MLB honors veterans at ballparks across the nation
By Daniel Kramer
Salutes waved across the country on Monday, as the baseball world honored veterans past and present in recognition of Memorial Day.
At Safeco Field in Seattle, the colors were presented in a pregame ceremony by Joint Base Lewis-McChord I Corps Command Honor Guard and the ceremonial first pitch was delivered by Burke Waldron, a 92-year-old from Bremerton, Wash., who ran out to the mound and then delivered a left-handed strike to catcher Steve Clevenger in front of the plate. Waldon was a Second Class Petty Officer in the U.S. Navy during World War II and was stationed in Pearl Harbor.
92-years-old and still bringing it. How about that first pitch from World War II veteran Burke Waldron? pic.twitter.com/oAmkkfTqGe
The Mariners also honored U.S. Army Air Corps veteran Fred Parker of Olympia, Wash., during their Salute to Those Who Serve program at the end of the fourth inning. Parker, 92, was part of the D-Day invasion and flew 33 missions as a tail gunner on B-17 bombers during World War II. All fans at Safeco Field also received miniature American flags.
In Chicago, Julianna Zobrist, wife of star second baseman Ben Zobrist, sang "God Bless America" and the national anthem. On hand were members of the United Service Organizations who unfurled the stars and stripes in center field as a backdrop to the Cubs' series opener against the Dodgers.
Cubs manager Joe Maddon, whose father served, reflected on wishing he had.
"The one regret I have in my own personal life is that I never did serve," Maddon said. "At the time, it was very unpopular. The Vietnam War was going on and I was in college, and at the time you thought you were fortunate to not have to do that. Retrospectively, that would be the one life experience that I missed out on that I wish I had done."
In Denver, the Rockies recognized the USS Colorado, the newest of the Navy's nuclear submarines -- the fourth ship named after the 38th state in the Union, and first since a 1923 Battleship that served during World War II.
A pregame flyover was conducted by the Navy EA-18G Growler Training Squadron, Electronic Attack Squadron One Twenty Nine out of Naval Air Station Whidbey Island in Ault Field, Wash.
Coors Field commemorated fallen veterans with a moment of silence at 3 p.m. local time, as part of the National Moment of Remembrance, which Major League Baseball has participated in on Memorial Day since 1997. At the time, there two outs and the bases loaded in the bottom of the third inning.
In Atlanta, an honor guard presented a 21-gun salute pregame while Echo Taps was performed. On the video board was a montage listing all of the names of Georgia natives who died serving the country. Two T-38 jets based out of the Columbus Air Force Base did a flyover to a roaring crowd on a steamy afternoon at Turner Field.
All teams sported camouflage-themed garb on their hats and on the letters of their uniforms, licensed by the U.S. Marine Corps. Military members from all over were invited to pregame ceremonies across the Majors.
This is the eighth straight year MLB and New Era have created a camo cap, and the fourth year in a row Majestic Athletic designed a matching uniform. D-backs closer Brad Ziegler would be open to even more commemorative gear.
"It'd be cool to me if they had camo bats and stuff like that, as long as it wasn't too out of hand," Ziegler said.
Memorial Day has become ingrained in the MLB fabric as one of the top events on the calendar.
"It's obviously special to have a day to honor those who have fallen fighting for our country. If this is a way we can honor them in our workplace, obviously everybody's more than happy to do it and excited to do it," Ziegler said. "I obviously have got a special place in my heart for the military and anything we can do to honor them, we're all over it."
Daniel Kramer is a reporter for MLB.com based in Denver. Follow him on Twitter at @DKramer_. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.