Sports · War

In Rochester, baseball is salve for the wounds of war

The Vietnam War isn’t over for a lot of people and the Rochester Post-Bulletin‘s lovely feature about Ray Winkels is proof of that.

Ray is in a wheelchair thanks to Vietnam.

“I saw shrapnel metal flying around everyone one night,” Winkels tells the PB. “They shot a big hole in our carrier truck. We’d sleep in a bunker at night, with mosquito netting on top of you. And you never knew when Charlie was going to drop one on you.”

For the past 49 years, he says he’s been trying to get his life back together. He still has a hard time trusting people, he says.

He wasn’t physically hurt in Vietnam. His nerves were shot, causing balance issues. Sixteen years ago, he landed in a wheelchair.

He has one source of joy, however. Baseball.

He’s an umpire. In a wheelchair.

“I didn’t want to just sit around the house,” said Winkels, who has umpired youth baseball for the last 12 years. “I like baseball very much and I like seeing the excitement on the kids’ faces when they’re playing.”

He calls balls and strikes while connected to an oxygen tank, the result of exposure to Agent Orange, he thinks.

It’s a good Friday read.