SEATTLE - 30,000 Seattle Mariners fans stood and applauded as approximately 200 service members from surrounding military installations marched onto Safeco Field during the 14th Annual "Salute to Armed Forces Day" game April 19.
The Mariners hosted the event as a way to pay tribute to those currently serving in the military and those who gave their lives in defense of our nation.
"It's a great honor to host the event for the services," said Alan Just, account executive, group in suite and sales, Seattle Mariners. "It is the least we could do to show our support. The Mariners wanted to take a moment to welcome the men and women who have given so much to our country onto the field and thank them in front of their fans."
Service members who were invited to be on the field had the privilege to participate in several different activities during the pre-game ceremonies. Some of those activities included: holding a giant American flag in the outfield, presenting the national and service flags, stand side-by-side with the players, and performing the national anthem.
First, service members lined the baselines as the announcer introduced each military branch until the only thing that could be heard was the cheers and applause from the crowd. The joint service honor guard moved onto the field preparing to present the American and service flags as Soldiers, Sailors, Marines and Airmen stretched out a giant American flag in the outfield. Once in position, the players from both teams joined the troops on the field, thanked them for their service, and stood side-by-side as the stadium was asked to pause for a moment of silence, after taps was played. The national anthem was performed by the Navy Band.
The Mariners gave one person from each service the honor to throw the first pitch to a player. Sgt. 1st Class Jose Rivera was chosen to represent the Army at Joint Base Lewis-McChord, Wash.
"It was a great privilege and honor to represent the Army during the Mariners game," said Rivera, 1st Battalion, 17th Infantry Regiment, 2nd Stryker Brigade Combat Team, 2nd Infantry Division. "I have been a baseball fan all my life, and to be able to throw the first pitch was a dream come true."
Every year, for the last 14 years, service members from all branches are invited to the stadium to be honored by the Mariners and their fans.
"Always a fantastic event that keeps getting better and better each year," said Just. "I love this day every season. It's always great to meet the service members personally and thank them."