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Soldier to walk out first pitch for Tigers

by Andrew Moser

April 27, 2011

Pvt. First Class Kelsey Oliver (center), a 2008 Oxford High School graduate, poses with the staff of Downtown Salon. Photo by Andrew Moser.
United States Army Pvt. First Class Kelsey Oliver is going to have a 21st birthday to remember next week.

Oliver, a 2008 graduate of Oxford High School, is home on leave from South Korea. She will receive the ultimate birthday present for a girl who holds a special place in her heart for her beloved Detroit Tigers.

She will get to walk out the game ball and deliver it to the umpire when the Tigers take on the New York Yankees on Monday, May 2 at 7:05 p.m.

"I'm so excited," Oliver said.

Oliver currently has 18 months left on her first overseas tour of duty, but has come home for three weeks in order to spend Easter, her birthday and Mother's Day with her family.

"She said it would be important for her to be home for Easter, her birthday and Mother's Day this year because she missed them all last year," Kelsey's mother Pam Oliver said.

The idea to honor Kelsey at the Tigers game came after Kelsey told her mother the only thing she wanted to do on her birthday was attend a Tigers game with her family.

When Pam heard that response, it got her thinking something special should be done for her. Then she got the idea to try and get Kelsey on the field for some of the pregame festivities.

"I said wouldn't it be awesome for her to be here on leave, on her 21st birthday, to throw out the first pitch," Pam said.

It didn't take long for Pam, who works at Downtown Salon in Oxford, to find someone with connections to the Ilitch family to ask if it would be possible. She heard back the very next day when her co-worker brought in forms for Pam to fill out.

After filling out the proper forms and submitting them, Pam heard back a few weeks later when they received a letter requesting more information about Kelsey.

"After that, they sent us the letter saying congratulations, Pvt. Oliver has been chosen to walk out the first pitch on her birthday," Pam said.

"It is so exciting because we have over 100 people from this town and relatives that are going to the game," she added. "She is just one of those kids that everyone knows and everyone is so proud of her. I've had so many clients go out and buy their own tickets to make sure they are at the game."

Heading into the military is nothing new for the Oliver family. Two of Kelsey's older brothers, Kevin Bautel, a 1996 OHS grad and Stephen Oliver, a 2001 OHS grad, both went into the military.

Kevin, 33, was in the Army and then spent eight years in the Army reserves. Stephen, 28, enlisted in the Navy.

Kelsey said she was always interested in joining the Army because "she wanted to do her part."

"When I first got out (of high school), I was looking into it and then kind of waited before I decided what I wanted to do," Kelsey said. "Eight months later, I signed my papers."

She has been enrolled with the Army since March 2010.

"When she told me she was going into the military, it absolutely scared me...but it was so moving when she graduated from basic training. All four of her brothers were there...my friend Amy, who owns the salon, we all had to be there for this because we were so proud of her," Pam said.

After graduating from basic training at Fort Jackson in South Carolina, Kelsey went to Oklahoma for advanced individual training in air defense.

She then proceeded to her current station at Camp Carroll in South Korea, where she serves as a battalion boss representative.

"It is something different," Kelsey said about life in South Korea. "At times you are never completely adjusted...there is something new all the time."

"There are cities that are more high tech or advanced than us, but they still have outlet stores of Dunkin Donuts and Coldstones and all those types of places," she added. "They don't drive as much, but you see a lot more trains and taxis...they keep to themselves a lot. They have their own way of living (and) they are not just going to let the Americans run their country."

After her tour is up, Kelsey plans on staying in the Army and working towards a degree in Human Resources. "I just want to thank my family for their support and being there for me, and Downtown Salon and my friends for supporting me as long as I have been over there," Kelsey said. "There are cities that are more high tech or advanced than us, but they still have outlet stores of Dunkin Donuts and Coldstones and all those types of places," she added. "They don't drive as much, but you see a lot more trains and taxis...they keep to themselves a lot. They have their own way of living (and) they are not just going to let the Americans run their country."

After her tour is up, Kelsey plans on staying in the Army and working towards a degree in Human Resources. "I just want to thank my family for their support and being there for me, and Downtown Salon and my friends for supporting me as long as I have been over there," Kelsey said.