A three-game series in Summerlin, Nev., Sept. 30-Oct. 2, 2022, decided Minor League Baseball’s champion for the 2022 season and helped launch Air Force Recruiting Service’s fiscal 2023 Total Force recruiting effort.
Active and Reserve component recruiters, Airmen and advertising initiatives played roles at the Triple-A National Championship inside Las Vegas Ballpark.
“Our relationship with Minor League Baseball allows us to showcase our brand in local communities and share our Air Force story in states that don’t have a major league team,” said Master Sgt. Daniel Bedford, a program manager for Air Force Recruiting Service’s Marketing Division at Joint Base San Antonio-Randolph. “By partnering with Minor League Baseball in 2022, on a national level, we are giving recruiting numbers a lift heading into fiscal 2023.”
Through AFRS, Bedford, a full-time member of the Air National Guard, has worked with minor league teams since 2017. In 2022 he orchestrated a partnership with 20 of the league’s more than 120 teams. That effort afforded exposure to millions of viewers through commercials broadcasted on videoboards at parks and an array of social media, radio and television opportunities.
From early August 2022 to the beginning of October, Air Force recruiters attended more than 160 games and met with fans to generate interest in service with the active Air Force, Air Force Reserve, ANG and Space Force. For the national championship Bedford arranged for one of the components to play a symbolic role at the beginning of each game — by having an Airman throw out the first pitch.
“This is a great experience and one that not everyone gets,” said Staff Sgt. David Crane, an active component Enlisted Accessions recruiter with the 368th Recruiting Squadron in Las Vegas. Crane waved to fans alongside an infield emcee before tossing a baseball to a Reno Ace’s baseball player at home plate. “The fans, the teachers and kids that come to the game can see that those of us in uniform are people too,” Crane said.
Crane rejoined his fellow recruiters at a set of tables, side by side and draped with cloths bearing service brands and covered with recruiting brochures. He and other recruiters had conversations with men, women and children who often took mementos from the assortment of promotional items specifically selected for the baseball game venue.
Senior Master Sgt. Gabriel Silva, a Flight Chief for the 353rd RCS, was talking to one of his table’s visitors, listening intently, and texting. They shook hands and the guest walked away. “He’s prior service security forces, ready to join,” Silva said. “Within a minute of meeting him, I was able to text someone in the flight and we’ll be able to work with him this week.”
Each recruiter reported success with new leads or opportunities.
“The Nevada Air National Guard is a hidden gem,” said Tech. Sgt. Adlai Ceja, an ANG recruiter assigned to the 152nd Airlift Wing. The wing is known for its aerial support of firefighting. “Community engagement like this is important for the Guard. I often hear people say ‘I didn’t know you had this or that opportunity’.”
Despite a challenging year for recruiting overall, Ceja accomplished his goal in fiscal 2022 and was selected as Recruiter of the Year for his region. One of his recruits took the mound ahead of Game Two in the championship which featured teams from Nashville, Tenn., and Durham, N.C.
Approximately 5,800 people attended each of the three games. Some lived nearby and others were tourists or fans who traveled to support their home teams.
Game Three in the series featured the winners of the first two nights in a winner take all duel. As the zenith for minor league baseball, the game received additional national media coverage. Bedford selected the Air Force Reserve as the component to deliver the first pitch for the game which featured the Durham Bulls and Reno Aces.
“This Total Force initiative is just one great example of the synergy of effort focused on recruiting the Airmen of the future,” said Chief Master Sgt. Joe Edwards, Senior Enlisted Leader of the 726th Operations Group, Creech Air Force Base, Nev., after he stepped off of the pitcher’s mound. “We are the greatest Air Force in the world because of the Airmen that volunteer to serve, ensuring our safety, security and way of life.”
Nellis Air Force Base’s Honor Guard marched on field for the final game’s opening ceremony. The four-person team were active component enlisted Airmen.
“It truly was an honor and privilege to represent the United States Air Force and the Air Reserve Components at the Minor League Baseball championship in Las Vegas,” Edwards said. From the state-of-the-art Las Vegas Ball Park to the Nellis Air Force Base Honor Guard and the recruiter booths, this event could not have been better to reach and inspire the next generation of Airmen to begin serving or continue serving our great nation.”