Braves, Marlins Set to Play July 3 Game at Ft. Bragg
By Burt Carey
Major League Baseball’s Florida Marlins and Atlanta Braves will mark Independence Day this year by playing their regular-season game on July 3 in a new 12,500-seat ballpark at Ft. Bragg, N.C.
The game will serve as MLB’s salute to all military men and women in uniform and their families as the nation celebrates its 240th anniversary. Scheduled for an 8 p.m. (ET) first pitch in front of service men and women, it will be broadcast to a national television audience as ESPN’s Sunday Night Baseball featured contest. It will also air on ESPN Radio and MLB.TV.
Ft. Bragg, which covers about 500 square miles, is home to 250,000 service personnel and their families, and sits near Fayetteville, N.C. It is home to the U.S. Army Global Response Force, a brigade-sized unit that can deploy virtually anywhere in the world within 96 hours.
For Braves and Marlins players, it’s an opportunity to say thank you and pay tribute to America’s military. And for some, it has meaning beyond even that. Cameron Yelich is serving in Japan on active duty in the U.S. Marine Corps. His brother is Marlins left fielder Christian Yelich. “I appreciate the troops and everything they do for us, especially having a service member in my family,” Yelich said. “It will be extra special for me to be out there. I know it’s an army base. We owe those guys a lot.”
Braves catcher A.J. Pierzynski has flown with the Blue Angels and greeted military personnel at games around the league. But this game will be different. “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,” Pierzynski said. “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 game will be the first professional contest of any sport to be played on an active military installation. It will be held in a stadium paid for by MLB and the MLB Player’s Association. Following the game the field will be converted into a softball park and multi-purpose facility for people stationed at Ft. Bragg.
“We’re going to put the spotlight on the service men and women,” said Marlins pitcher Tom Koehler. “We’re going to be playing, but the whole purpose of this is to shed some light on everything they do, and kind of honor them.”
“Major League Baseball’s boundless gratitude to our military has led us to a unique event that will benefit the men and women of Fort Bragg and their families for many years,” stated Commissioner Rob Manfred in a release about the event. “I thank the Braves and the Marlins for their participation and all of our clubs and players for contributing to this gesture, which will stand as a fitting new chapter in the national pastime’s proud and distinguished military history.”
“We’re extremely grateful to Major League Baseball and the Major League Baseball Players Association for their support to our service members and families,” said Col. Brett Funck, the Ft. Bragg Garrison Commander. “This historic event and the converted multi-purpose facility will have enduring benefits for our entire Fort Bragg community for years to come.”
The Braves will serve as home team. It will be the third game of a three-game series played between the clubs.
Click here see videotaped comments from Braves manager Fredi Gonzalez and Marlins skipper Don Mattingly.
Image: David Reber