Take me out to the ballgame: Couple honored for 25 years of service to Academy baseball, cadets

  • Published
  • By Amber Baillie
  • Academy Public Affairs
A Colorado Springs couple was honored during the Falcons baseball game May 10 for their sponsorship of countless players and unconditional support to the team since the early '80s.

Retired Col. Don Mueller threw the first pitch and he and his wife, Pat, were presented a framed Air Force jersey and plaque during the pregame ceremony by head baseball coach Mike Kazlausky and Bobby Johnson, Class of '87, who the Muellers once sponsored.

Through the Cadet Sponsor Program, the Muellers sponsored over 10 players on the Falcons baseball team, attending every home game and passing desserts.

"They opened their home and were a true second family to all of us," Johnson said. "They threw us super bowl parties, end-of-season parties and attended our graduations and swearing-in ceremonies."

Due to Pat's love for All-American sport--watching the St. Louis Cardinals play on television as a kid--the Muellers' took interest in the Academy's program and decided to sponsor Academy baseball player Steve Seroka, Class of '84. They continued to sponsor a new cadet after each player graduated.

"I remember when Steve tore his ACL and Pat took him to and from his rehabilitation appointments for six months," Mueller said. "We were almost like surrogate parents to the cadets. We wanted to provide them a family environment and cook meals for them they couldn't get at Mitchell Hall."

Pat was recently diagnosed with end stage heart failure. Don said as soon as Mike White, Class of '88 and a cadet the Muellers sponsored, heard about her diagnosis - he paid a visit to them.

"We've kept in touch with most of the players and have saved their Christmas cards," Don said. "Bobby flew all the way from New York to help coordinate this ceremony. It means a lot to us."

The Muellers moved to Colorado Springs in 1978. Don taught in the Astronautics Department here from 1964 to 1968 and wrote the textbook, "Fundamentals of Astrodynamics." Don retired from the Air Force in 1977 and continued to tutor cadets he sponsored.

"I hadn't seen the Muellers in 20 years," Johnson said. "It's a great program (Cadet Sponsor Program) and they took it above and beyond. They're very loyal people and provided me a place to be normal, have some downtime and get away from the grinds of the Academy."

About 30 people attended the ceremony including the Muellers' daughter, Carolyn, and her husband, Ryan.

"The Muellers were surprised and thrilled," Johnson said. "As the current players thanked them, Mrs. Mueller, who is now legally blind and on oxygen, said to each player, 'Go beat those guys' and 'I hope you have nice sponsors.' It was very touching."