CORONADO, Calif. (NNS) -- Sailors aboard USS Ronald Reagan (CVN 76) were able to get up close and personal with members of the Washington Nationals baseball team during their visit to the carrier May 1.
The Nationals, representing America's favorite pastime, found a break in their three-game series with the San Diego Padres to tour the nation's newest aircraft carrier.
"This is an amazing experience for my team," said team manger Manny Acta, who admitted he is always looking for ways to improve his team. "It gives my players a perspective on how a team works. It not only works on the field, but here on an aircraft carrier. Our visit today is a big lesson to learn that working as a team is the highest goal."
The players mingled with the officers and crew of Ronald Reagan and were given a tour of the ship by Capt. Terry B. Kraft, the ship's commanding officer.
"Sailors love sports, and there is a natural connection between Sailors and professional athletes," Kraft said. "Anytime we can get folks on board the ship, and can tell our Sailors what a great job they do, it's a win.
"The Nationals have been a first-class organization today, and it's just a super visit all around."
The players and coaches were treated to a tour of the flight deck, flight deck control, the ship's hangar bays and the bridge. It was an experience that gave the professional athletes a perspective of shipboard life.
"This trip gives us a new appreciation for what you guys do every day," said pitcher Jon Rauch. "To come out here and see what you can do with modern technology, and to see everything you go through in your daily life in order to give us our freedom, it's just unbelievable."
The highlight of the Nationals' visit was a special lunch with the crew of USS Ronald Reagan. The players helped themselves to lunch in the chow line and mingled with Sailors on the mess decks -- a thrill for many of Ronald Reagan's crew.
"They were the nicest people, and they had so many questions about the ship," said Storekeeper Seaman Recruit Leeann Baker. "It was the time of my life on board the ship so far."
The "Nats" closed out their visit with an hour-long autograph session for the crew. As the team walked off the brow and returned to their lives as professional baseball players, one underlying theme highlighted their trip.
"To see how much teamwork it takes, and to see how you stick together and do what it takes to get the job done, it is a good lesson for everybody," said catcher Brian Schneider.
Kraft echoed the sentiments of the Nationals' players.
"Five thousand great Americans man up this ship everyday, and without teamwork, we don't do anything" said Kraft. "It's a great example for any organization."
"The real heroes in America are on this ship, not playing baseball," said Nationals general manager Jim Bowden. "We wanted to make sure we came here and let everybody know how much we appreciate what they're doing for our freedom."
Ronald Reagan is currently undergoing a planned incremental availability in her homeport of San Diego.
For more news from USS Ronald Reagan, visit www.news.navy.mil/local/cvn76/.