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Baseball maniac: Pope Airman pumped for MLB game

  • Published
  • By Marc Barnes
  • 43d Air Mobility Operations Group

POPE ARMY AIRFIELD, N.C. — Air Force Capt. Tim Hubler loves baseball. If his family and career didn’t keep him busy here, you might find him bouncing from one baseball stadium to the next, savoring the sights and sounds of America’s pastime while following his favorite major league team from city to city.

But this weekend, 31-year-old Tim will watch his beloved Atlanta Braves play the Miami Marlins in a way no one has watched a major league game before — a regular season home game to be played in a new ballpark here at Fort Bragg, a sprawling military base just 20 minutes from his home nearby.

Major League Baseball, the MLB Players Association and both clubs are holding the nationally-televised game here July 3 to show appreciation for Soldiers, Airmen and their families, and built a 12,500-seat ballpark at Pope Field on Fort Bragg, just inside the boundary of what used to be known as Pope Air Force Base. Tickets to the game are free, and the stands will be filled with service members and their families stationed here.

The widest grins in the new ballpark might just be on the faces of Tim and his wife Kate, who will be attending the game with their 7-month-old daughter, Hayley. Kate first saw the announcement about the game at Fort Bragg earlier this year, and she immediately thought of how excited Tim would be to hear the news.

“She sent a text and told me about the game, and I thought it was a joke,” Tim recalled. “Then she sent me a screen shot of the announcement and a link to the story, which made me think it was a very well-planned joke.”

He was thrilled when he realized that it wasn’t, and Kate was excited to share the news — she’d known from their first date that Tim was a baseball maniac.


The couple met through friends when he was a lieutenant in the Air Force, on leave from his assignment in New Mexico at the time, in his hometown of Lancaster, Pennsylvania.

“Our first conversations were about baseball,” said Kate, a native of Dunmore, Pennsylvania, about 130 miles from Lancaster. “I’m a Yankees fan, and I’d heard from someone that he liked baseball, so I brought it up when we met.”

She quickly learned that while they both loved baseball, Tim’s devotion to the sport was at another level. He nearly talked her ear off about baseball on that first date, going on and on about his passion for the game.

“She knew that I liked baseball, and I thought she ‘liked’ baseball like me, so I’m throwing out all this stuff,” Tim said, chuckling at the memory. “And I think she was like, ‘Not that much, crazy dude.’”

Kate said she enjoyed their first conversation, but even as a devoted New York Yankees fan, she’d never gotten into the off-season moves and trades and all things baseball to the extent that Tim did.

“He was saying things like, ‘Oh, they might pick up this person and this person!’ and I was thinking, ‘Tim, it’s January.’”

“She married me anyway,” Tim said, grinning widely.

Kate said she loves who Tim is and is happy to support his passion for baseball. So much in fact, that she — a long-time Yankees fan — will wear a Braves t-shirt and cheer for Tim’s team during the game this weekend.

“This is his Father’s Day gift from Hayley,” she explained, pointing to the Braves shirts both she and Hayley will wear to the Fort Bragg game. “My family may disown me, but this is for Father’s Day.”


Tim caught the baseball bug from his dad while growing up in Lancaster, just outside of the Philadelphia metro sprawl. His first major league baseball experience was a visit to watch the Phillies play in Veterans Stadium, and he was so young at the time that he can’t remember who they were playing.

With that introduction, how does a kid who grew up 90 minutes from one of the oldest teams in major league baseball became a rabid fan of a team four states and more than 700 miles away? For Tim, the answer is simple.

“It was television,” he explained. “The Braves were on TBS almost every night, so I watched them constantly.”

He says the team’s 1995 World Series title didn’t hurt either. The more he watched, the more he loved the Braves, and the more time he spent becoming a baseball maniac.

He recalls spending weekend days catching baseballs he threw against the side of his family’s brick house, nights watching Braves games on television, and countless other hours playing baseball or going to games with his dad and mom.

“My dad was an airline pilot when I was growing up, so he’d be gone for three or four days, and when he’d come home, going to baseball games is what we would do. We probably watched the Reading Phillies — a minor league team for the Philadelphia Phillies — 15 times each summer.”

But the 40-minute drive from Lancaster to watch the Reading Phillies play at Reading Municipal Memorial Stadium was a short trip compared to many of the baseball travels he had with his parents.

“When I was a kid, for our vacations we would plan day trips to drive around the northeast and hit minor league ball parks,” Tim said, “Or we’d fly down to Atlanta, and we even flew up to Maine one time.”

