By Tommy Gilligan, Pointer View Assistant EditorOctober 22, 2009
WEST POINT, N.Y. (Oct. 22, 2009) Earlier this fall, West Point and the New York Yankees were in the headlines for striking a deal to bring football back to the Bronx for the next five years.
However, West Point's history with the Pin Stripers goes much deeper than that. Since the turn of the 20th century at the old Polo Grounds, the cadets of West Point have been involved with the storied franchise doing everything from playing more than 20 Army-Navy games at the field to practicing with the baseball team during spring training.
In recent years, the cadets have not only represented the academy, but the military as a whole, on some of the biggest stages in professional sports. From the 2008 Major League Baseball All-Star game to the playoff baseball games, the cadets were asked to bring a color guard and other participants by the top officials in the Yankees front office.
More than 80 cadets and 40 members of the West Point Band traveled to the Bronx Oct. 16, to represent the armed services for the first game of the American League Championship Series between the New York Yankees and the Los Angeles Angels.
For the majority of the cadets, it was their first time handling the 50-yard-long American flag.
"We like to use the students from West Point because of their discipline, respect for the flag and the long-standing tradition they represent," Doug Green, vice president of Bowl Games of America, said. "I have been displaying the flag here for the Yankees for over 10 years at every major home event for the team and the cadets are always one of my favorite groups to work with."
Green said it takes 75 people to handle a flag of that size and to properly render the respect the flag demands.
Throughout the practice session, the young men and women worked with absolute precision to ensure the millions of people that would be watching the game would have their expectations upheld.
Even during practice, many of the cadets could not help but look around at the brand new stadium.
"It was a big opportunity to see this new stadium and to be able to take part in a big pennant baseball game," Cow Teddy Yost said.
While many went to watch pre-game warm-ups, some of the group took the opportunity to tour the new Monument Park, seeing the vast history of individuals who had roamed the field of the old stadium while wearing the Bombers jersey.
As game time approached, the five members of the color guard prepared in the green room while the band and the flag bearers waited in the tunnel for their cue to enter the field in front of nearly 52,000 screaming fans.
As the band performed the national anthem, the cadets unveiled the flag that nearly covered the entire outfield. With players and fans on their feet, a feeling of cultural pride filled the air. It did not matter what team one was rooting for--during those moments, there was only one team.
"It was an amazing feeling to be on the field during the national anthem of game one of the ALCS," Yearling Jeffery Gulley said. "I felt a strong sense of pride and gratitude for my service to our country while hearing the crowd roar during the final portion of the national anthem as we waved the flag."
The roar continued as they marched off the field with meticulous attention to detail.
The Yankees provided the more than 120 individuals that were involved with the opening ceremony with some of the hottest tickets in the tri-state area for the evening. Even while the first pitches were being thrown in the first game, spectators came up to the cadets and thanked them for what they were doing.