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Little Padres turn patriotic

By: Cecil Conley, Sports Editor
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Cameron Cline is not all that fond of the new jerseys that he and his Lincoln Little League teammates wore Monday night. The Padres’ camouflage shirts could have used a splash of fabric softener. “They’re itchy,” Cline said before the Padres played the Giants in a Major Division game at McBean Park. “But they’re fun,” the 12-year-old added. “They’re really cool.” Manager Raymond Garcia had the idea of ordering the shirts for his players because the San Diego Padres occasionally wear camouflage jerseys to honor military personnel serving at Southern California bases. Garcia thought the jerseys would be a fitting tribute to his squad’s sponsor, Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 3010. The players had no idea when they would get to wear the shirts in a game, however. Even the players’ parents, who purchased the shirts, had to keep the unveiling a secret. The players wore them for the first time last Saturday at a team photo session. Monday night’s game turned out to be the perfect time, especially after the news Sunday of Osama bin Laden’s death. A victory against terrorism added far more significance to the shirts and tribute. All Garcia had to do then was talk league president Larry Rhodes into allowing the Padres to wear them. It took an e-mail, a telephone call and then a second call to get Rhodes to give his permission. Rhodes may be a stickler for the rules, but Sunday’s news even prompted him to become a bit patriotic. Rhodes can’t allow teams to change jerseys whenever they like, but this time was different. The significance of bin Laden’s death was not lost on Kent Parsell and Jon Hudson. The two Vietnam veterans and VFW Post 3010 members took the time to visit the Padres before the game. “Finally” was Hudson’s reaction to Sunday’s news. “It’s been so long and they’ve tried so hard,” added Hudson, the quartermaster for Post 3010. “They tried to get it right and they got it right.” As Hudson spoke, Parsell stood back and admired the shirts as the Padres prepared to play. Parsell is the post commander. Cline is not old enough to remember the terrorist attacks on Sept. 11, 2001. His father, Judd, tried to explain the tragic events to his son Sunday after they heard the news of bin Laden’s death. “I want him to understand what 9/11 meant without all the gloom and doom,” Judd said. “That’s what makes wearing the shirts tonight a special event. It brings it all together. It was poetically laid out.” The conversation was educational for Cline, who now knows why U.S. troops are fighting in Iraq and Afghanistan. “We’re going to have new veterans coming back,” he said. “Maybe half of them can come back now.”