Three Medal of Honor recipients throw first pitches; country star Evans sings anthem
By Alyson Footer
KANSAS CITY -- As has been the case throughout the postseason, the Royals implemented a military appreciation theme during their pregame ceremonies prior to their 7-1 Game 2 victory over the Mets in the World Series at Kauffman Stadium on Wednesday.
Three Medal of Honor recipients, all veterans of the Vietnam War, threw out ceremonial pitches, highlighting pregame ceremonies that featured two relievers receiving awards for outstanding performances in 2015, a country music star singing the national anthem and a dreadlocked mascot, Sluggerrr, getting the crowd fired up for a Johnny Cueto start.
The three Medal of Honor recipients were Col. Don "Doc" Ballard, U.S. Army (Ret.), Medical Services Corps; Col. Roger H.C. Donlon, C.M.H., United States Army (Ret.); and Lt. Col. Charles (Chuck) Hagemeister, U.S. Army (Ret.).
"This is great stuff," Donlon said. "This is the first time I've ever been to the World Series. I was watching as a kid, and it was always the Brooklyn Bums and the Yankees.
"We live in the area, so we've had the privilege to do this on a lesser scale for a couple of local teams, but every time we come to a baseball field, it's nice."
The trio threw ceremonial pitches to catcher Drew Butera (with Sluggerrr backing him up), and as they walked off the field, several Royals came out of the dugout to greet them. Third baseman Mike Moustakas shook hands with all three veterans, removing his cap before approaching them.
It was a sign of respect to three men who know the true meaning of sacrifice. Ballard, a native of Kansas City, received the Medal of Honor for his selfless attempt to protect his fellow Marines by throwing himself upon an explosive device. It failed to detonate, and he resumed his efforts, while under fire from enemy forces, in assisting injured comrades.
Hagemeister received the United States military's highest decoration for his actions during the Vietnam War, including repeatedly exposing himself to enemy fire in order to aid his fellow soldiers. Hagemeister also threw the ceremonial first pitch before Game 6 of the 2014 World Series.
Donlon was the first recipient of the Medal of Honor from the Vietnam War, and the first member of the U.S. Army Special Forces so honored. As the commanding officer of a Special Forces Detachment, Donlon successfully led the defense, at direct personal risk, of a U.S. military installation in Nam Dong.
The pregame ceremonies began with recognition of Pirates closer Mark Melancon and Yankees closer Andrew Miller as Relievers of the Year. Major League Baseball and The Hartford honored Melancon with the Trevor Hoffman National League Award and Miller with the Mariano Rivera American League Award. Both namesakes were on hand to commemorate the occasion.
The anthem was performed by multiplatinum-selling country singer and songwriter Sara Evans, a New Franklin, Mo., native. She enjoyed enormous success with her critically acclaimed seventh studio album "Slow Me Down," which debuted at No. 2 on the Billboard Top Country Albums Chart.
Evans has performed the anthem on several occasions, but singing at a major sporting event near where she grew up was extra special.
"I grew up in the Columbia area, and we always came to the Royals games when I was growing up," she said. "So it's really, really awesome to be here. Tons of my siblings are coming today. I have six siblings, and some are coming to the game tonight and they're all thrilled."
Alyson Footer is a national correspondent for MLB.com. Follow her on Twitter @alysonfooter. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.