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Would-be senior headed to Iraq

Second baseman Matthew Craig set many records at Limestone College, with a promising return next season. Instead, Craig will sit this season out and trade his baseball uniform for army fatigues.
“It was something I always wanted to do since I was little,” Craig said of signing up for the Army Reserves in 2001. “I always thought that you should serve for at least a year. Its a good idea to teach you how to be on your own for awhile.”
Craig left for New Jersey Tuesday to train eight weeks at Fort Dix before his tour in Iraq.
“I have no idea what is going to happen in the next eight weeks before we go overseas,” Craig said. “We’ll go up north and go through different kinds of training. They haven’t really told us what we’re going to be doing.”
Mixed feelings accompany Craig about his leave for duty, but he feels the job must be finished.
“I’d rather be at home with the AC then out training,” he said. “I really can’t describe it, 50 percent of me says let’s go right now and the other says let’s not go at all.”
As far as the war goes, Craig believes the U.S. involvement is justified.
“I think the war in general wasn’t a bad idea,” Craig said. “It had to be done. It was right to get Saddam out of power, from abusing his people.
“Since we got him, we can’t leave,” he said. “We have to finish what we started and rebuild everything and put the working government and military in place.”
Craig will spend one year in Iraq, where he is a member of the 505th Engineering Battalion.
“We’re engineers, so we’ll be rebuilding things,” he said. “We will have missions. We don’t know what they’ll be, but it will pertain to engineering.”
Baseball played an important role in Craig’s life, long before he began at Limestone or the Army Reserves.
“His whole life has been wrapped around baseball,” said Larry Craig, Matthew’s father. “He’s played baseball ever since he began playing T-ball for West Lincoln Optimist.”
Craig went on to play for West Lincoln Middle and High School and then for Cherryville Legion.
“When he played for Cherryville Legion, they won district state and came in second place in the world series. He’s had an exciting baseball career, getting to advance that far,” said Larry.
While at Limestone, Craig led the team in batting averages and hitting streaks.
“I started 30 games as a sophomore,” Craig said. “I played in five or six games as a freshman. I was second in batting average sophomore year.”
Last season, Craig was awarded the Second-team-All Carolina-Virginia Athletics Conference honors for his outstanding play.
“We won a conference this year for the first time in Limestone history,” Craig said of his team winning the CVAC.
Craig recorded a team-high 21 multiple-hit games last year, with a team best 17-game hitting streak, hitting .443 with two home runs and 19 RBI.
“Matt basically, last year, was the heart and soul of our ball club,” said Limestone Coach Chico Lombardi.
“He’s such a competitor and has a burning desire to win. He was a real inspiration to all of our players and coaches,” Lombardi said.
“He worked so hard to achieve the success he had, the last two years he led us in hitting.”
The Saints will miss Craig while he is in Iraq, but Lombardi says the door is open for his return.
“For him to lose his last year is really a disappointment, but we understand the reasons,” he said. “Matt is totally committed. We haven’t replaced him, we have a couple players battling for that position, but we wont replace him.”
Although Craig will spend his would-be senior year in Iraq, he already has plans for his return and future endeavors.
“I am going to go back to college and finish my degree in computer science and finish my last year in baseball,” he said. “I thought about going to the Major League Umpiring School and work my way into the big leagues umpiring.”
While Craig is braving the heat of Iraq, his family, friends and teammates will keep him in their thoughts.
“We’re really proud of him, he’s been a good kid,” Larry Craig said. “I just hope all goes well for him overseas and we ask folks to remember him in their prayers.”

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