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Pirates relish visit with SEALs

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Tuesday, May 3, 2011

SAN DIEGO -- Pitcher Joel Hanrahan wasn't sure if the Pirates' scheduled trip to visit with Navy SEALs on Monday still would take place after the events of the day before, but he couldn't be happier that it did.

Not even 24 hours after the world learned that Osama bin Laden had been killed by SEALs, the Pirates were with Special Boat Team 12, zipping around San Diego Bay and spending time with SEAL Team 3.

The experience likely would have been special regardless, but it became much more meaningful given the historical significance of the past couple of days.

"This was my second time experiencing (the SEALs trip), but obviously, this one was a little different," Hanrahan said. "I felt honored to be in their presence."

The Pirates have visited the SEALs on Coronado Island during their visits to San Diego since 2004. They were the first major league team to do so, thanks to various connections, and within the past three years, the majority of teams have started to do the same thing.

While there, the players sign memorabilia, which the SEALs then auction off to help raise money for families of fallen soldiers. Last year, they raised $90,000.

In 2010, the Pirates went to the shooting range as part of their visit.

This year, after spending some time on dry land, 27 players plus several coaching and staff members took to the water. Their boats could travel at 40 to 45 mph.

"It was awesome," catcher Ryan Doumit said. "That was probably the highlight of the day. It was pretty exhilarating. You were hanging on for dear life, and if they didn't tell you what direction they were going to turn, you'd probably have to swim home."

Outfielder Matt Diaz said the boat trip was a thrill ride, but they also got a chance to talk to the SEALs and find some common ground.

"(Killing bin Laden was a) culmination of a decade of work by guys there. They've been training for it, and they did it," Diaz said. "They were very quick to remind us, as well as the President did, that the war on terror is not over, but when you set a goal and you accomplish it, no matter how long it takes, it's a satisfying feeling.

"They told us that and said I'm sure you can relate to that as baseball players, and we could. It was amazing how many things we could relate to, whether it was the time away from family or the sacrifice made by people around you to get to do what you love. It was a great day all around."

Pitcher Paul Maholm said the SEALs didn't get into any details about the bin Laden mission, nor did the players pry. But there was no disguising how upbeat the mood was and how proud they were of their fellow SEALs.

"It's something not everybody gets to do," Maholm said of the visit. "It was cool for us to say thank you for everything they do for us."

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