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To the ol' ballgame: SCS officer pitches for all-military team

VANDENBERG AIR FORCE BASE, Calif. -- Right-hander Paul Vignola has taken to the pitcher's mound to attend spring training with the U.S. Military All-Stars, an all-services team that competes in college level baseball.

His temporary duty assignment started April 1 at Naval Station Mayport, Fla. For the next 18 days, Vignola will practice and play for 13 hours a day, he said, with no days off.

The team will scrimmage against local colleges, including an exhibition game against the University of North Florida Ospreys, a team in the highest NCAA division, on April 6 at Harmon Stadium. It's the same place where Vignola will be for spring training according to the UNF Web site.

Vignola hopes when spring training ends on April 19 the U.S. Military All-Stars picks him to play on its 25-person team. If selected, he will wear the camouflage baseball uniform of the All-Stars as he travels and plays for another three weeks.

During those 21 days, Vignola will play 16 games in three Central American countries, including six in the Dominican Republic, and five each in Panama and Nicaragua.

"It'll be nice to see the culture down there," Vignola said. He believes with five years of Spanish language in school, "I could get by."

The team will return to the states to play the season remainder, but without Vignola. Due to manning restraints, he will return around May 11 to his job at Vandenberg as the officer in charge of network management at the 30th Space Communications Squadron.

"The majority of people play for one or two months at a time," he said. "I'm happy for the opportunity to play six weeks."

Vignola received approval for this temporary duty to meet the team's mission, which is to promote awareness of all Americans in support of the honorable sacrifices made by armed forces. He got the go-ahead from 30th SCS Commander Lt. Col. Christina Anderson.

"When I have a qualified candidate who can represent our Air Force and wants to take advantage of a program the Air Force makes available, I can honor that as a commander," Colonel Anderson said. "As strategic communicators, programs like this have become ever more important in today's global environment. By allowing one of our lieutenants to serve in this capacity, it helps tell the Air Force story to our Central American partners during our Global War on Terror."

Those interested in filling Vignola's cleats in an upcoming season can get information about the U.S. Military All-Stars tryouts here.