‘GiddyUp’ Behind a Hero’s Pitch

From the News-Press, Sam Cook, March 9, 2011

No one has more giddyup than fishing boat Capt. John Bunch.

Bunch’s nickname is “GiddyUp” because his persistence runs 24/7.

If you haven’t received an e-mail from Bunch, you don’t have a computer.

If you haven’t received a call from Bunch, you don’t have a telephone.

Bunch isn’t shy about asking for help to complete his good deeds.

The Pine Island resident – founder of Operation Open Arms, a local nonprofit that assists veterans – is gung-ho about caring for men and women physically and mentally scarred by war.

I received an e-mail from Bunch last month. He was behind the Red Sox’ plan to honor wounded U.S. Army war heroes Spc. Michael Araujo and Pfc. Corey Kent. He asked me to write a 30-second introduction for the City of Palms Park public-address announcer.

Thirty seconds?

That’s one sentence.

Bunch pulled at my patriotism, so I agreed.

The plan was for the Sox to give Bunch autographed jerseys for the soldiers and he would throw out the ceremonial first pitch on their behalf.

Kent, 23, who is walking with prosthetic legs, is convalescing at Walter Reed Army Medical Center in Washington. Bunch says he will deliver his jersey.

Araujo, 21, is completing his tour of duty at Fort Stewart in Hinesville, Ga.

One was closer than the other, Bunch figured.

He asked if Araujo could attend. I told him Araujo comes home every two weeks, usually weekends.

“Can you get Michael to the game or should I try?” Bunch asked.

Knock yourself out.

“After you told me how much Michael liked baseball, I started thinking,” Bunch said. “What if we went onto the field together and as I almost let go of the first pitch, I’d stop and hand the ball to Michael so he could throw it?”

That may be too theatrical for a pregame show, but you better get your partner to the park first.

I knew Bunch wouldn’t rest until Araujo, who’d lost a leg in Afghanistan, walked to the pitcher’s mound last Wednesday.

Bunch called Araujo Feb. 25, at his Cape Coral home.

But Araujo had to return to Fort Stewart to have five teeth pulled on the day of the game.

“Sorry, I can’t do it,” he told Bunch.

No hill for a climber.

“Who is your first sergeant and what is his phone number?” Bunch asked.

Bunch says he introduced himself to 1st Sgt. Jakes and expressed the importance of extending Araujo’s leave to March 2.

“I gave every assurance Rep. (Connie) Mack (IV) and/or Sen. (Bill) Nelson would be calling if I failed to be convincing,” he said.

When has Bunch ever failed to be convincing?

“I think we can get this done,” Bunch said Jakes told him.

The vets spared us the handoff and Araujo, revved up by the appreciative crowd, gunned the baseball into the backstop.

“My shoulder popped,” said Araujo, a St. Louis Cardinals fan. “That’s why I released it so high. My joints are still pretty bad.”

Strike or ball, Red Sox fans gave him a rousing ovation. They cheered again when he left near the third-base dugout.

Araujo’s fastball had too much giddyup, but considering the U.S. Marine who made it happen, it was a perfect pitch.

Semper Fi, GiddyUp.

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