The Louisville Sluggers Warriors baseball team went 2-0 against the Detroit Men’s Senior Baseball League All-Star teams on Sept. 3 at Warrior Park. Pictured from left to right: Ryan McIntosh, Rocky Lorenzo, DJ Vanderwerf, Matt Kinsey and Derek Holcomb.

The Louisville Sluggers Warriors baseball team went 2-0 against the Detroit Men’s Senior Baseball League All-Star teams on Sept. 3 at Warrior Park. Pictured from left to right: Ryan McIntosh, Rocky Lorenzo, DJ Vanderwerf, Matt Kinsey and Derek Holcomb.

Photo courtesy of David Van Sleet


National amputee baseball team honors veterans, inspires many

By: Jonathan Szczepaniak | Troy Times | Published September 21, 2022

 Warriors head coach and former Detroit Tigers outfielder Curtis Pride talks with catcher Shan Donovan, middle, and pitcher Matt Kinsey, right.

Warriors head coach and former Detroit Tigers outfielder Curtis Pride talks with catcher Shan Donovan, middle, and pitcher Matt Kinsey, right.

Photo courtesy of Anthony Austin

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TROY — On what felt like one of the hottest days of the summer, there sat a dugout full of baseball players who nobody heard a single complaint from.

On Sept. 3. at Warrior Park during Labor Day weekend, the Louisville Slugger Warriors National Amputee Baseball Team played a doubleheader against two different Detroit Men’s Senior Baseball League All-Star teams. Warrior Park, in Troy, is currently owned by former Brother Rice standout and current New York Yankees infielder DJ LeMahieu.

The Warriors are a competitive baseball team that consists of U.S. military veterans, wounded warriors, and current and former amputee college baseball players who compete against able-bodied teams. They’re a recognized 501(c)(3) charitable organization and are the only nationally sponsored amputee baseball team.

Bob Gillette, who is the founder of American House Senior Living Communities, is a close friend of Warriors general manager David Van Sleet.

“It’s a beautiful story, and I love these guys, and I’ve been with them for many, many years,” Gillette said. “These guys have taken their own time to fly here with us, and they’re doing it out of the goodness of their heart.”

Gillette, who served in the U.S. Air Force Reserve from 1963 to 1969, has been an active member in the veterans’ community as he’s co-produced several veteran-based documentaries, including “Detroit: Our Greatest Generation.” In his continued efforts to show gratitude towards veterans, Gillette held a day headlined by veterans for veterans.

As the first game took place, all throughout the stands were veterans with their “Vietnam veteran” attire as they watched the Warriors carry an 8-3 win over the Detroit MSBL All-Stars. The Warriors took game two by a score of 16-4

One veteran who became the star of the game was Gregory Knight, as he was one of three veterans to throw out an honorary pitch to Warriors players.

Knight, who served in Vietnam, received two Purple Hearts during his service while also earning countless military medals and acknowledgments that he showcased on his outfit. Knight was wounded during the Tet Offensive in 1968, and seven months later, he was hit by a grenade.

“I zigged when I should’ve zagged, and then I zagged, ‘cause I got two of them, when I should’ve zigged,” Knight said, laughing with his family.

Knight sat with his family as they took in the first game.

“Every time I see a veteran, I honor them,” Knight said.

The Warriors most inspiring, yet awed moment in game one was when its one-armed catcher Shan Donovan, 21, almost threw out a Detroit MSBL base runner attempting to steal second.

“That is the honor,” Detroit MSBL player Brian Robert said. “For instance, that catcher was back there with one arm and he almost threw one of our guys out there.”

Donovan, who was born with his left arm missing, catches the ball with his right arm and does a quick flip to transfer the ball from glove to hand.

Van Sleet, a U.S. Army veteran, held a national tryout in 2018 at the Ballpark of the Palm Beaches in efforts to play competitively at the national level. The Washington Nationals allowed the Warriors to use their facility to hold the tryout, and Van Sleet said that’s when everything changed.

“Ever since we did that, they know about us on the internet,” Van Sleet said.

The Warriors, who are based in Florida, compete in tournaments yearly in Arizona, Florida and Las Vegas while also competing against other MSBL teams, and they even won the 35-and-over Las Vegas tournament in 2021 on Memorial Day weekend. Ages range from 20 to 42 within the team, and they’re allowed to play down or up in age.

Alongside Van Sleet are head coach and former Detroit Tigers outfielder Curtis Pride, who is deaf, and pitching coach and former Minnesota Twins pitcher Len Whitehouse.

One of the first players to be a part of the team was Utah native Ryan McIntosh.

“I stepped on a landmine in 2010. I dismounted (on the) patrol and stepped right on it,” McIntosh said. “I had a traumatic amputation in-country in Kandahar, Afghanistan.”

As brutal as McIntosh’s story is, his teammate Matt Kinsey faced a similar scenario while he served in Afghanistan.

Kinsey, who pitched game one for the Warriors, stepped on an IED while serving in the U.S. Army in Afghanistan in 2010.

“He actually got out of the Army, then I got out a couple years later, but the exact same day, October 26, was when I retired, and that’s when he was discharged,” McIntosh said. “It’s kind of funny to get on a diamond with a guy who served in the exact same place and stepped in a similar situation.”

Their stories inspire everyone around them, and the hope is that more and more people will know the Warriors.

“It’s inspiring; they inspire me,” Whitehouse said. “I love being here around these guys. I played professional baseball for 11 years, and you get that feeling of camaraderie when you’re on a team, but this is a whole different team. They’re baseball players, they’re veterans, they’re human beings that have accomplished unbelievable feats. One, they’re alive, and two, they’re thriving in an environment where they don’t want their disabilities to hold them back, and that’s incredible and inspiring to me.”