Memorial Day patriotism on full display across MLB
Memorial Day is a time for a mass of people to open their swimming pools or cabins, fire up the barbecue grills, have family get-togethers at a local park, enjoy the beach or other vacation paradise, float down a river, work around the yard, squeeze another blissful day out of a long weekend and get an unofficial start on the business of summer.
And, most importantly, to remember.
We will remember all around Major League Baseball on Monday, as surely as U.S. flags perched on the fronts of homes and poles from sea to shining sea. There will be tributes to the men and women who gave their lives to defend a nation's freedom. There will be a symbolic show of support for the military members who returned, to those who serve now, and to military families.
We will remember at Dodger Stadium in the form of 50 Wounded Warriors entering from center field, after Gen. Martin Dempsey, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, greets that crowd on the scoreboard with a message from Bagram Airfield in Afghanistan. We will remember in the form of a "mass first pitch" at Miller Park in Milwaukee, where more than 40 active members of the military, veterans and military dependants get a Twins-Brewers game started.
MLB will commemorate the occasion in grand style, at all 15 home ballparks. Teams and fans will pause to participate in a national moment of remembrance at exactly 3 p.m. ET, punctuating about half of the day's full docket of games, or in moments of silence at later games. Giant flags will unfurl. Players will wear special digital-camouflage jerseys and caps licensed by the U.S. Marine Corps, raising awareness and funds for Welcome Back Veterans.
The Memorial Day effort is part of MLB's ongoing recognition of veterans, active military and military families. MLB has committed $23 million to Welcome Back Veterans since 2008. And on a typical club level, the attention placed on military veterans is merely a continuation of an ongoing theme, with recognition happening year-round.
"Major League Baseball considers it both a privilege and a responsibility to honor and assist our troops in any way we can," Commissioner Bud Selig said. "We are proud to support this initiative, and we ask our fans to join us on Memorial Day and beyond in this effort to raise awareness and funds for this important cause."
At the Pirates-Tigers game in Detroit, members of the Armed Forces will be honored on the field for their service prior to the National Anthem. David Van Allen of the Disabled American Veterans will throw out a ceremonial first pitch to represent veterans, and Col. David Brooks from Selfridge Air National Guard Base will do the same in honor of active service members. All service members and veterans in the on-field ceremony will receive a patriotic Tigers T-shirt. The Tigers are donating 1,500 tickets to local members and veterans of the Armed Forces to attend the game with their families.
In Cincinnati, where the Reds play Cleveland in an in-state rivalry, the hosts will honor members of the Tuskegee Airmen and welcome Lincoln Ware as an Honorary Captain. Ware is a U.S. Marine Corps veteran and currently works as a local radio host. U.S. Navy Second Class Petty Officer Nicholas Gagner is set to sing the anthem, and the ceremonial first pitch will be thrown out by U.S. Marine Gunnery Sgt. Samuel Deeds, who was injured by an improvised explosive device while serving in Iraq in 2005. The pregame festivities will be capped off by retired Lt. Col. Robert R. Adams, who will deliver the official game ball to the mound.
In Washington, the Nationals host the Orioles in the second game of what they call the "Patriotic Series." Military dignitaries will be in attendance, and the first 20,000 fans to enter Nationals Park through the center-field gate will receive mini American flags, presented by SAIC. In addition, SAIC will donate more than 500 tickets to members of the Tragedy Assistance Program for Survivors (TAPS) and their loved ones. TAPS personnel will be involved in pregame ceremonies, as well.
The White Sox celebration and honoring of Memorial Day actually started Sunday with a pregame parade featuring military members and their friends and family. The ceremonial first pitch was thrown by Army paratrooper Staff Sgt. Al Mampre to Chris Sale. Mampre was one of the original members of the Heroic 101st Airborne Company that later became the subject of the book and television series, Band of Brothers, and received two Purple Hearts and a Bronze Star during his service in World War II. Eight servicemen were honored on the field, with the White Sox starters signing autographs for each individual at their respective positions. Before Monday's game, Challenger the bald eagle will fly across the pitcher's mound during the National Anthem, and there will be ceremonial first pitches by five members of the U.S. armed forces.
The I-70 Series between the Cardinals and Royals in Kansas City will be preceded by the annual Armed Forces Day presented by Budweiser, featuring a special pregame ceremony honoring the men and women who serve our country. Members of the military will also be honored throughout the game through the Buck O'Neil Legacy Seat and Our Heroes program, as well as other special in-game features. The first 20,000 fans will receive miniature American flags, courtesy of the National World War I Museum at Liberty Memorial.
