Wounded Warriors and Celebrities Set to Play 3rd Classic After Nats-Phillies Game

We talked with “House of Cards” actress Sakina Jaffrey and amputee softball player Matt Kinsey.

By: Carol Ross Joynt

Fans at the Washington Nationals September 15 home game against the Philadelphia Phillies will get a bonus game: the third Wounded Warrior Celebrity Softball Classic, in which teams of amputees, members of the Wounded Warrior Amputee Softball Team, and celebrities will play against one another. The game will go for five or six innings, or 50 minutes—whichever comes first—and a portion of the money raised from ticket sales will go to support the team. Anyone who has a ticket for the Phillies game will be able to attend the free charity game.

The celebrities on the roster include actress Sakina Jaffrey of House of Cards, Brian Dietzen of NCIS, Olympic gold medalist Katie Ledecky, Luke Russert of NBC News, and Joint Chiefs of Staff vice chairman Admiral Sandy Winnefield. They will be augmented by members not of the Nationals themselves—who likely will be exhausted after a game—but of the larger Nationals family, including Ian Desmond’s wife, Chelsey, Scott Hairston’s wife, Jill, and Adam LaRoche’s wife, Jennifer, as well as coaches Randy Knorr and Tony Tarasco.

Among the WWAST players is Matt Kinsey, a native of Rockville, Indiana, whose right foot was amputated after he stepped on a landmine in Afghanistan on June 2, 2010. It was his second tour of duty with the army in that war zone. On Friday, we had a three-way call with Kinsey and Jaffrey.

How long have you been involved with the celebrity softball classic?

Jaffrey: I only was asked to do this about a month ago, when someone from the Nationals contacted House of Cards. I was thrilled. I have been involved with the Wounded Warriors Project. When I heard this group existed I was eager to jump in.

Kinsey: I have been with the team two and a half years, from the start, from the ground up.

How long have you each played the game?

Jaffrey: I do not play softball. I would probably be a better fit doing the beer concession. I told the Nationals I would probably be a liability. But I can run.

Kinsey: I used to be a baseball player. I am a softball player now. I probably play two to three nights a week. My position is shortstop.

What does it mean to you, Matt, to be called a “wounded warrior?”

Kinsey: It’s not something anyone ever asks for. I’d been overseas twice, and I’d never been on this side of it. You make the best of a bad situation. I’m very proud of what I’ve done for the country, and I’m proud of what my teammates have done for this country. I want to spread the word about Wounded Warriors.

Jaffrey: I think the emphasis is on “warriors.”

Sakina, what is your specific interest in the program?

Jaffrey: This is an interesting organization for me because I have been working on a theater piece about the resiliency of immigrants and post-traumatic stress, and one of my characters is a veteran. I have been trying to educate myself about post-traumatic stress and traumatic brain injuries. Funds need to go to the soldiers because there is so much care that needs to be given afterward.

Have the cast and crew of House of Cards made any visits to Walter Reed hospital to visit the wounded soldiers?

Jaffrey: I have not been asked, and I would love to do that. I am sure Kevin [Spacey, producer and star of the series] has. He loves giving his time to anybody who serves.

Kinsey: I went through Walter Reed. It is a morale lifter to have people come visit.

What was your experience while going through rehab and getting a prosthetic?

Kinsey: Six weeks after my injury I was able to put on a prosthetic for the first time and stand up. That was an amazing experience. The technology involved and being able to get my life back was amazing. I went through 30 prosthetics at the beginning because my leg was changing size. Now it’s because I’m wearing them out, playing baseball as much as I do.

Do you wear different prosthetics for sports and for walking?

Kinsey: I wear the same for everything.

Jaffrey: Matt, when you started rehab at Walter Reed, was there as much psychological rehab as physical?

Kinsey: Each person is different. Some guys deal with the emotional aspect different from some. Some of my friends were athletes. We get so tied up with the physical rehab that it’s all we’re focused on. They do such a good job keeping you busy. You don’t have time to dwell on things. Everybody goes through those times when they are upset. If you want to get your life back you have to stay focused. I was fortunate I had a quick recovery.

A few questions about House of Cards for Sakina. Are you busy filming the second season?

Jaffrey: Yes, I am. We started in April. I think we’re on episode 9 or 10, and it goes to 13. I can’t tell you anything about the story or I’ll lose my job, but I can tell you it is just as thrilling and crazy things happen like last year. It’s still an intensely smart show with great actors.

You play the White House chief off staff. Have you been to the White House to get some exposure?

Jaffrey: Valerie Jarrett contacted me after the opening because I said I based my character on her a little—the grit and intelligence. I never actually went to visit her, but I will. I mostly read books [to prepare]: Condi Rice’s book, a book about LBJ.

Is it true you are married to a political consultant? Does that help your work?

Jaffrey: He [her husband, Francis Wilkinson] actually started out as the Washington correspondent for Rolling Stone, and we moved to Washington. He was a political consultant, and now he’s on the board of Bloomberg View. That absolutely informed my understanding of Washington. I was so happy I knew what the DCCC was when I began reading the script.

Who is your team in the major leagues?

Jaffrey: The Nationals.

Kinsey: The Nationals.

Do either of you have any predictions for the World Series?

Kinsey: Oof. That’s a tough one right now.

Jaffrey: I predict that beer will be sold.