FORT BRAGG, N.C. -- Emotions ran high at Fort Bragg Field for most of Sunday night, but the meaning of the event really struck home when the crowd of 12,582 began chanting, "U.S.A.! U.S.A.!"
The Marlins certainly had plenty to cheer about in the first professional game played on an active military base. Left fielder Christian Yelich and catcher J.T. Realmuto each had three hits in Miami's 5-2 win over the Braves, but the occasion represented so much more.
"Nothing but goosebumps," Realmuto said. "I got goosebumps multiple times tonight. The flyover for the anthem, and when they were chanting ['U.S.A.!']."
Realmuto worked through all the emotions. He led off with a strikeout and fanned a second time in his next at-bat, but he got the Marlins on the board with an RBI single and added a home run -- the first at Fort Bragg Field -- in the ninth inning. He also stole a base and committed a throwing error.
"I definitely didn't start off how I wanted," Realmuto said. "But it was definitely special. Any time you can be the first to do something, like [homer] before a crowd like this, and kind of give these guys a show, that was really special for me."
Yelich also had some firsts, including the first hit of the night, a single to center. He also drove in a run in the fifth inning.
Yelich spoke before the game about hoping to put on a good show for the troops, and for him it's personal, because his younger brother, Cameron, is in the Marines.
Having taken part in the Fort Bragg trip, Yelich has even a greater appreciation for those who serve.
"The national anthem is something that we do before every baseball game," he said. "Today it definitely hit home a lot more, the same with 'God Bless America.' Just to see the men and women who serve our country enjoy the game, it is special."
Joe Frisaro has covered the Marlins for MLB.com 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.