Star Wars Night was extra special for members of the F-35 Integrated Test Force from Edwards Air Force Base, Calif., as they came to cheer for their squadron commander Lt. Col Andrew “Growler” Allen and Lockheed Martin Site Director Michael Glass, as the pair threw out the first two pitches of the evening at JetHawk Stadium.
Allen’s baseball career got off to a terrific start playing at Owasso, Okla., the number one high school baseball team in the nation. For the first time in a long time, Allen, once a star pitcher at the Air Force Academy, was on the mound again, where he managed to brush off the rust- just enough to bounce one across home plate.
Glass, a crafty lefty, hung one high and outside, that the wind caught- of course.
“It was a bucket list moment to be throwing on the pitcher’s mound of Houston Astros High-A ball team, the JetHawks, to a professional baseball player squatting at home plate. For a true baseball purist, I loved it!” said Glass.
Fortunately, their shared love of the game has helped create a stronger working relationship.
When Allen first met Glass in his F-35 office and saw his baseball paraphernalia he felt an instant bond. “You know when a guy loves baseball and wears cowboy boots, you know you’re off to a good start,” explained Allen. “There was an immediate language we could speak together.”
Besides aircraft, it was something else they could reminisce about and relate to. “In our organization it is inherently critical that we relate with complete trust, honesty and truth … at our level we hope to have that tone and that it flows down into the organization. If I try to relate something about flying to him that he may not understand, I try to put it into baseball terms,” joked Allen.
“Except he is a Yankees fan so that doesn’t really go over,” laughs Glass.
Glass grew up in Louisville playing Babe Ruth baseball and in high school he played American Legion Baseball. He also excelled at football but baseball was the game he loved the most.
“My father was a huge Cincinnati Reds fan and listened to every Reds game on the radio. I became a Red Machine fanatic too,” said Glass. He and his father would throw ball at least once a week until he started throwing harder than his father.
“When I was 15 he died. It broke my heart that he wasn’t around to throw the ball with me. You know when you’re a teenager and you’re too busy hanging with your friends- well, looking back I wish I would have played more catch with my dad when he wanted to.”
The only foul ball he ever caught in his life was in game three of the 1979 World Series between the Pittsburgh Pirates and the Baltimore Orioles. “Amazing! It was in the first inning and John Candelaria was pitching to Eddie Murray. Murray fouled off the first pitch and I caught it barehanded on the fly, seven rows behind the first base dugout. It was one of the greatest thrills of my life and I was captured on national TV jumping up and down like a lunatic!”
His F-35 office holds some of his favorite treasures: a bat from the 1979 Pittsburg Pirates World Series Championship and a very special seat.
“The seat is my favorite and gets lots of attention because it is so unique. It came out of old Arlington Stadium, former home of the Texas Rangers until it was demolished in 1994. It’s a brown seat whicch were the most expensive seats in its day,” said Glass. An ad in the Fort Worth paper before the demolition said 100 seats were available for $50 each and for $50 more you could get it signed by Nolan Ryan. “I chose the Nolan seat with the biggest signature of the Hall of Famer anywhere. I love it!”
When it comes to building the world’s newest and deadliest fighter, they are 100 percent on the same team; however, when it comes down to who can throw the best first pitch – there is quite the dogfight.