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Gallery: Feller award gala honors Navy chief, baseball stars

Nov. 7, 2013 - 06:57PM   |  

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Bob Feller Act of Valor Award recipients Chief Hospital Corpsman (DV/FMF) Garth Sinclair and Detroit Tigers pitcher Justin Verlander meet before Wednesday's award ceremony at the Navy Memorial. Both received awards at the event; Yogi Berra also was honored, having received his award last month in a ceremony closer to his New Jersey home. (Mike Morones / Staff)
Navy Secretary Ray Mabus speaks during the Bob Feller Act of Valor Award ceremony Wednesday night at the Navy Memorial. Feller, a Hall of Fame pitcher with the Cleveland Indians, joined the Navy shortly after Pearl Harbor and rose to the rank of chief petty officer. (Mike Morones / Staff)
Bob Feller Act of Valor Award recipients Chief Hospital Corpsman (DV/FMF) Garth Sinclair and Detroit Tigers pitcher Justin Verlander meet before Wednesday's award ceremony at the Navy Memorial. Both received awards at the event; Yogi Berra also was honored, having received his award last month in a ceremony closer to his New Jersey home. (Mike Morones / Staff)
Detroit Tigers pitcher and Bob Feller Act of Valor Award recipient Justin Verlander, right, autographs baseballs for Navy Secretary Ray Mabus, left, and Sen. Sherrod Brown, D-Ohio, before Wednesday's award ceremony at the Navy Memorial in Washington, D.C. Verlander was honored along with Chief Hospital Corpsman (DV/FMF) Garth Sinclair and New York Yankees legend Yogi Berra. (Mike Morones / Staff)
Bob Feller Act of Valor Award recipient Justin Verlander speaks with Bob Feller's widow, Anne, before Wednesday's award ceremony. (Mike Morones / Staff)
HMC Garth Sinclair is congratulated after receiving the Bob Feller Act of Valor Award during a ceremony at the U.S. Navy Memorial in Washington, D.C., on Wednesday, November 6, 2013. Honorees includes HMC Sinclair, baseball legend and World War II veteran Yogi Berra and Detroit Tigers pitcher Justin Verlander. (Mike Morones/Staff) (Mike Morones)
Chief Hospital Corpsman (DV/FMF) Garth Sinclair gets a hug from his father, Gary, at the Bob Feller Act of Valor Award ceremony Wednesday night at the Navy Memorial in Washington. (Mike Morones / Staff)
Retired Adm. Hank Chiles speaks about Bob Feller Act of Valor Award recipient Yogi Berra during Wednesday's ceremony at the Navy Memorial in Washington. Berra, who served in the Navy during World War II, received his award last month at the Yogi Berra Museum in New Jersey. (Mike Morones / Staff)
Detroit Tigers pitcher Justin Verlander receives the Bob Feller Act of Valor Award from Peter Fertig, the award's founder, during Wednesday's ceremony at the Navy Memorial in Washington. (Mike Morones / Staff)
Master Chief Petty Officer of the Navy (AW/NAC) Mike Stevens speaks during Wednesday's Bob Feller Act of Valor Award ceremony in Washington. Stevens presented the award to Chief Hospital Corpsman (DV/FMF) Garth Sinclair. (Mike Morones / Staff)

Worlds collided Wednesday night at the Navy Memorial in Washington, D.C., as top naval officials and baseball’s heavy hitters got together to honor a few of their own.

Chief Hospital Corpsman (DV/FMF) Garth Sinclair and Detroit Tigers pitcher Justin Verlander received the inaugural Bob Feller Act of Valor award, which honors a chief petty officer, an active major leaguer and a Hall of Famer for their contributions to their communities, in the spirit of former Cleveland Indians pitcher Bob Feller, who was all three.

New York Yankees legend and Hall of Famer Yogi Berra received his award in a ceremony closer to his New Jersey home last month.

Feller left a thriving baseball career following the 1941 attack on Pearl Harbor, serving four years and making chief before returning to baseball and finishing out one of the most storied careers in the game.

“Bob Feller was one of my idols; I looked up to him,” Verlander, 30, told Navy Times. “And for him to do what he did and leave in the middle of his playing career and go serve his country in the Navy, I know how difficult that must be, because he’s got to leave his love, and that’s baseball.”

Sinclair, 45, made the trip from Panama City Beach, Fla., where he’s an instructor at the Naval Diving and Salvage Training Center.

“It’s kind of hard to gauge how big of a deal something is, especially because it’s the first time they’re doing it,” Sinclair said. “But as this all came together, I found out, well, gosh — a trip to Washington, D.C, an admiral’s calling me on my cellphone.”

Master Chief Petty Officer of the Navy (AW/NAC) Mike Stevens, who talked baseball, the Navy and service, presented Sinclair with his award.

“I just have so much respect for people who recognize that their life is about something bigger than themselves,” Stevens told Navy Times. “People who commit themselves to serve and put others before themselves, whether you’re a chief petty officer, whether you’re a pro baseball player, whether you’re someone working in the coal mines of West Virginia. ... And if asked to be a participant in an event like this, I jump on it every time.”

Stevens added that he hopes the award goes on to honor chiefs and players for years to come.

Speakers also included award creator and Bob Feller Act of Valor Award Foundation president Peter Fertig, Cleveland Indians spokesman Bob DiBiasio, Sen. Sherrod Brown, D-Ohio, and others, who all made their baseball allegiances clear before delivering their remarks.

The Boston Red Sox fans — Navy Secretary Ray Mabus among them — were not shy about taking jabs at Verlander’s team’s recent performance in the American League Championship Series, where the Tigers fell to the Red Sox, who went on to win the World Series.

Verlander took the digs in stride while taking time to talk about his work with veterans. Every home game at Detroit’s Comerica Park, Verlander invites a local veteran and his or her family to experience the game from a luxury suite.

This idea, he said, snowballed into Wins for Warriors, a foundation he started to raise money for care of veterans suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder.

“Being able to help the local veterans and their families, I thought was a good idea,” he said. “Because from the research I had done, a lot of times, the veterans get help but it’s not just the veterans that want the help or need the help, it’s their family members. Because they have to do a lot of stuff as well.”

Sinclair, who is finishing up his bachelor’s degree and planning to become a middle school science teacher once he retires from the Navy, said he hoped the award would inspire others.

“What I’m really hoping is that, through my church and the youth sports teams I coach, and all the people that I teach at the dive school, and all the instructors that I work with, will all see that a life of service can be rewarded,” he said.

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