Gathered inside the Hornets Nest, the hangar that houses the Blue
Angels, the contingent’s pre-flight briefing ended with this
delightfully, chilling message.
“This is probably going to be the
most intense roller coaster ride you guys have ever had,” said U.S.
Marines Gunnery Sgt. Micah Bachtold, the flight engineer. I get thrills
out of it every time and most of the guys do, too.”
All right, then. Blue Wahoos… welcome to the Blue Angels world.
a cherished meeting Tuesday, which occurred on a rare off day for
Pensacola’s professional baseball team, players and front staff learned
and experienced life with the U.S. Navy’s famed team headquartered at
Pensacola Naval Air Station.
They got a 15-minute thrill ride
aboard “Fat Albert,” the C-130 cargo and transport plane that leads the
Blue Angels into their air shows. It immediately followed the Blue
Angels practice at Sherman Field.
As the players and front office staff realized, Fat Albert has moves,
too. Video taken on a Go-Pro by a Blue Wahoos videographer provided
insight to an unforgettable memory. Blue Angels public affairs officers
told the Blue Wahoos it was their first time taking a team together on a
“It’s like a roller coaster, times 10. I could have
let the (vomit) come out about six times, but I held it back,” said
Blue Wahoos pitcher Daniel Wright, laughing. “I didn’t want to be the
“I appreciate the Blue Angels treating us to a nice day out here.”
Tuesday was Mike Crenshaw’s 50th birthday. He had never flown before.
But the Blue Wahoos facilities manager willingly agreed to make his
first flight on Fat Albert. The plane can hold up to 35 passengers.
Oh, the memories.
years old, and it was my first flight ever,” said Crenshaw, excitement
in his voice after exiting the plane. “And I didn’t throw up.”
were some tiny windows on the aircraft, but Crenshaw said he stared
straight ahead, getting glimpses of the blue sky, as the plane and the
crew performed in the clouds.
“The taking off part was good and
easy. But when we got up and we dropped, I said, “Holy Crap man!”
Crenshaw said. “What a birthday gift… It was incredible. Now I am
ready to get on a (passenger airliner) for real.”
There were 11
players on the flight, joined by the front office staff that included
Blue Wahoos chairman Bruce Baldwin, team president Jonathan Griffith,
along with the coaching staff. Manager Pat Kelly was among the first to
sign up for the chance.
“I would have done it by myself just to
get an opportunity to see this and experience it,” he said. “I think
it’s great for the players. It’s a once in a lifetime experience. In the
minor leagues, off days are so few and they are pretty special. But to
get a chance to do this, it’s just great.”
The other players
passed on the flight. Many were uneasy about hearing 30-percent of
people often need the plastic bags provided to expel the potential
effect of G-force and weightlessness on a body. They preferred a day at
“Don’t worry,” Bachtold said to the group inside the
Blue Angels hangar before the flight. “It’s perfectly okay. We have it
happen and that’s why we provide the bags.”
But no one on this flight got sick.
(Kelly) came up to us and asked who wanted to do it,” said Wright, who
Monday afternoon produced his best start of the season, going seven full
innings and allowing just four hits in a win at Montgomery. “I couldn’t
pass this up… even though I figured I would throw up.”
was broached by Blue Angels public affairs officer Mike Lindsey, who
has a side job as Blue Angels videographer. During Bubba Watson’s visit
on Memorial Day weekend, he asked the PGA Tour star if he wanted to go
flying with the Blues.
Watson politely declined on that idea. So it was suggested, what
about taking the players and staff on Fat Albert. It meant assembling at
Blue Wahoos stadium Tuesday morning, then taking a team bus to
“We are very nocturnal people. A lot of the guys
don’t like getting up and stuff,” said Kelly, laughing. “That was the
thing, we got back at 6:30 last night, so it actually worked out very
well. And we are home on an off day. That doesn’t happen very often.”
Video of the experience will be shown as part of the Blue Wahoos nationally-televised game August 9 on American Sports Network.
“This is really awesome,” Griffith said. “It really is the experience of a lifetime.”
Blue Angels will leave later this week for their next air show on
Saturday and Sunday at the Westmoreland County (Pa.) Air Show at the
Arnold Palmer Airport in Latrobe, Pa.
The Blue Wahoos will finish
the first half of their Southern League season at home the next five
days against the Mobile BayBears.
Blue Angels Upcoming Schedule
•Saturday-Sunday — Westmoreland County (Pa.) Air Show, Latrobe, Pa.
•June 27-28 — Evansville Freedom Festival, Evansville, Ind.
•July 4-5 — Chippewa Valley Airshow, Eau Claire, Wisc.
•July 11 — Pensacola Beach Air Show
•July 18-19 — Oregon International Air Show, Hillsboro, Ore