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NEWS | Aug. 22, 2022

State command chaplain pitches faith as local baseball coach

By 1st Lt. Balinda O'Neal , Alaska National Guard Public Affairs

Alaska National Guard State Command Chaplain (Col.) Ted McGovern stood behind home plate in his operational camouflage pattern uniform, a stark contrast to his team’s red and blue jerseys sporting a Chinook salmon logo, as he delivered the opening prayer during a military appreciation baseball game in Chugiak, July 14, 2022.
“Our founding fathers rightly said that it was you the sovereign God of all who is the source and giver of our freedom,” McGovern prayed. “May we never take it for granted, and may we never forget those who down through the generations have stood up and defended it.”

Since 1775, Army chaplains have supported the spiritual, moral and emotional wellbeing of Soldiers and their families. McGovern serves not only the Alaska Guard family, but also the communities surrounding JBER as an assistant coach for the Chugiak-Eagle River Chinooks, a local collegiate-level baseball team.

“In both roles, chaplain and coach, one thing that they have in common is helping people,” said McGovern, explaining that his mission in the Guard enables him to help service members with whatever they are walking through in their life.

“It’s the same thing with our baseball players,” said McGovern, who is committed to developing the players both on and off the field. “The two really go together, and it’s really neat to be able to serve this way.”

In addition to helping people, McGovern said that teamwork is a common theme found in the military and sports teams.

“The Army values translate over into athletic teams,” said McGovern, who likes to concentrate on loyalty, duty and selfless service as it applies to America’s favorite pastime. “We want to do what is best for the team, and the guys will lay down a bunt sacrificing their turn at bat to make sure the team succeeds.”

Tim Barto, the president of the team’s booster club, said it was great for the team, a faith-based organization, to have both a local guy and service member mentor the young players.

“He has a very quiet presence, and his faith is very deep, and that is sensed by the ball players,” said Barto, who served in the Marines, Army National Guard and ultimately retired from the Navy Reserve. “He adds a lot to their discipleship programs because of that.”

On gamedays, the team participates in 90 minutes of discipleship before heading to the ballpark. Athletes in Action, the organization that sponsors the local team, places emphasis on helping the team members grow in their personal faith while developing their baseball skills.

“I love this organization,” said Barto. “We are a community-based team who has a parent organization that allows us to spread the gospel through athletics. That is why Chaplain Ted McGovern is such a perfect fit for this group.” 

McGovern fields questions from league players about his 29 years of Army service, from what the military and National Guard are like to what happens over drill weekend.

“For some of them, the military is going to be an option, and I hope that somehow I have shown them that they can serve,” said McGovern, who arrives after work to practice in his OCP uniform before changing into his other team’s colors. “I hope that some of them come and serve with us and if not in our state, then their state.”

Prior to becoming a chaplain, McGovern commissioned as an Army combat engineer officer through the United States Military Academy in 1993. Throughout his career, McGovern participated in operational deployments to Kuwait, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Afghanistan and Iraq.

McGovern said that while he was still on active duty God called him to ministry.

“It was as if I’d always known,” said McGovern. “Also, in that moment, as I thought back on my life, I recounted several times that God had been working on me and preparing me for this calling to serve the Lord.”

As the senior chaplain and full-time support chaplain for the AKNG, McGovern provides fundamental focus and direction of the Chaplain Corps by nurturing the living, caring for the wounded and honoring the fallen.

McGovern emphasized the importance of Alaska Guardsmen volunteering and giving back to the communities they serve in.

“I believe that the National Guard, since the founding of our country, has been a real important part of our communities,” said McGovern. “We are a community organization and this is our home.”

McGovern echoed his sentiment for service both on and off the field.

“I love to coach the game,” said McGovern, who also volunteers as a varsity baseball coach at Grace Christian High School in Anchorage. “It’s a blessing to be able to serve both teams.”

Nestled against the Chugach mountain range at the Loretta French Sports Complex, McGovern ended his prayer focusing on one of the reasons why the fans were cheering that night – appreciation and support of U.S. service members.

“As we play our game tonight, may it be a celebration of who we are as a people,” McGovern prayed. “Please oh Lord, bless our military with us tonight and please protect our men and women in uniform who serve in harm’s way, away from families and homes. We pray all this in your holy name, amen.”
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