Brewers, Phillies reflect on events of 9/11

Brewers, Phillies reflect on events of 9/11

MILWAUKEE -- Brewers catcher Jonathan Lucroy was a high school freshman on Sept. 11, 2001, and remembers being in agriculture class when a staff member announced that the U.S. was under attack.

Years later, Lucroy would develop a deep appreciation for military service and history that today drives his charitable efforts as a young big leaguer. In 2001, he was just a 15-year-old, confused as everyone else about what 9/11 meant to the country.

"I didn't get interested in the military until I got to pro ball," said Lucroy, drafted by the Brewers in 2007. "I started reading a lot of books about it, learning what those guys have to go through to keep all of us safe. When you're young, you take all that stuff for granted. Then I got to college, and got into the real world, and started understanding things a lot better."

Now he understands that it's a gift to play baseball for a living. Lucroy thinks about that every day and particularly on days like Saturday, when he met a Navy SEAL in the dugout at Miller Park.

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"I told him, 'Dude, you come out and watch us take batting practice and think it's awesome; I think what you do is awesome,'" Lucroy said. "We can play this game because of what guys like that do for us. That's one of the greatest things a lot of us take for granted. Those guys sacrifice their lives for us. Self-sacrifice is one of the greatest things you can give."

The Brewers honored that sacrifice in a pregame ceremony at Miller Park on Sunday, in remembrance of the Sept. 11 attacks.

First pitches were delivered by veterans of the Army, Navy, Marine Corps, Air Force and Coast Guard. Major General Don Dunbar, the adjutant general of Wisconsin's National Guard units, was recognized on the field.

Recently retired Greenfield, Wis., fire chief Russ Spahn sang the national anthem. He was Greenfield's assistant fire chief in 2001, and told the website Patch.com this week about his memories of Sept. 11.

"We knew in New York and any of the high-rise places, command is often set up right inside a lower floor of that building, which we found out in this case was fatal," Spahn told the website. "No one really believed those buildings would collapse. The chiefs did what they would normally do for a structural fire of that nature. As we saw the buildings fall one by one, we knew people vanished just that quickly, including the fire crews who were performing rescues, the command that was down there. We knew instantly hundreds of people must have died."

Then-Astros rookie Roy Oswalt, now with the Phillies, was at his Kingwood, Texas, apartment when he learned about the attack.

"My mom had called me like five times and I was like, 'What the heck is she calling so much for?" Oswalt said. "She said you're not on a plane, are you? I'm like, 'No, you're talking to me on the phone aren't you?' She told me what happened and I flipped on the TV. I actually saw the second one hit the other tower."

Before Spahn's stirring anthem performance, the sold-out crowd at Miller Park observed a moment of silence for the victims of that day.

The moment was particularly powerful for Brewers manager Ron Roenicke, who became emotional Sunday morning when asked what would go through his mind as he doffed his cap for the anthem. He's reading a book about SEAL Team 6, and just finished Marcus Luttrell's, "The Lone Survivor," about a SEALs mission in Afghanistan in 2005.

"I always say a prayer during the anthem," Roenicke said, "and that will certainly be on my mind today."

Adam McCalvy is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, Brew Beat, and follow him on Twitter at @AdamMcCalvy. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.