Wed07302014

Sports

Rangers salute fallen soldier before games


Courtesy of Laura Orella
The Rangers, a Majors team from Los Altos & Los Altos Hills Little League, pose with the parents of fallen solider Will Sigua at his memorial rock in Purissima Park. Before each game, the players touch the rock for inspiration and to honor Will, killed while fighting in Iraq in 2007. Front, from left: Ethan Lowe (kneeling), Jack Starkey, Brock Susko, Aidan Witte, Spencer Wood, Philip Martin, Matthew Waldbusser and Matthew Leong (crouching). Standing: Ben Sigua, Jackie Sigua, Will Schoppet, Jeffrey Taylor, Bill Witte, Brian Wood, Kyle Pena, Miles Bader, Lou Pena and Ken Leong.

When it comes to sports, it’s sometimes hard for kids to remember that winning isn’t everything.

But the Rangers – a Majors division (ages 11-12) team from Los Altos & Los Altos Hills Little League – are reminded of that before each game, thanks to a fallen soldier from Los Altos Hills whose legacy and love of baseball lives on at Purissima field.

The memorials that grace the far edge of the Majors Purissima Field 2 are not usually in the forefront of ball players’ minds as they take the field. However, every week the 12 boys who make up the Rangers team head out to the rock that stands as a memorial to William Mason Sigua, the Los Altos High School graduate who gave his life while fighting in Iraq in 2007. Will, as he was known, was 21 years old and a sergeant in the 505th Parachute Infantry Regiment for the 82nd Airborne Division from Fort Bragg, N.C.

The players touch the rock for inspiration and to honor Will. It also serves as a reminder to do their best and have fun playing the game they love – just like Will did.

“After warm-ups, it’s our ritual that we go out to the rock and take turns giving speeches to get us ready for our game,” said Miles Bader, a 12-year-old on the team.

Teammate Matthew Waldbusser, 11, noted that the routine helped the Rangers bond this season.

“It really brings our team together, and we really like to come here before every game,” the Loyola School fifth-grader said.

Rangers assistant coach Steve Susko, who grew up on military bases throughout the world, started the tradition so the team could be inspired by those who have given their lives for their country.

“Steve wanted the kids to put their hands on the rock and honor William,” said Brian Wood, one of the Rangers coaches, “and remember that this is why we are here. People have died to give us this freedom, and we shouldn’t take that for granted.”

The boys’ dedication to the ritual led to a surprise June 12 before they headed to Campbell for their first District 44 Tournament of Champions game (the Rangers qualified by winning their division of Los Altos & Los Altos Hills Little League the prior week).

Will’s parents Ben and Jackie Sigua – so touched by the tradition – joined the boys at their son’s memorial rock in a special ceremony. The Los Altos Hills couple told the Rangers stories about Will.

“You know, Will was no different than you,” Jackie said of her son, who attended Bullis Purissima Elementary, Egan Junior High and Los Altos High schools. “He loved to play on these fields.”

“But he was not always athletic,” Ben added. “It really wasn’t until junior high that he thrived, playing other sports, too, like football, rugby and wrestling. That’s when he realized that he could do anything.”

After Will’s death, “friends would leave letters here for him, spare tickets to a game and even a bottle of beer” at the rock, according to Ben.

Friends had honorary dog tags made in 2007 to give the family and other community members a physical remembrance of Will; the Siguas presented each Rangers player and coach with one.

“The tags say ‘Son, Brother, Hero,’ Ben read. “And you are now considered a member of our family.”

After presenting Jackie and Ben with Rangers T-shirts, the team and the Siguas gathered around the memorial rock for the inspirational ritual, each boy wearing his dog tags and touching the rock. After talking about the fallen soldier and the team’s upcoming game, Santa Rita sixth-grader Aidan Witte, 12, led the players in a closing ceremony shout out: “William on me! William on three! One, two, three William!”

The Rangers – with a smiling Ben seated in the stands – went on to win their game against the Sunnyvale Alliance Giants 10-0.

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