ATLANTA -- Thoughts about relatives who have served or are currently serving in the United States Armed Forces will fill the minds of some Braves players and coaches as they interact with military personnel before Sunday night's Fort Bragg Game against the Marlins.
"My dad instilled in me, at an early age, a sense of patriotism," Braves pitching coach Roger McDowell said. "My dad was in the Korean War, and he fought in the Army. My brother was in the Air Force. I think it is very important for me to show my appreciation to our troops for what they do and what they sacrifice so that we can live in a country of freedom."
History will be made on Sunday night when the Marlins and Braves play within a recently constructed 12,500-seat stadium at Fort Bragg. This will mark the first time any major professional sports franchise plays a regular-season contest on an active military base.
But the hours leading up to this event will also be quite memorable for the Braves and Marlins, who will spend portions of Sunday morning and afternoon interacting with the troops and getting an up-close look at what they do on a daily basis around Fort Bragg.
"I think having had family members who served in the military makes you appreciate what those guys are going through for all of us," Braves catcher Tyler Flowers said. "They have set up some things which we can do with them. Both of my grandparents served. I also have two cousins that are Marines. I've heard some of the stories, so it will be kind of neat to see them in action a little bit."
Though Jace Peterson's grandfather has never talked about what he experienced during the Vietnam War, the Braves' second baseman certainly appreciates the sacrifices he made, and those that are currently being made by U.S. troops stationed around the world.
"I really don't ask [my grandfather]," Peterson said. "I just thank him and appreciate everything he's done and everyone else who has done it. For me, [the Fort Bragg Game] is just about going and interacting with these men and women to see what they do on a daily basis and thank them for their service. It's going to be fun."
Matt Wisler, who will serve as Atlanta's starting pitcher on Sunday night, gained a better appreciation for what his grandfather did during World War II when he and other family members spent a recent Christmas in a town in the Netherlands where his grandfather was stationed.
"Just to see the respect they had for U.S. troops and what they did for their country really [gave me] a whole new respect for what those guys did back then," Wisler said. "It's an honor for us to play for these guys. What they do for our country, our families and our safety is unbelievable. I have total respect for what these guys do for us."
Mark Bowman is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.