Across the United States, sports leagues show their appreciation for the military in many ways: the NFL has the month of November dedicated as Salute to Service, NBA teams have Military Appreciation nights and MLB teams honor active personnel and veterans throughout the season.
For the Washington Nationals organization, one of their special events for military members is the Base HIIT Program. Multiple times a year, the Nationals invites service members from across the East Coast to Nationals Park in Washington, D.C. to participate in a physical training routine like no other.
Lance Corporal Luke Ojeda of the United States Marine Corps was one of the members who had the opportunity to attend this past year.
“It was just like our PT (physical training),” Ojeda said. “The organization (the Nationals), they do this to support the military and military families.”
Base HIIT is described by the Nationals as a “high-intensity interval training workout,” where military members participate in a rotation of five-minute drills throughout the stadium. The event provides a new experience for service members to, not just get a workout, but also spend their morning at a major league ballpark.
The Nationals staff members who run the event wake up at 6 a.m., drive to the stadium, and man each workout station, rotating every group of participants through the ballpark from the field, to the stairways, to the bullpens.
Sean Hudson, director of military affairs at the Washington Nationals Community Relations department, oversees the event, which is held six times during the year.
“We have members from every branch of the military come, so Army, Navy, Air Force, Marines, Coast Guard, and this year, we had Space Force members as well,” Hudson said. “(The environment) is electric in a way, it creates some friendly interservice trash talk and they have that competitive nature and fire.”
The workout lasts for about ninety total minutes with various exercises, but the most famous stop during the day is titled the “Wheel of Death.”
Each member in the routine must drop in two rows into a push-up position and high-five the person in front of them before doing another push-up and rotating around to the next person. Rinse and repeat; the last man standing wins.
Ojeda was one of the participants this year who found himself in the final round of the Wheel of Death.
“I was toe to toe with an army sergeant major, and I probably did 100 pushups, and I came out on top,” Ojeda said. “I enjoyed it, it was a genuinely good workout. It was definitely worth my time.”
While the Base HIIT Program may be one of the most exciting ways the Nationals show their military appreciation, it certainly isn’t the only one. Washington’s hometown team also hosts events like a military softball tournament called the “Battle of the Bases” and free ticket days for service members.
But Base HIIT is sure to stay at the forefront of many participants’ minds.
“We are very proud to support our military,” Hudson said. “A huge shout out to our men and women in uniform, the Nats staff, volunteers, and John Turnour (Director of Field Operations) and the grounds team that lets us put on this event during the season.”