Through the years, they traveled farther and farther from home, visiting dozens of minor and major league teams and stadiums. His mom joined him once for a trip to watch the Braves play the Chicago Cubs at the famed Wrigley Field in Chicago.

“Greg Maddux was pitching,” Tim recalled. “He threw 76 pitches and played the entire game. He’s one of the best pitchers in history, and he showed it that day. The Braves won.”  

Tim has traveled to games in 32 major league stadiums, 52 minor league ballparks and 22 major league spring training ballparks. He’s attended home games for most of the Atlanta Braves minor league teams. He’s lacking only three current major league stadiums in his goal to visit them all — two in Florida and one in Toronto — but says he’ll make it to all of them one day.

“When vacation time comes around, (Kate and I) might have to talk about how we can have a family vacation that includes a couple of ballparks in Florida.”

As a kid, he and his parents traveled to spring training in Florida year after year, and saw the Braves play their first spring game in a new ballpark at Disney World in 1997.

He kept his ticket stubs for every game, with a couple dozen in his home here in North Carolina, while his parents safeguard the rest back home in Pennsylvania. Nearly 50 of those tickets are for major league games, and at least 20 are for his beloved Braves.

When asked about the most memorable games he attended, he mentioned the trip to Chicago with his mom, and a particularly exciting game he attended with his dad in 1999.

“He took me to see the Braves vs. Red Sox game at Fenway Park in Boston,” he said, his excitement about the game still obvious 17 years later. “We sat right next to Dale Murphy, who used to play for the Braves.

“That game was Tom Glavine against Pedro Martinez, and it was awesome. There was an electric feel to that experience. The Red Sox won, so that was disappointing, but it was a great train ride back to the hotel. I was the only one wearing Braves gear in a mass of Red Sox fans, and it was a rowdy ride. I’ll never forget that.”


By the time he graduated from high school in 2003, Tim had probably watched more baseball than most will see in a lifetime, but somehow, between all of the traveling and watching, he found time to play short stop for the Mount Calvary Christian Chargers in Elizabethtown, Pennsylvania.

He has several memorable experiences from high school baseball at Mount Calvary, including the team from his freshman year finding success on the field.

“We won a conference championship and played in the district tournament,” he said. “After conference we moved on to district, so we got to travel around the state a little playing other teams, which was cool.”

Following high school, he played short stop and second base for the Cedarville University Yellow Jackets in Cedarville, Ohio. 

“Baseball there was a lot of fun,” he says. “We would go down to Florida for spring training, and it was fun to play there every year. Once we got a chance to play a Phillies minor league team for an exhibition game down there.

“During the regular season, occasionally we would play home games at a minor league stadium in Dayton (Ohio). We got out of class all the time during baseball season and traveled all over Ohio, Kentucky, Indiana and southern Michigan to play baseball. It was just a lot of fun.”


While he’s still passionate about baseball, Tim says his focus these days is on family. Since graduating from Cedarville University, he’s joined the Air Force, married Kate, deployed to Iraq twice, lived in three different states and most recently welcomed their baby girl. With so much going on, he can’t find as much time as he used to for the game.

“I still love it, but my focus is on Kate and Hayley now,” he says. “My poor wife still has to change the channel from MLB Network every time she turns on the TV, but watching games and a few shows is about all the baseball I have time for these days.”

After his family, his Air Force career as a logistics readiness officer also takes up much of his time. He began serving at Holloman Air Force Base, New Mexico in 2007, followed by service with Air Force Reserve Officer Training Corps Detachment 750 in Philadelphia from 2011 to 2014.

He’s been at Pope Field since 2014, most recently serving as the 43d Air Mobility Squadron Aerial Port flight commander, with responsibility for making sure thousands of Soldiers and tons of cargo move safely from passenger and cargo terminals onto Air Force aircraft from Pope and other units throughout the United States. Last month, he began his current job as the executive officer in the 43d Air Mobility Operations Group.

With so much else going on, Tim said he’s looking forward to the game this weekend.

“It’s pretty exciting, and it’s unique because nothing like this has ever happened before,” he said of the Fort Bragg game. “When you’ve been to so many baseball games, unique experiences are pretty special.

“Plus, I get to do this with Kate and Hayley. This will be right up there with those experiences watching the Braves play at home, and the trips to Chicago and Boston with my parents. We appreciate the Braves and Marlins coming here and doing this — it’s going to be an unforgettable experience.”