ABERDEEN PROVING GROUND, Md. -- The U.S. Army Test and Evaluation Command's Commanding General, Maj. Gen. Peter D. Utley, hosted a 'Night at the IronBirds' event for ATEC and U.S. Army Evaluation Center personnel on July 11 at Ripken Stadium in Aberdeen, Md.

Personnel from ATEC Headquarters and AEC enjoyed a night of baseball complete with a wide selection of delicious food, great team play by the IronBirds, and a spectacular fireworks display after the game. For some of the workforce, this was their first time attending an IronBirds game, while others were season ticket holders.

The Aberdeen IronBirds, a minor league short-season single-A affiliate of the Baltimore Orioles, is owned by National Baseball Hall of Famer and Aberdeen native, Cal Ripken, Jr. Ripken played 21 seasons for the Baltimore Orioles from 1981 until 2001, when his number '8' was officially retired.

"I felt this would be a good opportunity to get folks from ATEC Headquarters and AEC together in some sort of social activity," said Utley. "We normally see each other at work where we're usually always busy. Baseball games are a good venue and this was a great opportunity to get our folks out of the office."

Initially, only 50 seats were reserved for the event, said Sharon King, staff action control officer for the ATEC Command Group and the IronBirds event coordinator. However, the response was so enthusiastic, approximately 95 personnel across ATEC and AEC attended.

Utley decided to host the event after discussing possible ways to build teamwork and camaraderie for the ATEC and AEC workforce with ATEC's Chief of Staff, Karen Taylor. It was agreed that this was a perfect opportunity to do so, as well as a wonderful opportunity for ATEC to show pride in the local Harford County community.

The IronBirds played a home game against the Batavia Muckdogs, a short season single-A affiliate of the Miami Marlins. Utley and three others threw ceremonial first pitches. ATEC and AEC personnel were excited to see their Commanding General throw one of the first pitches, and they were elated when the IronBirds were victorious over the Muckdogs, 9-4.

Several attendees expressed their opinion that Utley threw like a pro and felt he was instrumental in the IronBirds' decisive win over the Muckdogs.

However, Utley was dubious about his pitch having much, if any, effect on the IronBirds' win. "There were three other people out there," said Utley. "The first gentleman who threw a pitch was good and two little boys were out there and they did well too. It was probably all four of us coming together to bring us some luck."

ATEC and AEC employees were proud to be represented by Utley, and equally glad to see what a great pitcher he was.

"After seeing some of the celebrities who have completely bombed in their first pitch attempts, I think everyone was a little nervous with someone we knew up there," said Capt. Robert McCormick, commander of ATEC's Headquarters and Headquarters Company. "But Maj. Gen. Utley threw a great pitch!"

Both first-timers and diehard IronBirds fans expressed their satisfaction with the event and hopes that ATEC will host another IronBirds event in the near future. Most felt events such as this help to build esprit de corps, serve as great team builders, and bring ATEC and AEC personnel together to have a great time in an off-duty setting.

"It is a great public relations opportunity in the local community," said McCormick. "It's also a great night out for ATEC Soldiers and civilians."

Victoria Dixon, director of ATEC's equal employment opportunity office, agrees.

"Even though this was my first time attending an IronBirds game, it was hard not to notice what a great family-friendly outing and morale booster this was for the ATEC and AEC workforce," said Dixon. "The IronBirds' team players, along with the Ripken Stadium staff, are very community oriented and work to engage and feature activities for all age groups to participate in and enjoy."

The IronBirds event wasn't just a morale booster for ATEC however; Cal Ripken Jr. and the IronBirds are a part of APG's history. The team's former logo featured an airplane marked with Ripken's number '8.' The logo represented the nearby APG United States Army installation and the team's proud roots in Aberdeen. Utley said he was proud to be able to represent the Army, ATEC, and APG at the IronBirds' game.

"I think anytime we can get out and show our support for a hometown team in our community, it's a good thing," said Utley. "I wore my uniform to represent the Army and our command. I think it's important for our great citizens to know our Army is always prepared to support and defend our Nation and our constitution. An opportunity like this is well worth the time."