At the Twins-Brewers matchup at Miller Park, a "mass first pitch" will bring a mix of more than 40 active members of the military, veterans and military dependants to the field to toss out ceremonial first pitches to Minnesota and Milwaukee players prior to the game. Color Guards from the Army Navy, Marines and Air Force will also participate in the pregame ceremonies on the field, and the National Anthem will be performed by Staff Sgt. Korin Saal. Several thousand tickets have been provided by the Brewers to USO-Wisconsin and Veterans Administration groups so active and retired members of the military can enjoy the game with their families. In addition, proceeds from Monday's Brewers Community Foundation 50/50 Raffle will be donated to the USO-Wisconsin.
In Boston, where a four-game series opens against the Phillies, the Red Sox will recognize several Gold Star wives. The Color Guard will be performed by the West Roxbury VFW Post 2902. The anthem will be performed by New Hampshire Army National Guard First Class Sgt. Michelle Lowes. The first pitch will be thrown by U.S. Navy Rear Admiral Vic Beck. There will be a hats off to heroes tribute at the end of the fourth, with Ann Brown, U.S. Army Sgt. First Class, being honored. God Bless America will be performed by Lowes before the bottom of the seventh inning.
The D-backs host the Rangers in a doubleheader at Chase Field, and as part of the tribute, veteran and two-time USA Memory Champion Ron White will spend about 10 hours hand writing from memory the first and last names of every fallen American soldier from the war in Afghanistan on a blank 50-foot memorial wall. Fans are invited to watch the transformation of the wall beginning at 10 a.m. PT in the Right Field Deck. Additionally, the Arizona Diamondbacks Foundation will donate $2,500 to White's Wounded Warrior fundraising efforts.
Next to the memorial wall will be a Remember the Fallen moving exhibit honoring the men and women from Arizona who gave their lives in Operation Iraqi Freedom and Operation Enduring Freedom. Remember the Fallen is supported by the Honor Walk Foundation and Circle K and features photos and artifacts.
Colorado plays at Houston, and veterans and active military personnel will receive a half-price discount on tickets at the Minute Maid Park box office with the presentation of a military ID. Prior to game time, service members representing the National Guard Reserve and active duty components of all five branches of the military will take part in a special flag presentation. An additional pregame ceremony will include combat veterans from several military campaigns, including World War II, Korea, Vietnam, Persian Gulf, Iraq and Afghanistan. The first pitch will be thrown by 90-year-old WWII veteran Pat Duncan, who joined the Navy at age 17 and served for six years, receiving eight different commendations and medals.
The Freeway Series reunites the Angels and Dodgers at Dodger Stadium, and there is a seemingly endless lineup of tributes to the military. Uniformed members of each branch of the military will unfurl a giant flag along with USO Captains in center field.
Pros vs. GI Joe is a charitable organization started by retired military members Greg and Addie Zinone that provides scholarships to Wounded Warriors. Their mission is to connect troops serving all over the world with professional athletes and celebrities in online and in-person game competitions. One of Pros vs. GI Joe's initiatives is called "Salute the Troops." Fans will be asked to join the Dodgers and Pros vs. GI Joe in an all-stadium salute to troops that will be coordinated with a live feed with Kandahar, Afghanistan.
U.S. Air Force Staff Sgt. De'Jon Fruga of the 452nd mobility wing at March Air Force Base California will sing the National Anthem. Alejandra, Alejandro and Lanny Thompson, family of fallen Army Lieutenant Alejo R. Thompson, who was killed in the line of duty one year ago, will officially start the game with "It's Time for Dodger Baseball." In recognition for the sacrifice they make, several active troops will join Dodgers starters as they take the field.
In Seattle, where the Padres visit the Mariners, the host club joins with the National Alliance to End Veteran Suicide for Veterans Appreciation Day at Safeco Field. The program is part of the Veterans Family Fund, which helps veterans and their families with the challenges of long deployments and military service. The Alliance to End Veteran Suicide engages in research, education, resource provision, and community collaborations to actively address the alarming rate of suicide among U.S. military veterans. Recently released statistics show that suicides among active duty military hit a record high in 2012, and according to the Department of Veterans Affairs, the rate is even higher among military veterans, an estimated 22 each day.
At Safeco Field, the Alliance will host a Veterans Resource Fair with information about resources and opportunities that are available to all veterans, current military and their families. Veterans of all eras and their families will be recognized during the game. The ceremonial first pitch will be thrown out by Bruce Hullinger, a WWII veteran. The anthem will be performed by the First Corps Command Army Band from Joint Base Lewis McChord, and the U.S. Coast Guard Honor Guard will present the colors.
On Sunday at Citi Field, the Mets and the USO of Metropolitan New York hosted the sixth annual Military Appreciation Night, one of the biggest gatherings of military personnel over Memorial Day weekend in New York. Mets general manager Sandy Alderson, a Vietnam vet, said the Mets are very committed to honoring the military and had advice for everyone else on what they can do year-round.
"Whether you go to a parade or just take 30 seconds to thank the person in uniform maybe flying on your plane," Alderson said, "just so they know that they're appreciated."