ATLANTA -- Manager Fredi Gonzalez, pitching coach Roger McDowell and first-base coach Terry Pendleton were among the members of the Braves organization who welcomed 40 military families to Midtown Bowl on Saturday to express their appreciation for what these men and women provide the United States.
"This is our sixth year doing this, and it's always one of the days you look forward to every year," Gonzalez said. "This is fun. Our country's service men and women sacrifice a lot for us overseas -- and when they do so, they sacrifice time away from their families. So it's fun to watch them, their kids and their grandkids do a little bowling.
Gonzalez, McDowell and Pendleton walked from lane to lane sharing conversations with many of the military members, some of whom were honored to recognize that these coaches were every bit as interested in learning about the military life as they themselves were to discuss baseball.
"It's outstanding what the Braves do," Sgt. Joseph Tomes said. "For them to take time of their busy schedules during the holiday season means a lot to us. It keeps the morale up."
As the Braves travel the country during the regular season, the coaching staff takes advantage of many opportunities to interact with soldiers. Gonzalez traveled to Iraq when he was the Marlins' manager and he has welcomed Navy Seals from San Diego and West Point cadets to games in the past.
McDowell has participated in many of these activities and he has shown his respect with the regular visits he makes to Arlington National Cemetery when the Braves are playing in Washington, D.C.
"[Gonzalez] showed us pictures from the time he spent in Iraq and we've heard about some of the things he has done with other military members," Tomes said. "He knows the rank structure and stuff like that. It's really outstanding for civilians to know our side and be able to actually talk intelligently about it."
Tomes was among the many military members who enjoyed the opportunity to talk about the upcoming season. But the coaches seemed to gain an equal appreciation to express their gratitude toward these men and women who do much more than simply hit and throw a baseball.
"We just try to win games," Gonzalez said. "They put their lives on the line for us and enable us to have nice lives here in the United States."
Mark Bowman is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.