By MC2(AW) Doug Wojciechowski
VP-5 Public Affairs
The "Mad Foxes" of VP-5 visited Ramona Elementary School in Jacksonville Jan. 30 to continue their presence in the community and to honor their fallen shipmate, AT2(AW) Thomas Moore, who tragically lost his life last September.
VP-5 hosted the first "AT2(AW) Thomas Moore Memorial Baseball Clinic," fulfilling Moore's longtime dream of teaching baseball to children who might not normally be exposed to the sport.
Moore's father and childhood coach, Dwight Moore, drove to Jacksonville from Durham, N.C., to see his son's dream come to fruition.
"Thomas always wanted to coach baseball, even more so after he had [his son] Zachary," said Moore.
"He always wanted to give back to kids in the community."
He was not only a dedicated Sailor and father, but also an extremely talented baseball player. Moore started playing baseball at the age of four and pitched his first no-hitter at the age of 12. He continued to pitch through junior college.
Upon joining the Navy, he tried out for and was selected to play on the All Department of Defense (DoD) team, where he traveled to North and South America playing baseball on behalf of the United States military.
During his time in South America, his vision was born. After playing baseball, the All DoD Team visited local orphanages and schools teaching children how to play baseball.
After his days on the mound as a formidable southpaw came to an end, he focused his efforts to coaching children in local baseball leagues and in his own neighborhood.
"He always had a heart for others," said his father. "Thomas always portrayed a father-like role from early on in life. His mindset was to always pay it forward."
Although the rain and the freezing temperatures forced the Mad Foxes and the children indoors, they did not cancel the event. Rather, they set up coaching stations for the participating students inside the cafeteria and auditorium. Out of the approximate 450 students enrolled in the school, 76 children registered to attend in the after-school event.
The children were taught the fundamentals of base running, hitting, pitching, catching, fielding ground and fly baseballs, and basic physical conditioning. The Mad Foxes promised the principal, LaShawn Russ, they would return March 14 and conduct the clinic outside on the baseball diamond.
"We are so very proud the Mad Foxes carried on petty officer Moore's vision of service before self. These Sailors are everyday heroes who are making a real and lasting impact on these children - not only today, but every day they volunteer in the community," said VP-5 Commanding Officer Cmdr. Matt Pottenburgh, "It was wonderful for us to share the day with Dwight Moore. The children got to hear about Thomas and the positive impact baseball had on his life."
When the event came to a close and all of the children participated in each station, everyone gathered for a special presentation of donated baseball equipment. VP-5 presented bats, gloves, helmets and baseballs to Ramona Elementary School. This ensured the children could exercise their newly acquired baseball skills during physical education class and recess.
Volunteerism is extremely important to the men and women of VP-5. The squadron has been averaging 75 hours of volunteerism each month since returning from deployment.
They adopted Ramona Elementary last spring and have been very active in individual classrooms, tutoring math and reading and even assisting in vision screening throughout the school year.
As January was National Volunteer Month, Pottenburgh challenged the squadron to double their volunteer efforts. The baseball clinic was the finale of their volunteer efforts in January.
"I am so very proud to report the Mad Foxes volunteered 467 man-hours in January," said IS1 Cedrick Green, the VP-5 volunteer coordinator. "We blew right past our skipper's goal of 150 hours!"
The Mad Foxes are five months into their Inter-Deployment Readiness Cycle and remain on track for a successful P-8A Poseidon deployment to the 7th Fleet area of responsibility.