MODESTO — Three times in Saturday's Wounded Warriors softball game, Greg Reynolds stepped to the plate and slapped clean singles into the outfield.
The impressive part wasn't that he was doing it with one arm, or even that he is part of a team on which almost everyone is missing a limb.
No, the real miracle behind the performance of the Massachusetts resident was the emotional strength it took for Reynolds to make it this far, to softball, to Modesto, after he lost two things in an accident shortly after serving in Iraq: an arm and his will to live.
His story is common. Too common, and shared by several of his teammates on this barnstorming softball team that played a group from the Stanislaus Senior Softball Association at John Thurman Field.
"The first year was rough," Reynolds said. "I never cried so much in my life. I wanted to die, and that's what I told my mom. She told me to make a promise that I'd give it one more year without killing myself, and if at the end of that year I still wanted to kill myself, then she'd find a way to put me out of my misery.
"That set something off in my head. If my mom was willing to say that and do that for me, then maybe things weren't as bad as I thought. Since that time, there's been no looking back, and here I am playing softball with some of the best amputee athletes in the country."
Oh, yeah. Softball. The Wounded Warriors defeated the local seniors 18-10 in the six-inning game in front of about 2,000 well-baked fans. Afterward, Joe Savage, representing senior softball, handed Wounded Warriors team manager David Van Slaat a check for $63,628.
By the time all the proceeds are totaled, the Wounded Warriors team will have received in excess of $70,000 from its first trip to Northern California, and this is where this story starts to get special.
Last month, thanks to donations similar to this one, the softball team held a camp for 20 young amputees at Disney World's ESPN Wide World of Sports in Orlando, Fla. Two of those young campers Ethan Perez and Garrett Newberry served as bat boys in Saturday's game.
"We get to travel around the country playing softball," said Saul Bosquez, a New Hampshire resident who lost his leg below the left knee to an improvised explosive device in Iraq in 2007. "But there's also kids out here like Ethan and Garrett. They get to be around guys who are injured like they are.
"We got injured when we were 21 or 22 years old. I can't imagine getting injured like this when I was 8 or 9. That's heartbreaking to me, but then you see them running around playing and see how much they enjoy being around us."
Reynolds, who served as a coach at the most recent camp, said one of the high points was teaching two children who had lost arms something most of us take for granted how to tie their own shoelaces.
"They weren't aware of the one-handed shoe-tying method because it wasn't part of their therapy," Reynolds said. "Usually, the mom would have to come out and pull them out of the activity to tie their shoes.
"But by the end of the week, that was an area in which they became self-sufficient. The kids got so pumped about that because it meant they could wear shoes that didn't have Velcro straps, and kids think Velcro shoes are ugly."
There were a couple of great moments in the game, but none more so than when Todd Reed, who became an amputee in 1991 during Operation Desert Storm and who is almost old enough to play on the senior team, scored from second base on a short outfield fly.
But what wasn't seen from the stands was equally remarkable. Because of the heat, many of the players upon returning to the dugout had to remove their prosthetic limbs and dry them off between innings to avoid blistering.
And one player, Army veteran Nick Clark of suburban Seattle, was sickened by the valley heat and had to sit out the final few innings.
But what started in the dugout, extended onto the field and seeped into the stands was the camaraderie of these Wounded Warriors. They're on this team for each other and don't mind at all that their loss of limb creates a sense of wonder and curiosity wherever they go.
"People ask us all the time about how bad our injuries are, but we all know our injuries are nothing compared to a lot of other guys," Bosquez said. "Even on this team, we have guys missing both legs and there are guys at Walter Reed missing all their arms and legs.
"In life, there's always someone worse off than you. It's OK to complain about it a little bit, but get over it and get back out there. That's what this team is all about."
Bee staff writer Brian VanderBeek can be reached at (209) 578-2150 or follow him on Twitter, @modestobeek.