ATLANTA -- When United States Army Maj. Ron Colombo was attending airborne school at Georgia's Fort Benning last summer, he called his high school buddy A.J. Pierzynski to get tickets for the Fourth of the July game against the Phillies at Turner Field.
Along with leaving tickets, Pierzynski also arranged for Colombo to throw a ceremonial first pitch. The two have remained friends since their days as teammates at Dr. Phillips High School in Orlando, Fla.
"He's a guy I grew up with, played high school baseball with, and I've kept in touch with over the years," Pierzynski said. "He went into the Army soon after high school and he's made a career out of it. He's done well for himself."
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Colombo is currently stationed at Fort Bragg, which will become the first active military base to host a regular-season Major League game on Sunday, when the Braves and Marlins will play in a 12,500-seat stadium that will be primarily filled by troops and their family members who reside on the base.
Unfortunately, plans for another Fourth of July reunion were erased last week, when Colombo's wife had surprised him with a trip that will take him away from the base this weekend.
Still, Pierzynski is looking forward to the chance to interact with the many other military members he will meet this weekend. His stepfather was in the Army, and his wife's side of the family includes many members who have been in the Navy.
The Braves and Marlins will travel from Atlanta to North Carolina after playing Saturday afternoon at Turner Field. Players, coaches and team executives plan to interact with military personnel on the base leading up to the game, which will begin at 8 p.m. ET and will be broadcast on ESPN.
"This is a once-in-a-lifetime kind of thing," Pierzynski said. "To be able to go to an active military base and play a game in front of troops is a huge honor. I know all the players are very excited about it, and we're going to get some time to spend with the troops. We're also going to get to tour the base and see what's going on there."
During his long career, Pierzynski has taken advantage of many opportunities to visit with military members located throughout the country. He once flew with the U.S. Navy Blue Angels and was recently part of a Braves contingent that visited the U.S. Naval Academy in Annapolis, Md.
"These military guys that we're going to be around are the real heroes who give us an opportunity to do what we do every day," Pierzynski said. "It truly is an honor to be able to be a part of something like this."