ he predicted. “This helps to solidify this important relationship. I’m sure I am now Nate Moyer’s new best friend and I will have no shortage of beach land capability.”
The impact on the two members of Red Sox Nation was beyond expectations. “They were floored by the gesture,” recalls Hutt. Following is an email from Commander Moyer to Mr. Lucchino:
Dear Mr. Lucchino,
Good evening. I received your fine e-mail thanking both Nate and myself for our service and I truly appreciate it. As you know, we are working with our friends from the Canadian Navy and other Navies of the world to provide relief to those in need. I truly believe that we are making a difference and I also truly appreciate your support and the support of the Red Sox organization in our global cause here.
When I was a boy, it was an infrequent occurrence for me to miss a Red Sox game either on Channel 38 or in person at Fenway pretending to be a junior Bleacher Creature. Since joining the military 17 years ago, I have only been back to our beloved ballpark a handful of times, but it doesn’t stop me from following our great team from afar. The Red Sox are in my blood and will always be.
Your e-mail has provided me with continued strength and motivation and whether we wear a Naval uniform or a Red Sox uniform, we are unified right now in this mission to help the injured, sick and displaced people of Haiti.
Thank you again for such a wonderful e-mail.
Very Respectfully and Sincerely,
Commander Nate Moyer
USS FORT MCHENRY (LSD 43)
When confronted with death and misery on foreign shores, human beings cope in various ways. Some do so by getting on with the business at hand while keeping treasured pieces of home in their hearts. For these officers, one of those things was baseball. In the overall scheme of things, it is perhaps a very small thing. But it is by no means an insignificant thing.
Co-founder, Bluenose Bosox Brotherhood