ATLANTA -- Though the opportunity to participate in the first regular-season Major League Baseball game ever played on an active military base is certainly appealing, Braves outfielder Jeff Francoeur and some of his teammates are every bit as excited about the opportunity to spend a portion of this weekend interacting with military personnel stationed at Fort Bragg, N.C.
"The excitement more than anything is about the experience," Francoeur said. "We're going to get a chance to hang out in the mess hall and spend the day honestly just hanging with those guys, which for us, what an honor."
After playing Saturday afternoon at Turner Field, the Braves and the Marlins will fly to North Carolina to prepare for the Fort Bragg Game, which will begin Sunday at 8 p.m. ET and will be shown on ESPN. During the morning and afternoon hours leading up to this unique event, players, coaches and executives from both teams will interact with military personnel and tour portions of the base, which stands as the largest active military base in the world.
"I'm sure [the military members] will be excited to watch a ballgame on Sunday night on ESPN, but I think more than anything, we'll be looking forward to spending the morning and afternoon hanging out with those guys," Francoeur said. "It's just an honor to be with them. It's not like they're forced to go into [the military]. They make the decision to serve our country and be the backbone that keeps us safe."
The Braves and the Marlins will play the game within a 12,500-seat stadium that was recently constructed courtesy of funds supplied by Major League Baseball and the Major League Baseball Players Association. This intimate Spring Training-like structure will be filled with soldiers and family members who are currently stationed at Fort Bragg.
Dating back more than a decade to his earliest days with the Braves, Francoeur has long been a fervent supporter of any activity involving military members. He has routinely visited military bases located throughout the country, and savored the opportunity to learn a little more about what it takes to become a Navy Seal or a U.S. Army Ranger.
"We grind every day doing this and that and putting pressure on ourselves," Francoeur said. "Yet these guys have lost friends [in the battlefield]. We gripe about it being hot in Atlanta, and these guys are full suit running sprints and doing obstacle courses.
"There's a humility and admiration for just what they do. It's unbelievable when you see those Navy Seals out there. They could run circles around us. It's just an honor to be around those guys and see what they do."
Mark Bowman is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.