PORT CHARLOTTE, Fla. -- Prior to their Grapefruit League home opener Wednesday, the Rays helped tug the heartstrings of those in attendance by reuniting CM1 Patrick Jackson of the US Navy Seabees with his family.
The Rays recognized military with a special tribute to the men and women of Charlotte County who have served their country, a group that includes Jackson, who attended Port Charlotte High School and has served for 21 years.
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Jackson's son, Isiah, 7, and daughter, Fallon, 5, were escorted by their mother, Julie, to the area in front of the pitcher's mound ostensibly to throw out the first pitch. After Isiah delivered the pitch, Patrick stood from behind the plate and removed his catcher's mask for the big reveal before going to his children for a hug.
Jackson will again depart Port Charlotte in several days, but his kids had thought it would be some time before they saw him again.
Also included in the pregame ceremony was the USSOCOM Parachute Team parachuting into the stadium to deliver an American flag and the ball for the first pitch.
The Rays donated 300 tickets through Charlotte County Veterans Services for local veterans and their families to attend the game.
Bill Chastain is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.