It was the top of the 238th inning at GCS Ballpark, but the veterans who were trying to break a world record and raise money for a nonprofit that helps veterans weren’t slowing down.
Through severe thunderstorms, injuries and fatigue, 56 players took to the field in four- to six-hour shifts in what they hoped would become a 72-hour game. They aimed to surpass their own 2015 record of 70 hours, nine minutes and 24 seconds.
One team, fresh off their break, was just heading back onto the field. Their shift will go until 2 a.m., but after that’s done, it’s smooth sailing from there.
For Michael Martin, a 49-year-old St. Louis native, making it through the 72-hour goal isn’t hard. He’s done it four times before, raising money for victims of the Joplin, Missouri tornado and BackStoppers. This time, the 72-hour game is raising money for The Mission Continues, a nonprofit organization that empowers veterans to adjust to life back home and serve their communities in new ways. They aim to raise $100,000.
As of Sunday morning, participants had raised a little more than $90,000.
But even after 60 hours at the ballpark, Martin isn’t sick of playing the game. “No, never,” he said, laughing. “I wouldn’t be here if we were.”
As of 8 p.m. Sunday, he’d pitched 62 innings. He aimed to get to 73, beating his personal record of 72 innings. He credited his ability to throw so much from his past as a police officer. He was shot in the shoulder while on duty, and after surgery, he can’t feel the pain anymore. He can feel the fatigue, but that’s it.
“I don’t want to say we’re veterans, but we’re veterans,” Martin said. “When we do this so much, we know what to expect.”
193rd inning, 9 a.m. May 28
At 9 a.m. Sunday, the game had reached the 193rd inning, with the blue team scoring 279 runs and the gray team scoring 174 — the teams went only by colors, forgoing names.
The game, which is free and open to the public, should end around 10 a.m. Monday. Veterans from around the country took to the field at 7:40 a.m. Friday morning and didn’t stop despite a thunderstorm Saturday evening that brought lightning, strong winds and rains.
“We were all wondering whether we would get struck by lightning,” said Joshua Arntson, a 32-year-old Navy veteran from Albuquerque, New Mexico. “If they suspend the game, it’s over, which would have been a shame.”
The forecast called for a slight chance of thunderstorms Sunday and Memorial Day.
Arntson served in the Navy from 2003 to 2007 as a boatswain — a ship’s deck supervisor — and later in the Board, Search and Seizure Team. Now, he works for The Mission Continues as a national project manager. He played baseball for two years in junior college.
When he agreed to play in the marathon game, he said he didn’t give it much thought.
“I thought, ‘72 hours, that’s a lot,’ but I didn’t really think about how long that really is when you’re playing baseball,” Arntson said.
Arntson has been sleeping between shifts in the ballpark’s clubhouse along with several other players. Park managers allowed players to sleep there, while other players slept in tents or RVs, said Amanda Mahurin, a development director for The Mission Continues.
The game also marked a milestone in marathon baseball history — this is the first year women were allowed to play.
One woman, Jackiee Carbery, 26, of Los Angeles said she didn’t hesitate to sign up. She works as an event specialist for The Mission Continues and played softball from the age of 8 to 13. She’s not a veteran, but she says she “really believes in the mission.”
“This is my way to serve my organization,” Carbery said. “It’s a mental game, it’s a physical game, and I think it has gone really well. The guys have been really great.”
Carbery said several young female spectators who saw her out playing alongside the guys told her she inspired them.
“This is the first time they could see somebody out there that looks like them,” Carbery said. “This just proves women can do it and should do it.”
Mahurin, the group’s development director, said two men, JC Rudden and Chuck Williams, have organized several record-breaking games through their events, each with their own cause. Rudden told the Belleville News-Democrat that he and Williams have partnered with athletes and friends “to turn our love of baseball into these overwhelmingly successful fund-raising events for some amazing causes.”
As the game continued Sunday, players were moving pretty slowly, though both teams managed to score some runs.
“My whole body feels like it’s full of lead,” Carbery said.
The record-breaking 2015 game was played by Team Dinos’ Logistics and Team Tom Lange Company. The final score for the game was Team Dinos’ Logistics: 267, Team Tom Lange Produce: 242, according to Guinness World Records. All proceeds benefited the Mighty Oakes Heart Foundation.
The Mission Continues is a St. Louis-based non-profit organization founded in 2007 by now Missouri Gov. Eric Greitens.