LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. -- Instead of simply extending the usual tradition of providing entertainment via a ballgame that precedes a fireworks display, the Braves will spend a portion of this year's Fourth of July weekend feeling a unique sense of patriotism while bringing Major League Baseball to the United
LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. -- Instead of simply extending the usual tradition of providing entertainment via a ballgame that precedes a fireworks display, the Braves will spend a portion of this year's Fourth of July weekend feeling a unique sense of patriotism while bringing Major League Baseball to the United States' most populated military base.
MLB and the Major League Baseball Players Association announced that the Braves and Marlins will play a regular-season game on July 3 at a 12,500-seat stadium that will be constructed at Fort Bragg, a historic North Carolina installation that will now draw the distinction of becoming the first active military base to host a regular-season game for any major professional sport.
• More information about the July 3 Braves-Marlins game at Ft. Bragg
"I've done a lot of cool things with the military," Braves catcher A.J. Pierzynski said. "I've flown with the Blue Angels and that kind of stuff. Any time you get an opportunity to do stuff like that, it's an honor, especially to go to an active base in front of the troops. That's what you do this for, because those guys are the real heroes with what they do to protect us and our way of life every day. It will be pretty amazing."
The Fort Bragg Game will serve as the finale of a three-game set that will begin with games being played at Turner Field on July 1 and 2. Tickets will be limited to military personnel. The 8 p.m. ET contest will be broadcast nationally on ESPN's Sunday Night Baseball, ESPN Radio and MLB.TV.
Braves manager Fredi Gonzalez is looking forward to yet another opportunity to interact with the military members who will be present for this unique event. Gonzalez routinely visits with Navy Seals while in San Diego, and he has occasionally brought some West Point cadets to New York City when his teams have played the Mets at Citi Field.
"I'm honored and proud that Major League Baseball picked us to go down there," Gonzalez said. "We're a big supporter of our military and their families. I think it's cool."
Pierzynski actually attended a similar event in 2012, when the University of Florida and Georgetown University played a basketball game on an aircraft carrier that was located in Jacksonville, Fla. Before the contest was halted at halftime because of condensation on the floor, the veteran catcher felt a sincere sense of patriotism.
"When you see the news and hear about it, it's kind of a once-in-a-lifetime thing," Pierzynski said. "I remember a couple years ago, I got to go to one of the basketball games on an aircraft carrier, and it was just amazing to walk on it and see that. So now to play a regular-season Major League Baseball game on a military base, especially of the importance of Fort Bragg, is pretty awesome."
MLB and the MLBPA joined forces to build the new ballpark, which will eventually be converted to a permanent softball field and multi-purpose facility for those who serve at Fort Bragg.
"The Atlanta Braves organization is extremely honored to be chosen to play in the Fort Bragg Game, and to entertain some of our nation's patriot men and women," Braves president John Schuerholz said. "It is special for our fans and our entire organization that we are playing this game in Braves Country -- Fort Bragg, North Carolina."
Mark Bowman is a reporter for MLB.com.