Royals, Hillman relish time with troops

Royals, Hillman relish time with troops

ST. PETERSBURG -- Prior to Monday afternoon's game against the Rays, it looked as if several Royals had switched teams.

When Kansas City saw the U.S. Military All-Star Team taking batting practice at Tropicana Field, several Royals began to mingle with the troops, taking photos and exchanging the team's blue tops for camouflage uniforms.

Manager Trey Hillman took it one step further, and invited the military squad to intermingle with the team and shag fly balls in the outfield during the Royals batting practice.

"I did some stuff over in Japan," Hillman said. "We had a Marine base real close to our training facility for Spring Training, we always did something with them. They had like a camp day similar to what they do here."

As a way to cap off a four-game wraparound series from Independence Day weekend, the Rays invited the USMAS to Tropicana Field for some early-morning field work and a pregame presentation.

But it was Hillman who was perhaps most appreciative of the chance to spend time with members of the armed forces. The first-year skipper swapped jerseys with a member of the squad and threw batting practice in a camouflage uniform top. Joining him in a uniform exchange were several other Royals players, including John Buck.

Monday's starting backstop, Buck -- who knew one of the USMAS infielders previously -- planned on donating his personal catching gear to the USMAS following the game.

Hillman reminisced with the media for several minutes prior to the game about softball games in Japan with members of aircraft carriers, and noted that Monday's impromptu activity was a chance "to do something for the military."

Besides a joint-infield session with the USMAS, players and coaches joined the troops for photos and casual conversation prior to Monday's Rays-Royals game.

The USMAS is an elite baseball team made up of active members of the joint armed forces that competes against other baseball programs across the country each year to promote awareness of the sacrifices the military makes every day.

The team is part of the Florida Collegiate Summer League, Florida's only wood bat summer collegiate baseball league partially funded by Major League Baseball.

The USMAS was also honored with a pregame presentation on Tropicana Field.

Brittany Ghiroli is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.