Lt. Col. Phil Brooks has been playing catch with his son Wes for most of the 16 years Wes has been around. But this throw was different.
Wes was crouching down behind the plate March 1 catching warm up pitches from Chris Barber as the Killeen Kangaroos were getting ready to end a three-day Killeen ISD Tournament run against the Austin Maroons.
Then Wes heard the stadium’s public address announcer urge the crowd to welcome home the commander of the 3rd Battalion, 82nd Field Artillery Regiment, 2nd Brigade Combat Team as he threw out the ceremonial first pitch to his son.
And Dad brought his best fastball.
“I brought the heat, just to let him know that Dad was back in town,” Phil said. “It’s not one of those bloopers you see on TV. I had to let him know Dad was back in town and it’s time to get back to business.”
For the next few innings, hits, throws home and RBIs didn’t matter. In the grand scheme of things, the score of the game didn’t matter as Phil was reunited with his son Wes, his soon-to-be-13-year-old daughter Amelia and his wife of nearly 20 years Lori.
“He thinks he still has it, but he’s got to work on it more,” Wes said.
Phil came home that morning after a nine-month deployment overseas.
After a two-day trip from Afghanistan, Phil came home to Fort Hood and took part in a welcoming ceremony that morning before going to Wes’ baseball game and Amelia’s swim meet in Belton later that day.
“It was a proud father-son moment being able to do that,” Phil said.
Despite being so far away from home, Phil said that thanks to technology and the internet, he has an opportunity to keep track of how the Roos are doing.
Wes said that even thought it is hard not having his dad around, he understands that’s the sacrifice he and his family have to make.
“It’s hard, but you’ve always got to remember that he’s doing bigger and better things,” Wes said.
“Helping the country and helping everyone else in the world.”
Killeen head baseball coach Donald Trcka said he hopes this is the first of many first pitches that take place between players and parents coming home from deployment.
Trcka said he hopes this serves as a way for the community to show its appreciation to the soldiers.
“It brought tears to your eyes,” Trcka said.
“He’s a great kid and we have some other kids that their parents are coming back and we’re going to do the same thing for them.”
As a catcher, Wes is behind home plate during every inning, and now Phil will have a chance to be home during every game.
The battalion is not scheduled to be deployed again so Phil plans to stay home for awhile.
“It’s absolutely wonderful,” Lori said.
“We’re all very excited and glad that we can be together as a family again, start reconnecting and pick up where we left off nine months ago.”