TribLIVE

| Neighborhoods

 
Larger text Larger text Smaller text Smaller text | Order Photo Reprints

West Point Little League teams 'adopt' Marines

Guy Wathen | Tribune-Review - United States Marines Adam Derco (left) and Clayton Hefner display the shirts that will be worn by two West Point teams in their honor in Hempfield on April 13, 2013.
<div style='float:right;width:100%;' align='right'><em>Guy Wathen | Tribune-Review</em></div>United States Marines Adam Derco (left) and Clayton Hefner display the shirts that will be worn by two West Point teams in their honor in Hempfield on April 13, 2013.
Guy Wathen | Tribune-Review - Clayton Hefner, a U.S. Marine who will soon be deployed to Afghanistan, greets the West Point Little League team that adopted him in Hempfield on April 13, 2013.
<div style='float:right;width:100%;' align='right'><em>Guy Wathen | Tribune-Review</em></div>Clayton Hefner, a U.S. Marine who will soon be deployed to Afghanistan, greets the West Point Little League team that adopted him in Hempfield on April 13, 2013.

Email Newsletters

Click here to sign up for one of our email newsletters.

Call to action

General donations for the Patriot Program for billboards for local service members can be sponsored for the season by visiting the West Point Little League's website at leaguelineup.com/westpoint.

Donations will be pooled and league officials “will find a local service person from the local recruiter's office and take it from there,” the website said.

The money will be used to honor the troops on billboards and to send care packages overseas.

Donations for the program can be mailed to West Point Little League Treasurer, 116 Skyview Drive, Greensburg, PA 15601-8549.

'American Coyotes' Series

Traveling by Jeep, boat and foot, Tribune-Review investigative reporter Carl Prine and photojournalist Justin Merriman covered nearly 2,000 miles over two months along the border with Mexico to report on coyotes — the human traffickers who bring illegal immigrants into the United States. Most are Americans working for money and/or drugs. This series reports how their operations have a major impact on life for residents and the environment along the border — and beyond.

Thursday, April 25, 2013, 8:55 p.m.
 

Clayton Hefner and Adam Derco thought nothing of it when their parents said they had lined them up to move a refrigerator one Saturday afternoon.

After all, that's what happens when you're big, strong and 20 years old.

But then their parents steered their cars toward the West Point Little League baseball fields.

And that's where they learned they had been “adopted” by two Little League teams.

The two Hempfield Class of 2011 graduates grew up together and joined the Marine Corps. They are assigned to the same battalion, which will soon be deployed to Afghanistan.

On April 13, the pair were called in front of a group behind a backstop on a field and were surprised by Chris Hefner, Clayton's father.

He presented T-shirts to one T-ball team and one rookie team with “We support Adam Derco, USMC” and “We support Clayton Hefner, USMC” emblazoned on the backs.

Chris Hefner started the Patriot Program to boost sponsorships for the league's teams, honoring a service member instead of a business on the backs of players' T-shirts.

“It sort of evolved from me just doing it for my son,” he said.

The players, who range in age from 4 to 8 from Hempfield, Greensburg and Unity, will act as pen pals to the Marines while they're overseas. Their days will be brightened with team pictures, care packages and letters sent by the players.

“This way, the league wins, the military person wins, and the kids get an idea of community service,” Chris Hefner said.

The presentation and show of support took Hefner and Derco by surprise.

“I was shocked. I felt honored because I basically grew up here every summer,” Clayton Hefner said.

Both Marines received many well wishes from the players' parents and league organizers who turned up for the short presentation of the T-shirts.

“I think it's going to be great for their morale,” said Anthony Derco, Adam's father. “Being away from home in a foreign country is tough enough. Having that support from home is going to be a big help.”

His son played baseball from age 4 until 16 with Youngwood's recreation program. That program is starting inter-league play this year with West Point, where Clayton Hefner played for a dozen seasons.

Both men played baseball in their late teens for the American Legion.

“(Clayton) had the opportunity to play college baseball, but he wasn't ready to go to college,” Chris Hefner said.

Adam Derco decided on the Marine Corps after he realized he wanted to follow in his uncle's footsteps and become a trooper with state police, which gives preference to veterans, Chris Hefner said.

Both are lance corporals preparing for seven-month tours of duty with the 2nd Battalion, 8th Marine Regiment.

They have returned to Camp LeJeune in Jacksonville, N.C., preparing to head overseas.

League President Fred Aiello said the idea came a little close to the deadline to sponsor other T-shirts, but he hopes participation increases next year.

Leagues in Ligonier and Bullskin have expressed interest in similar sponsorship programs, Chris Hefner said.

After spending so much time on the Hempfield diamonds, Clayton Hefner said, he is glad he'll be thought of during games while he's thousands of miles away.

“It's nice to have the baseball community behind me,” he said. “I'll still have a part of me back here while I'm gone.”

Stacey Federoff is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 724-836-6660 or sfederoff@tribweb.com.

Subscribe today! Click here for our subscription offers.

 

 

 


Show commenting policy

Most-Read Hempfield

  1. Greensburg Salem grad, grandma fulfill dream with trip to Japan
  2. Youngwood Shop ‘n Save donates to veterans’ foundation
  3. Final preparations under way for Hempfield Township Community Days
  4. Youngwood businessman’s bocce project finally gets rolling
  5. Soggy summer rough on Western Pa. farmers markets
  6. Youngwood council envisions steering committee to devise community plan