Thursday, April 10, 2008

Express to honor America's Armed Forces

Tomorrow night marks the 2008 home opener for the Round Rock Express. I've been listening to the road games online when I can (better "reception" than the actual local station), and I'd caught bits about something being live from Iraq for that game. Well, I just stopped by the Express website and found this:
“What better way to welcome America’s game back to Round Rock than to honor America’s Armed Forces,” said Round Rock president Jay Miller. “We’re proud to host current and former soldiers and their families alongside the best fans in baseball.”

Gates for Friday’s game open at 5:30 p.m. and a procession of more than 1,500 military personnel and families from Ft. Hood’s 4th Infantry Division will ring the inside of the field before both the Express and the [New Orleans] Zephyrs are introduced.

Major General Jeffery Hammond, Commander of the 4th Infantry Division and Multi-National Division in Baghdad will then address the crowd live from his post in Iraq before the Ft. Hood Honor Guard presents the colors on field and the Ft. Hood Band plays the National Anthem live from Iraq.

"Round Rock Express and the local community have my heartfelt appreciation for their generous support of our Soldiers and their Families," said Major General Hammond. "It makes our jobs easier here in Iraq knowing the community supports their Soldiers and loved ones."

A special honorary first pitch will then take place, paying homage to the soldiers overseas.

“The start of baseball season is always a great time of year and this is a great way for us to give back,” said Round Rock founder C.E.O. Reid Ryan. “For all that the 4th Infantry Division and all of the Armed Forces do for us, this is a small way for us and for fans to say thank you.”
I'm so very glad I'm going to get to be there. If you're in the area, come on out to take part.

Update 4/12/08:

Last night was pretty cool. They had the entire right field berm reserved for the soldiers and their families, with the edge along the concourse planted with little American flags. The soldiers and their families were given the opportunity to go down onto the field (well, along the warning track, since the grounds crew was still getting the field ready for the game). About 6:30 or so, they started up the live feed from Baghdad. MG Hammond appeared on the screen with some soldiers (who turned out to be members of the band) behind him, with an American flag mounted behind them. Hammond was even wearing an Express home jersey, complete with the dark blue long-sleeve UnderArmour underneath (the jerseys are sleeveless). He gave a nice speech about the hard work our soldiers are doing over there, and also thanked Ryan-Sanders Baseball (including Nolan Ryan, CEO Reid Ryan and others in management) as well as Mayor Maxwell of Round Rock for all the support they give to the troops. There were a couple of times the audio cut out, and once both audio & video went out, but what can you really expect for something like this. The ceremonial First Pitch was thrown out by the son of a deployed soldier: he threw to home plate after his dad came on the video board and proclaimed "Play ball!". The Presentation of the Colors was done by a contingent of Fort Hood soldiers and the band played the National Anthem, accompanied by a soldier singing it. Once the pre-game ceremonies were concluded, everyone left the playing field. Before the game actually started, but after the Express starters were announced and on the field, there was a memorial first pitch, which is thrown from the pitcher to the catcher, then to the third baseman, shortstop, second baseman, first baseman, then on to the right fielder, center fielder, and finally to the left fielder who threw the ball up out of the field of play. From where I was, I couldn't tell if the cleared the Home Run Porch (the only elevated "regular" [e.g. - not a suite] seating which sits above the Express Clubhouse) or not - someone up in those sections may have been able to catch it.
[4-13-08: I was able to confirm last night that Reggie Abercrombie did, in fact, throw the ball over the Home Run Porch. From field level, I'm guessing it's at least 40 feet up, never mind the distance on it, too.] Then, the game started. I'm pleased to say the Express won, after the game had remained scoreless until the top of the ninth, with a final score of 2-1. During the game, there was a family walking by on the concourse and one of the soldiers who was in uniform walked by the other way. The little boy, probably 3 or 4 years old, pointed out to his daddy "Look, a soldier!". How cute is that?

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