Fort Bragg visit about more than just a game

Fort Bragg visit about more than just a game

FORT BRAGG, N.C. -- Fifteen years later, many of the Braves who participated in the first game played in New York after the 9/11 attacks contend that they appreciated seeing the Mets' Mike Piazza raise the hometown fans' spirits courtesy of his game-winning home run against the Braves that night at Shea Stadium.

A decade from now, the Braves may express similar sentiments about their 5-2 loss to the Marlins on Sunday night at Fort Bragg Stadium. It was the first Major League game held at an active military base, but the splendor of the event consisted of much more than the nine innings played primarily in front of troops and family members stationed on the base.

"There was a different feel today," first baseman Freddie Freeman said. "You had 12,500 people here, and you know they were in it from the start. It was just so much fun to play a game like this. Just like [the 2001 Braves] said, we'll be talking about this one 15 years from now and how awesome it was."

Freeman will forever remember spending time during the hours leading up to the game with 97-year-old World War II veteran Hubert Edwards, who proudly talked about how he would sneak a transistor receiver in his ear and keep the decibel down so he could listen to the World Series without the enemy detecting his position during the war.

After spending the morning and afternoon interacting with troops around the base, the Braves savored the chance to play in this stadium and partake in the pregame ceremony, which was highlighted by a helicopter flyover that seemed to stir the emotions of everyone in attendance.

Helicopter view of flyover

"It was an unbelievable game overall," starting pitcher Matt Wisler said. "The flyover was very special. That put some chills on you. The big part about today wasn't the game. It was the stuff that went on beforehand, with the atmosphere and all of that. The game itself, it was awesome to play in front of those guys. It was more for them than it was for us."

Wisler made a few mistakes, with two-strike sliders that cost him three runs over six innings, and the Braves did not crack the scoreboard until they tallied a pair of ninth-inning runs against Marlins closer A.J. Ramos. But the memories taken away from this game will have more to do with the time spent with the troops.

Sntiker on game at Fort Bragg

Though he was serving as the starting pitcher, Wisler still spent a portion of the afternoon visiting patients in a hospital and dining with some military personnel and family members who went to one of the base's mess halls to meet Braves and Marlins players.

"This whole experience and process has been mind-blowing," second baseman Jace Peterson said. "It's just been a special day."

Mark Bowman has covered the Braves for since 2001. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.