The grandson of a late U.S. Air Force pilot, Spokane Indians pitcher Blake Bass soaked up the Fairchild Air Force Base scenery Tuesday.
Bass and his teammates were given a tour of a Boeing KC-135 Stratotanker, toed the catwalk of the base’s lofty control tower and watched a punch-heavy combat training session.
Bass, a 6-foot-7 right-hander from Lubbock, Texas, had his eyes locked on the series of screens and gadgets in the control tower, which helped guide a pair of tankers as players looked at the runway.
Minutes later, a small jet zipped above the team’s tour bus on its way to lunch.
“It’s like being a little kid again seeing all of this stuff, instead of just having the toys,” Bass said. “It’s just crazy seeing what everyone goes through, and what it takes for all of this to run.”
Other players had never visited a military base or had an up-close encounter with a military aircraft, including Indians outfielder Starling Joseph, a native of the Dominican Republic.
Joseph and his teammates passed through the base’s cavernous, stadium-sized airplane hangar and toured the inside of a KC-135 tanker aircraft.
“It’s a big plane, I’ve never seen anything like that before,” Joseph said of the tanker. “It’s fantastic.”
The team began its morning visiting the base’s Survival, Evasion, Resistance and Escape (SERE) facility and watched some hand-to-hand combat training. Dozens of men clad in camouflage sweated it out on the mat, grappling and striking with boxing-style gloves.
“Oh! Got ’em!” Joseph exclaimed after an airman landed a clean punch. His teammates also got in on the cheering.
For first-year Indians manager Kenny Holmberg, the tour was about team building, and getting a more intimate view of the military and those who serve.
Holmberg said he’s lived near three Air Force bases and was intrigued by the prospect of touring Fairchild, the Indians’ second team tour of the base.
“It’s a privilege to come to Fairchild, and it’s an opportunity to show these kids that this is a big reason why we to get to play the game,” Holmberg said. “Because people put their lives on the line to protect this country.”
The Indians open the Northwest League season at 6:30 p.m. Friday against the Boise Hawks at Avista Stadium.
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