By Jim Dresbach, Pentagram Staff WriterJune 28, 2013
JOINT BASE MYER-HENDERSON HALL, Va. Those who defend tend to work shoulder to shoulder.
Both the Army and the Washington Nationals are current defenders - one is a defender of the nation while the other is defending its National League eastern division championship.
The evening of June 20, the Nationals gave soldiers and their families full access to their ballpark during Army Appreciation Night pregame ceremonies. The District of Columbia's major league baseball team saluted those who guard America and gave them the opportunity to demonstrate their physical and musical talents as well as their devotion to the home team.
Military District of Washington-Joint Force Headquarters-National Capital Region teams from The U.S. Army Band "Pershing's Own" to The U.S. Army Drill Team to a line-up of Pentagon officers contributed to the evening. MDW Command Sgt. Maj. David Turnbull received the honor of throwing out the night's first pitch; he was grateful the Nationals made the effort to honor his military branch.
"For the Nationals to recognize us and give us a special night for soldiers, is great," Turnbull said. "This is a great time to get out here and interact with the community for a little outreach. That's something we always enjoy doing.
"To be selected to throw out the first pitch is pretty awesome," the command sergeant major continued. "I've thrown a lot of batting practice to my son, so I hope that carries me through."
Following Turnbull's ceremonial toss, Lt. Gen. William Troy, director of the Army Staff, delivered the game ball to Nationals starting pitcher Jordan Zimmerman. Troy was joined on the field by the Starting 8, a collection of Nationals fans who get a 90-second pregame meet and greet with position players. The appreciation night's Starting 8 was comprised of Army kids - many were children of Joint Base Myer-Henderson Hall Soldiers or staff members, who received the chance to traverse a major league infield and outfield for the first time.
Eleven-year-old Evan Maly's favorite National team member is third baseman Ryan Zimmerman, and when Evan headed to the field, he found himself at the hot corner face-to-face with the Nationals all-star.
"This is very exciting; I'm trying to keep myself from being too excited," Maly said before his meeting with Zimmerman. "I'm going to say something to him; I'm going to tell him to have a good time during the game."
Musically, "Pershing's Own" was represented by The U.S. Army Chorus, which performed the national anthem, and Downrange's Sgt. 1st Class Christal Rheams, who took the field microphone during the seventh inning for her rendition of "God Bless America."
"Being an American and as patriotic as I am, I can't think of a better place to be or nothing greater I can do to serve my country than to be able to sing this in the seventh inning of the baseball game," she said. "It makes your heart beat a bit extra to think about it."
The appreciation night was a Family affair for Rheams. Her 11-year-old son, Adam, was part of the Starting 8 and met Nats catcher Kurt Suzuki.
"Awesome," was Adam's brief reaction to being behind the plate.
To start the Army Appreciation festivities, a video featuring Nationals mascot Screech with JBM-HH soldiers was shown followed by the drill team's centerfield exercise. As for the game, the Nationals defeated the Colorado Rockies, 5-1.