Dodgers host soldiers with BP on Veterans Day
Team welcomes 80 members of armed forces in special salute
LOS ANGELES -- The Dodgers marked Veterans Day on Thursday by kicking off a series of initiatives saluting the military.
Hall of Fame broadcaster Vin Scully and former Hall of Fame manager Tom Lasorda visited patients at the Veterans Administration Hospital in the morning.
Then, 80 active and reserve members of the armed forces took part in hitting on the field, throwing in the bullpen and taking a clubhouse tour.
Representing the club on the field were Lasorda, general manager Ned Colletti and former players Don Newcombe (who served during the Korean conflict), Steve Yeager, Ken Landreaux, Bobby Castillo, Jim Campanis and Roy Gleason (who has a Purple Heart from the Vietnam War).
"This is a chance for the Dodgers organization to show how much we appreciate all you have done while wearing the uniform of the greatest country in the world," said Lasorda, an Army veteran. "It's always an honor and a privilege every time I see those wearing the uniform with pride, with dignity and with character. We're proud of you and for what you've done for the country."
Lasorda then took his position by the batting cage as part coach and part heckler while the soldiers traded their weapons for wooden and metal bats.
"Is that the best you can do?" Lasorda chided Jermaine Washington, a master sergeant based at Edwards Air Force Base, who played ball growing up in Chicago.
"That was awesome," Washington said. "I was hoping to have Mr. Lasorda give me some motivational speak. He bet me I couldn't hit one out. I owe him five bucks. It's an honor to have him motivate me. I'm humbled that the organization would show its appreciation for the veterans. It means a lot to us."
Michael Argo, Commanding Officer of the Naval Reserve Operational Sports Center in Los Angeles, brought 10 sailors to the event.
"They were super excited about coming," Argo said. "They are die-hard Dodgers fans."
Two die-hard fans unable to attend are assigned to the U.S.S. Ronald Reagan, which assisted a disabled cruise ship this week.
Geoffrey Marshall, an Aviation Ordnanceman and Petty Officer First Class, grew up in Houston as a Dodgers fan.
"I love the team. It's synonymous with baseball," Marshall said from the ship.
Shipmate Mauro Guevara, Boatswain's Mate Master Chief Petty Officer and Deck Department Leading Chief Petty Officer, said he's been a baseball fan since coming to the United States from Guatemala as an 8-year-old in 1990.
"The Dodgers are all I watch," Guevara said. "On the ship, we have the Armed Forces Network and DirecTv, and we watch the Dodgers every chance we get."
Drew Allen took his turn in the batting cage and had a clue what he was doing. He played for the Air Force Academy from 1994-96. Now, he's an F-22 test pilot out of Edwards Air Force Base.
"Not a bad gig," he said. "Being a Major League player isn't bad either. I probably have the only job in the world better than that -- except the money.
"But what they've done here today is tremendous. I met a team executive at a Padres game and asked if the Dodgers could do more with the veterans and, sure enough, they came through. I'm very impressed."
For the 2011 season, the club will make tickets discounted up to 75 percent available to active duty and retired armed forces personnel, including reserve and National Guard components, for all home games. Spouses and dependents will be eligible and up to eight tickets per game will be available per purchase.
The club also will honor a veteran at every home game with tickets, a batting practice experience and pregame recognition on the field.
Ken Gurnick is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.