News & Politics

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.

A group shot from last year’s Wounded Warrior Celebrity Softball Classic at Nats Park. Photograph courtesy of the Washington Nationals.

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
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
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.