By Eric Pilgrim | Fort Knox NewsApril 29, 2019
A line of military representatives from various units and organizations in and around Louisville, Kentucky, gathered near the pitcher's mound of Louisville Slugger Field April 28 to be recognized.
Louisville Bats baseballs fans cheered as each of a handful of people took a turn throwing out the first pitch at the start of the Bats' finale of a three-game series against the Norfolk Tides. The Bats decided to finish up their six-game homestand in style with a special military appreciation game.
Among the would-be pitchers, Maj. Gen. John Evans Jr., commanding general of U.S. Army Cadet Command and Fort Knox, smiled at the crowd as he stood on the mound. Beside him, Command Sgt. Maj. Mario Terenas, his senior enlisted advisor, raised his hands in the air as Evans focused on the strike zone.
Buddy the Bat stood in as catcher. He maintained his catcher pose as the ball sailed past him far to the right of the strike zone. The crowd cheered.
Bats officials delivered as many as 1,500 tickets to veterans and vet organizations for the big baseball bash in their honor. Veterans with proper military identification were provided a free game on the house.
"Those who have served and who are serving in our nation's military make a great sacrifice that benefits all Americans," said David Berry, corporate marketing manager of the Bats. "The Louisville Bats are happy to be able to use Louisville Slugger Field and our baseball games as a method to say thank you and honor them."
The game featured several special ceremonies, activities and events throughout, including a pregame and 7th inning stretch performance by Ladies for Liberty -- a military period performance troupe -- and a color guard from U.S. Army Cadet Command during the national anthem.
While the crowd stood and honored the colors for the national anthem, two C-130 aircraft from the Kentucky National Guard flew over the top of them.
Between innings during the game, Bats organizers saluted a small group of select combat veterans from various wars.
One of those veterans was Jeremy Harrell, president of the Veteran's Club and an Iraq veteran.
"It's an honor to be out here," said Harrell. "I'm a baseball fan. It's America's pastime, so it just makes sense to be out here, and the fans' appreciation puts into perspective the reason why I served, and the reason why I'm proud to have represented this country."
Another veteran enjoying the special day was 92-year-old Pedro Carrillo, joined by his son, daughter and other family members.
The War World II veteran pulled out a picture depicting himself shortly after he joined the Navy in 1943 -- a face much younger and less wrinkled but bearing the same smile. Barely 17 years old at the time, Carrillo's father had to sign for him to join the military. He soon entered the war in the Pacific Theater as a boatswain, and fought many battles against the Japanese, including at Iwo Jima.
Carrillo said he left the military in 1947, but found himself reentering two years later -- this time joining the Army. Remaining close to his Navy roots, Carrillo found himself on an amphibious tank in the Battle of Inchon during the Korean War.
"I came back home in June of 1953; I then went to Fort Knox and spent some time there," said Carrillo.
After various moves to Germany and other locations, Carrillo returned to Fort Know, where he retired in 1966. He now lives in Louisville.
"It means a whole lot that people still think of the Soldiers, and I'm privy to that appreciation," said Carrillo. "A lot of my friends are now gone, but I'm still ticking for some reason -- maybe for this reason."
The Bats will host another military appreciation game May 27.