Photo of the Fort Bragg baseball stadium in North Carolina.

Image Credit: Wikimedia

Major League Baseball made a very touching tribute to America's military this past 4th of July weekend while celebrating our nation's Independence. The league gave servicemen and women stationed in Fort Bragg, North Carolina the opportunity to see a Major League game on base between the Atlanta Braves and Miami Marlins. The event marked the first time a professional sporting event has taken place on a military base. The land, formerly a golf course, was transitioned into a 12,500 seat baseball stadium in just over 100 days. The field will remain and continue to be utilized by the military base which is the largest in the United States with 53,000 active military members and over 250,000 residents. 

Major League Baseball's COO Tony Petitti initiated the idea for the honorary game when he approached the Department of Defense with the idea in 2015. Both teams had to make temporary adjustments to the large airports and 5 star hotels they've become so accustomed to utilizing. After arriving at the tiny Pope Field at Fort Bragg, the Atlanta Braves stayed at the local Embassy Suites while the Miami Marlins stayed at the local Residence Inn. The players also got dressed in tents which served as their locker rooms. The ceremonial first pitch before the game was thrown by Sargent First Class Corey Calkins, who served in Afghanistan. Staff Sargeant Traci Gregg of the 82nd Airborne Division sang the national anthem. According to local sources, the servicemen that volunteered to maintain the protective tarp mastered the process rather quickly. Luckily, the game was never interrupted by rain. 

Photo of the Fort Bragg baseball game between the Atlanta Braves and Miami Marlins.

Image Credit: Jason Duhr

Military members and their families did not have to pay for entry to the game. The tickets were provided free of charge via a lottery system. Unfortunately, the game developed a side story when it was discovered that Zack Hample, a well known figure in Major League Baseball, was in attendance and collecting baseballs from the game. Hample, a rabid baseball fan and native New Yorker, travels the country collecting baseballs from Major League parks to donate to charity. Here is a link to an interview we did with Zack Hample last year. After tweeting a photo from the game of a commemorative Fort Bragg baseball, Hample immediately faced backlash from the social media world. Hample was quick to respond and give his side of the story.

Personally, I would love to see the Fort Bragg game become an annual occurrence in Major League Baseball, except maybe spreading the love to other military bases like Fort Knox, Camp Lejeune and Fort Benning. Sports fans are loving the creativity being shown by the four professional sports leagues and college ranks with events such as the NHL Winter Classic, the college football game being played at Bristol Motor Speedway this upcoming season or college basketball's Carrier Classic. Keep them coming!




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