Dubbed America’s “most patriotic team,” the U.S. Military WarDogs offer baseball enthusiasts the chance to trade in boots for cleats.
Military members have different camaraderie within their own services, but once their feet hit the diamond, rank become nonexistent along with their branch affiliation. They are now U.S. WarDogs.
In 2018, the team was launched by taking the country’s best ball players to travel and play in minor and collegiate teams in order to raise money and awareness for veterans dealing with PTSD, suicide, unemployment, and disability.
“It’s truly unreal,” said Bruce Jazwinski, president of the U.S. Military WarDogs. “When we first started, we were showing up to batting practice with four people and wondering how in the hell are we going to do this. Then in two weeks, it became 15. Then in a month it became over 40.”
Jazwinski, who has served in the Navy since 2007, created the U.S. WarDogs as a “call to arms” for all men and women military academy ball players, active-duty service members, reservists, veterans, and military dependents who had a desire to play ball while helping veterans in need.
Although they started out with just four players in Japan, the team quickly grew with teams popping off across the country and in some places across the world.
To date, the volunteer-based nonprofit organization has 455 players total in the program, filling up seven teams located in Norfolk, Virginia; Denver, Colorado; an A and B team in San Diego, California; and teams overseas in Japan, Italy, and Spain.
The U.S. Military WarDogs do not have an official home base, but they make up for a lost home field by collaborating with teams from their communities.
According to Jazwinski, the teams have a personal goal to build relationships in its community by volunteering with veteran organizations, veteran clinics, lending a helping hand at local schools and much more. All for the love of baseball while fundraising to help another veteran.
Jazwinski said they play many games to help provide service dogs to veterans in need. For example, the U.S. WarDogs just played in a 48-team tournament in Kansas early August for a Marine who needed a service dog after serving three tours overseas.
“These guys connect with each other, and it’s a beautiful thing that happens naturally,” Jazwinski said.
With more than 400 players, military members of all branches are split amongst the seven teams playing in local games on Saturdays and Sundays between April and October, but when a tournament comes into play, six-year Army veteran and Head Coach Todd Nieuwenhuis will hand pick the best of the best 455 players to represent the organization.
“It’s kind of amazing,” Nieuwenhuis said. “It’s just a cool way to get this collage of different branches and different personalities and in the way their military branch brings them up.”
According to Nieuwenhuis, the U.S. WarDogs has representation from each military branch, including one player from the Space Force.
Both Nieuwenhuis and Jazwinski have a goal to get more players and teams formed across the world, especially stateside, so active-duty players will have a U.S. WarDogs team waiting for them wherever they go.
“We like to give guys an opportunity to jump from one team to the next,” Nieuwenhuis said. “Once a WarDog, always a WarDog.”
The U.S. Military WarDogs is looking to expand its teams stateside in San Antonio, Texas, and Jacksonville, Florida, next year, according to Nieuwenhuis. However, they’re always searching for other locations as well.