Team Gold Wins NVWG Wheelchair Softball Championship
After his father’s Gold “Omaha” Team won the wheelchair softball gold medal, Jesse Lind’s 9-year-old son, Julian, found the championship game ball and came up to his dad to ask him an important question Monday night.
He wanted to know if he had something to sign it with inside the Kentucky International Convention Center at the 39th National Veterans Wheelchair Games (NVWG) in Louisville, Ky.
“He just came over and asked me if I had a pen. And I’m like ‘for what?’ He showed me the ball and he wanted to do that, and I said, ‘Get a marker.’ And he said ‘cool’, and then he started going around,” said the 38-year-old Marine Corps veteran, who was sustained T10, T12 and L2 injuries in a 1999 automobile accident. “I think he started a little too late, might not get everybody but that was totally his idea.”
Team Gold (“Omaha”) defeated Team Navy Blue (“War Emblem”), 12-4, to capture the gold medal. Robert York had a two-RBI single to lead Team Gold, while Lind had a hit. Team Purple (“Jet Pilot”) took the bronze, defeating Team Blue (“Seattle Slew”), 11-6, earlier in the evening. All the wheelchair softball teams team names were named after Kentucky Derby winning horses.
This marks Lind’s sixth NVWG and he’s big on taking his family. His wife, Stacey, and son joined him and watched him play first base in the title game.
“He’s (Julian’s) been coming since he was 3 years old,” said Lind, who won silver medals in boccia ball and the obstacle course known as slalom and also competed in wheelchair basketball and track events. “When I used to win these medals, he’d be on my lap taking the pictures and he’s still taking them. I think it’s a beautiful thing.”
Gold Team member Orlando Perez also believes the NVWG are a beautiful thing.
The 44-year-old Army veteran and Salt Lake City resident has come to the NVWG 17 out of the last 20 years. He scored a run for Team Gold.
“It’s the Games. It’s what the National Veterans Wheelchair Games do. I started at these Games back in ‘99 in Puerto Rico. I was basically forced into the Games by my family, and I fell in love,” said Perez, who sustained a T4 injury after having a tumor removed out of his spine in 1995. “It just gave me that same energy to just fight depression, go get myself a scholarship, play wheelchair basketball, represent my country, do everything in life I could put my mind into. It happens these games just gave me so much energy. It’s unbelievable just meeting all these people, all these amazing people that put this together. They’re your family.”