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89th AS pilot living his dream through baseball

WRIGHT-PATTERSON AIR FORCE BASE, Ohio - 89th Airlift Squadron pilot Lt. Col. Philip “Hawkeye” Pierce shows off his medal after his team, the Cincinnati Colts, won the 2012 Roy Hobbs World Series championship in Ft. Myers, Fla., Nov. 10, 2012. (Courtesy photo)

WRIGHT-PATTERSON AIR FORCE BASE, Ohio - 89th Airlift Squadron pilot Lt. Col. Philip “Hawkeye” Pierce shows off his medal after his team, the Cincinnati Colts, won the 2012 Roy Hobbs World Series championship in Ft. Myers, Fla., Nov. 10, 2012. (Courtesy photo)

WRIGHT-PATTERSON AIR FORCE BASE, Ohio -- When it comes to baseball, 89th Airlift Squadron pilot Lt. Col. Philip "Hawkeye" Pierce knows his stuff because he's been part of the New Carlisle Knights baseball team for the last seven years.

Pierce said it all started nine years ago when he was driving through New Carlisle, Ohio, and came upon a baseball game being played.

"I was checking on my future home site at Sugar Isle Golf Course and I came across a baseball game being played by none other than 'old guys.' Two years later, there was an ad in the local paper for baseball tryouts for an adult baseball team, the New Carlisle Knights. The tryout was a success and I was accepted as a Knight," Pierce said.

The New Carlisle Knights baseball team is part of the Miami Valley Roy Hobbs Baseball League (MVRHBL), currently with eight teams of more than 30 players. The league has also expanded to include six teams in the age 48 and over division.

Pierce said each summer his team plays against the Cincinnati Colts. For the last six years, this same team asked him to play for them in the Roy Hobbs World Series, held each November in Ft. Myers, Fla., at the Boston Red Sox and Minnesota Twins spring training facilities.

"This month-long series includes week-long age division tournaments, including ages 25 and older, 38 and older, 48 and older, 55 and older, 60 and older, 65 and older, and even 70 and older players, not to mention a women's division too!"

Pierce had previously played for the Colts' 38 and older and 48 and older teams before settling into the 55 and older team. In 2011, his 55 and older team lost in the AA bracket finals, with Pierce throwing the "save" in the semi-final game and starting on the mound for the championship game.

In 2012, he was asked to not only play with the 55 and older team again, but to "play up" to the 60 and older team as they are allowed to have three underage, non-pitchers playing on the team.

"I consented to make the two-week trip to Florida without family, as my two teenage children were still in school during that time," Pierce said.

Pierce's participation in the 2012 World Series saw him turn his fortunes around. Not only did his 55 and older team win the A Bracket tournament, he also earned team Most Valuable Player honors for his pitching (one complete nine inning game), errorless play at third base, as well as earning top batting honors.

Since he was underage and unable to pitch for the 60 and older team, Pierce held down the starting position at third base and batted anywhere from third to fifth in the batting order.

"As luck with lots of skill would have it, the 60 and older team (in only its second year at the World Series) walked away with the AA Bracket championship, and believe it or not, my impeccable play at third base and dominating bat at the plate, again earned my team MVP honors," Pierce said. Two World Series championships and two MVP awards in one year are not bad for the 'Old Guy,'" Pierce said.

Pierce's MVRHBL season is getting ready to start again this year. Upon his eventual return from Florida this year, he will have less than two months left of his 37-1/2 year Air Force career. He will retire Jan. 8, 2014, the day before his 60th birthday.

"My ultimate sight right now is on travelling back to Florida for another two weeks this November to defend my two World Series championships and bring home two more World Series rings. After that, I'll be focusing on my retirement."