Marlins thankful for chance to play at Ft. Bragg

Marlins thankful for chance to play at Ft. Bragg

FORT BRAGG, N.C. -- They started their Sunday hanging out with military members of the Special Forces, and their morning included a number of activities, including the hospital located on the Fort Bragg base.

Wherever the Miami players and coaches went, they were greeted with warm smiles and words of appreciation for taking part in a historical occasion. The Marlins and Braves became the first professional sports teams to play a regular-season game on an active U.S. military base on Sunday.

"They're telling us how thankful they are that we're here," Marlins left fielder Christian Yelich said. "We're thankful that they allowed us to be here. It's the other way around. We appreciate everything they do for us to allow us to play baseball. To do this in honor of them is going to be special for everybody."

With his younger brother, Cameron, serving in the Marines, Yelich said the night will be special for his family.

The Marlins have been on the go since they arrived late Saturday night, after they faced the Braves at Turner Field.

"It feels like more giving back to them for what they do for us every day," right fielder Giancarlo Stanton said. "It's something we can do for them."

To reliever Mike Dunn, playing at Fort Bragg is monumental, but being at Fort Bragg isn't entirely new. Before Spring Training in 2014, he spent parts of four days on the base as part of a Fox Sports Spring Training for the Troops initiative.

"It's been great ever since we landed, just being around our soldiers," Dunn said. "Going to the hospital, just seeing the smiles on everybody's faces. We're honored to be here, just being able to walk with the [troops] in their everyday life."

The one-game trip provides a break of the everyday big league grind, and it offers a new perspective during Fourth of July weekend.

"I've been excited from the very beginning when I heard this game was going to take place on the base," manager Don Mattingly said. "Everybody has been excited about playing here. The true appreciation for us coming has kind of been overwhelming. For us, it feels great for the things that they do for us."

For the occasion, MLB built the 12,500-seat stadium, which will be a fixture on the base and be converted into a softball field after the Marlins and Braves leave town.

Marlins closer A.J. Ramos said the atmosphere will feel like when he was a child growing up in Texas.

"You always did this in the front yard on Fourth of July when the fireworks were going off," Ramso said. "You were always practicing hitting a home run when the fireworks are going off. But we're actually doing it here as professionals. It feels we're out in the back yard playing, and it's a good feeling."

Joe Frisaro has covered the Marlins for since 2002. He writes a blog, called The Fish Pond. Follow him on Twitter @JoeFrisaro and listen to his podcast. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.