He spent a year in the infantry in both Iraq and Afghanistan, but returned a month ago to his home in Manchester, N.H. After what Ball had witnessed overseas, losing friends and seeing several others fall victim to the stresses of war, he found the perfect fit in the Run to Home Base 9K.
"It seems like this war, you don't see a lot of support for it, or we haven't for the last four to five years," said Ball, 25. "It's good to see people come out and at least support the injured veterans."
Ball is one of the fortunate ones. He said he has not experienced the lingering issues many of his fellow soldiers have, including some who remain in Iraq or Afghanistan. But roughly one in five who has been deployed suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and many more wrestle with the effects of a serious brain injury.
So when Ball, a lifelong Sox fan who began going to games as a kid some 20 years ago, crosses home plate on May 23, his thoughts will be with those who continue to suffer.
"When you lose friends [to PTSD] … people really get down and it affects their lives in every area," he said. "It's just horrible … It's a war, you know, so you see things that everyday people aren't used to and all of a sudden, bam, it happens."
Ball witnessed friends pass in front of him and had his own share of injuries while in the service. He said the unit he was in was very aware of stress disorders and their onset, but when you see some of the scenes that Ball did, the effects are often inevitable.
"I've seen the effects of PTSD firsthand. That's why I wanted to help out," he said.
Ball learned of the event through a friend and was immediately on board. Since his return home is recent, he will have plenty to think about during the nine kilometers. And in the end he'll have a series of rewards. Not only will the money raised go to a cause near and dear to him, but stomping on home plate, the one his idol Kevin Youkilis lands on 100 times or so a year, will be icing on the cake.
"That's a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity," he said of crossing home plate. "That's huge. I'm really excited. It's gonna mean a lot. I wanted to do this to raise money for the cause, but when I learned I get to run across home plate, I was like 'Of course!'"
It was the best of both worlds for Ball. Hopefully the attention he helps bring May 23 will improve the world of those he fought with.
The Red Sox Foundation's first-ever Run to Home Base is set to take place on Sunday, May 23. Register to run at runtohomebase.org.
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