- Associated Press - Wednesday, July 16, 2014

ALTOONA, Pa. (AP) - Josh Wege belted a softball about 320 feet to the warning track and booked it around the bases for an inside-the-park home run.

No one would have known watching him run that he had both legs amputated below the knees just a few years ago.

Several former Altoona Curve players returned to town Tuesday night to take part in a charity softball game. And even though several of them are former major league players, they were not the heroes or role models taking part in the game at Peoples Natural Gas Field.

“I consider my teammates heroes,” said Wege, a former marine and member of the Wounded Warrior Amputee Softball Team.

The traveling group of inspirational players was a big hit Tuesday before about 4,894 fans, who gave the amputee softball players several standing ovations.

“This is a comeback story, and that’s what you see out there,” said Wege, who lost both of his legs from an explosion in Afghanistan in 2009.

Wege wears prosthetics, as do many members of the Wounded Warrior team, but they still showed a great deal of athletic ability.

Wege’s ball sailed over the head of former Pirates center fielder Tike Redman and turned into a three-run homer as he chugged around the bases.

The Wounded Warrior team collected 16 hits and scored five runs, while the former Curve stars pounded out 26 hits and 17 runs, including a homer over the fence by current coach Miles Durham.

“This is a dream,” Wounded Warrior pitcher Tom Carlo, a former marine who lost his right leg in a car accident, said of the game atmosphere. “It’s like being a pro ballplayer, especially coming to events like this where you’ve got the pro locker room, pro stadium. Everybody has treated us like professional ballplayers. It’s pretty awesome.”

Every member of the Wounded Warrior team has an inspirational story, and Carlo’s is especially so, given that he’s been fighting liver cancer for a year and a half.

“He’s out here spitting up blood, but he’s still playing. Imagine that heart,” Wege said of his teammate.

The Wounded Warrior team certainly impressed the former pro ballplayers.

“It was pretty special to see,” Altoona Curve legend Adam Hyzdu said.

“To see them out there, all the amputees, the one guy that was hitting didn’t have hands, so he hooked a bat to his hand.”

The Curve will host the Eastern League All-Star Game tonight, and fans will get to see some of the sport’s best young players.

But it will be hard to top what the fans saw Tuesday, which was some of the country’s finest overcoming enormous odds, just to be able to play ball.

“Most of America would be proud that these are the guys you had protecting this nation,” Wege said. “Even though we’re not in the service anymore, we’re still representing our military, and we always will.”

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Online:

http://bit.ly/1yqnY7S

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Information from: Altoona Mirror, http://www.altoonamirror.com

Copyright © 2016 The Washington Times, LLC.

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