05/31/11 12:58 AM ET
Memorial Day stirs emotions across baseball
Major League clubs from coast to coast honor armed forces
By Tom Singer / MLB.com
In many other ways, each home club honored the military in its own unique fashion. In the nation's capital, Troy Yocum paused from hiking the nation to walk the bases at Nationals Park. Yocum is 14 months into his 7,800-mile hike to raise money for military families. The 360 feet around the bases enhanced the visibility of his project. First-pitch ceremonies accorded a deserved stage for: United States Marine Corps Major General Richard Mills in Citi Field ... Commander Michael Jacobs, a United States Navy Senior Medical Officer, in Safeco Field ... Korean War veteran Army Commander Edward Slater in Kauffman Stadium ... Army officer Steve Martin in Chase Field ... Major General Robert Brown, who served in Operation Iraqi Freedom, in Turner Field ...
Colonel Michael Thomas of the Michigan Air National Guard, former Tuskegee Airmen, Inc., president William Burnett and Disabled American Veterans senior vice commander Christopher Sardo, who shared the honor in Comerica Park ... And in Great American Ball Park, pitcher Paul Miller and catcher Chris Miller, a father and son with more than a half-century of combined Navy service, formed the first-pitch battery. Before the first official pitch, and after the top of the seventh's final pitch, those pulse-accelerating verses "Oh, say can you see ..." and "... to the oceans white with foam ..." were delivered by ... The USO Liberty Bells in Citi Field ... Musician 3rd Class Sarah Reasner of the U.S. Navy in Safeco Field ... Technical Sergeant James Donaldson in Comerica Park ... And Naval officer Ruben Minor in Great American Ball Park. Bioenvironmental Engineering Flight Commander Major Michael Smith and former Air Force Staff Sergeant D'Anthony Forte in Tropicana Field ...
The commemorations began long before the ceremonial tosses and the anthem chords.In Oakland, the A's spent batting practice time socializing with wounded veterans. In Detroit, active members of the Armed Forces and veterans were invited down to the field for a pregame ceremony. Additionally, a group of veterans from the John D. Dingell Veterans Affairs Medical Center in Detroit and the Veterans Affairs Ann Arbor Healthcare System, who sustained injuries while serving in Iraq and Afghanistan, watched the game from Justin Verlander's luxury suite as part of the pitcher's Victory for Veterans program. In Kansas City, Gonzaolo Reyes, Kent Schroeder, Joe Liles and Lou Kadera -- all veterans of foreign wars -- were honored, and a three-volley salute acknowledged military personnel from Kansas and Missouri who lost their lives in recent overseas operations. In Seattle, the colors were presented by the Todd Beamer High School AFJROTC in nearby Federal Way, Wash. In Atlanta, the Braves hosted 1,353 military personnel and their families at Turner Field throughout Memorial Day weekend. In Cincinnati, five members of the Cincinnati Chapter of Tuskegee Airmen were honored on the field during pregame ceremonies. Then, as in churches and in fields and on stages across the country, Great American Ball Park fell silent as part of the Memorial Day National Moment of Remembrance, to honor Americans who sacrificed their lives while serving the country. In Atlanta, a moment of silence was observed with members of the military wrapped around the four sides of the infield, standing shoulder to shoulder with Padres and Braves players. The silence was broken by a 21-gun salute and the playing of "Taps."
As ceremonies disbanded, players milled on diamonds with the honored military to exchange memorabilia, like in the Coliseum, where the A's swapped caps with their guests.That wasn't enough for Dallas Braden, who exchanged his full uniform with Specialist Mark Braden, no relation. The Oakland Braden then caught the ceremonial first pitch from U.S. Marine Sgt. Dayton McConnell. Then it was time to play, but on this day even the routine was treasured. "I've got a lot of pride in this country," said the Cardinals' Allen Craig. "It's definitely cool to be out there and play America's game."