SBD/May 3, 2011/Sports in Society

Nationals Host Military Appreciation Night As Teams Respond To Bin Laden Death

Nationals began planning Military Appreciation Night during offseason
The Nationals last night hosted Military Appreciation Night at Nationals Park, "less than 24 hours after President Barack Obama announced that terrorist leader Osama bin Laden was killed by U.S. forces in Pakistan," according to Howard Fendrich of the AP. The Nationals said that they began planning the event "in the offseason and announced [it] to the public a week ago." Nationals manager Jim Riggleman said before last night's game against the Giants, "That’s amazing, the way the timing worked out for that. ... Those who are here tonight are going to be beaming with pride about what took place last night." As part of Military Appreciation Night, military personnel "were allowed to receive up to four free tickets; a member of the Army threw out the ceremonial first pitch; a member of the Navy sang the National Anthem; two red Coast Guard helicopters did a flyover before first pitch; and other uniformed military personnel jogged out as if to play defense position before being joined by the real ballplayers." At several other ballparks and arenas last night, "there were sights, signs and sounds it was an extraordinary day" (AP, 5/2). In DC, Adam Kilgore notes after the third inning of last night's Giants-Nationals game, the Nationals Park video board "showed members of the military sitting behind home plate in the President’s Club." Players and coaches from both teams "stood on the front step of their dugout and clapped for more than a minute" (WASHINGTON POST, 5/3). SPORTING NEWS' David Steele writes, "If there was any theme at the first sports event in Washington post-bin Laden, it was the appreciative part of the celebration at the Washington Nationals-San Francisco Giants game. Almost a sense of awe at what had transpired, a fairly large exhale and some solemn reflection on it all. To wit: the National Anthem as something closer to a hymn than a battle cry" (SPORTING NEWS TODAY, 5/3). Nationals Owner Mark Lerner said, "We're proud of every game when we honor the military, but this is special. This is bigger than anything in sports" (WASHINGTON TIMES, 5/3).

PAYING TRIBUTE: In San Diego, Bill Center notes the Padres last night wore their camouflage jerseys, usually reserved for Sunday games, and offered "free admission for the Padres-Pirates game to all active and retired military personnel in the area." Last night's salute "began with the players, who began calling the club’s office early in the morning requesting" that the camouflage jerseys be worn. Shortly after the "decision was made to wear the camouflage jerseys Monday night as a tribute, the Padres decided to offer free tickets to all active and retired military with valid identification cards as well as those retired military members holding Padres Military Appreciation cards." Before the start of last night's game, the Padres "paid tribute to servicemen." The ceremonies included a "moment of silence for all those who had given their life in defense of the country" (SAN DIEGO UNION-TRIBUNE, 5/3). Meanwhile, the Red Sox last night before their game against the Angels "unfurled a US flag the length of the wall in left field" at Fenway Park. There were 18 servicemen and women "on the warning track and the Brockton High band played the National Anthem as players from both teams stood on the baselines." There was a moment of silence as well (BOSTON GLOBE, 5/3). Following the National Anthem at Fenway, Army Ranger Sgt. Lucas Carr joined former Bruins star Derek Sanderson and former Celtics F Tom Sanders in throwing out ceremonial first pitches (ESPNBOSTON.com, 5/2).

PERFECT PITCH: In Philadelphia, Sam Carchidi notes prior to last night's Bruins-Flyers game, Lauren Hart sang a duet with a video recording of Kate Smith for "God Bless America." The fans at Wells Fargo Center "stood and sang and got teary-eyed before breaking into 'U-S-A' chants." During a "stoppage early in the first period, scenes of heroic efforts after 9/11 were shown on the video board." Members of the armed forces, "and Philadelphia firemen and police officers were introduced to the crowd, giving it the feel of a pep rally" (PHILADELPHIA INQUIRER, 5/3). In Miami, Greg Cote notes Heat games "always bear a patriotic flavor," but the preamble to tonight's game against the Celtics "will go beyond that in the wake of bin Laden's death." Members of the military "will unfurl 50 American flags on the court and fans will be invited" to sing the National Anthem (MIAMI HERALD, 5/3).

PAY IT FORWARD: The Mets are planning to give away 4,000 tickets to tonight's game against the Giants at Citi Field to "members of the armed services and their families." In addition, a Marine corps sergeant will sing “God Bless America" during the seventh-inning stretch (NYTIMES.com, 5/2). MLB.com's Anthony DiComo noted the donation complements the Mets' "season-long policy of providing a free ticket to any active service member who presents a valid military I.D. at the Citi Field ticket office" (MLB.com, 5/2). Meanwhile, the Dodgers announced last night they will offer free tickets at Dodger Stadium to all military members throughout May. All members of the joint services with a valid military ID, including active, reserve and retired veterans as well as their dependents, can get two free tickets to any Dodgers game this month, based on availability (Dodgers).
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