Play Ball celebrates Military Appreciation Month with special event in Brooklyn

May 4th, 2024

NEW YORK -- With both a sparkling Gravesend Bay and the towering Verrazzano Bridge nearby, there were plenty of views on display for a special MLB Play Ball event at the United States Army Garrison, Fort Hamilton, in Brooklyn on Friday.

MLB, through its MVP (Military Veteran Professionals) ERG, and in partnership with the U.S. Armed Forces, kicked off its celebration of Military Appreciation Month by spreading the message and beauty of America’s national pastime.

The event, hosted on the Sgt. Deon L. Taylor Sports Field in Fort Hamilton, served as an introductory youth clinic for bat-and-ball sports and featured volunteers from MLB’s Central Office.

Marcus Murray, coordinator for the RBI initiative at MLB, was on site facilitating the event. He spoke to the mission behind hosting the event and his own feelings on the initiative.

“[We’re] looking to both introduce kids on base to bat-and-ball sports, while expressing our gratitude for those who have served this country,” Murray said.

Photo by Daniel Shirey/MLB Photos via Getty Images

“It's an honor to really kind of push the level and knowledge of the game on an introductory level to these kids who may or may not always have that opportunity.”

Also in attendance, and serving as “head coach” for the event, was Justin Sherman, aka JustinTimeBaseball. He is one of MLB’s Youth Ambassadors and is present for many other events that the league hosts around the country.

“Our goal is to get kids to playing ball, loving the game and wanting to come back every year and just inspire them to just love the game, truly,” Sherman said.

In addition to Sherman, the young ballplayers in attendance had the rare opportunity to get some professional one-on-one coaching.

Three retired MLB players were also at Fort Hamilton, hoping to pass their knowledge and love of the game to the next generation: John Doherty, former Tigers pitcher; Oreste Marrero, former first baseman for the Dodgers and Montreal Expos; and Michael Olt, who played third base for the Rangers, Cubs and White Sox.

“It's exciting for me to kind of come out and see these young kids excited to play baseball,” Olt said.

Photo by Daniel Shirey/MLB Photos via Getty Images

Olt and his fellow alumni are examples of the special kind of players that young baseball and softball players can look up to.

“I never thought I'd make it to the big leagues, and a lot of these kids may have aspirations to play there,” said Olt. “Just to be able to give the message that if you work hard and you want to do this, you can make it happen."

On the other side of the dugout fence were the parents, almost all active-duty military living at Fort Hamilton and without whom events like these wouldn’t be possible.

United States Air Force technical sergeant Todd Runyon is one of those parents, and he was all smiles watching as his children received coaching tips from the pros.

“I just want to pass on my knowledge about baseball to this generation, to see them be outside, be active playing, and find love for the sport,” said Runyon.

A little league coach himself, Runyon is representative of the men and women who believe in the power of bat-and-ball sports and what events like these do not just for the youth, but also for those who cheer them on.

“It feels real great. It just shows support from MLB to the military community.”

This support for the military community and all its members will continue through the month of May, with various events and outings planned for each week.