Tuesday, March 20, 2007

Cooper Brannan

There's a great baseball story for supporters of our troops to pay attention to this year: the story of Cooper Brannan.

Brannan was an outstanding high school pitcher, who joined the Marine Corps on graduation from High School. He served two tours in Iraq. The second ended when a flash-bang grenade went off while still in his left hand (his non-pitching hand). It took off a pinky.

After returning from Iraq, he met San Diego Padres GM Sandy Alderson at a sports radio station, and Alderson offered him a tryout. Who can say what his chances are, but you have to root for a guy like Brannan:

Only 16 months ago, Brannan called Iraq home for the second time. His team was the Marines. His job was to lead a dozen men, keep them safe, alive and focused.

There is a part of him that remains uncomfortable with all the attention. The part that knows his friends are there, in war, where Brannan lost the pinky finger on his left hand.

"I've got friends that are fighting right now," Brannan says. "That's when you have to step back in reality and be humble for what we're doing here."

This story isn't about Mariners. It's about Marines.

Brannan knew he needed to enlist after graduating from high school in 2003. He was recruited by a handful of junior colleges, nothing serious, and as much as he loved baseball, he realized he wasn't ready. He needed discipline, responsibility, respect.

After two tours of duty, Brannan met another Marine at a sports radio station in San Diego. Only this Marine happened to be the CEO of the San Diego Padres. A friend of Brannan's sidled next to Sandy Alderson, told him Brannan could really pitch.

Alderson used to be a first lieutenant in the Marines. He knew Marines were disciplined, coachable, tenacious -- Semper Fi. He offered Brannan a tryout on the spot.

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