22 Jul 2016

MLB Takes a Chunk of Ground and Turns it Into a Special Ball Field for Troops and Their Families

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Solider and daughter

Soldier and daughter. MLB recently treated members of the Armed Forces and their families to a major league game at Fort Bragg.

Recently Major League Baseball wanted to express a giant “THANK YOU” to our soldiers and accomplished this is a BIG WAY by building an entirely new sports facility with aluminum bleachers, electronic scoreboard and Bermuda grass.

In essence, they created a real life “Field of Dreams.” But this field was not created by mowing down a few cornfields. This was a top-notch playing field built from scratch with $5 million donated by MLB and the Players’ Association.

The location they chose was important and most appropriate – Fort Bragg, NC, where thousands of troops are stationed and many are then sent overseas to conflict zones around the world.

The two teams that played – the Miami Marlins and the Atlanta Braves – two southern teams with huge fan bases.

On the eve of the Fourth of July, the call was made to “play ball” and the players took the field at 8:05 pm. The game was close and in the end the Marlins prevailed winning 5-2.

But the real winners were the 12,000 plus troops and their families who sat in those aluminum bleachers. They were treated to a special event that was not only crammed into MLB’s schedule for them but also played out on a venue created especially for them.

Aluminum bleachers provided quick seating

The biggest challenge surrounding the game was not whether Marlins slugger Giancarlo Stanton would be able to survice the pitching of Atlanta’ Matt Wisler. The biggest challenge was preparing the ground for where both players would be standing.

Personnel from MLB basically took an abandoned golf course near Pope Army Airfield and turned it into a pro-stadium quality baseball field.

This was no sandlot. (Imagine players getting injured on a poor field. Ouch. That would certainly be the end of that promotion).

Engineers moved tons of dirt around to get the right grades. Bermuda grass grown in nearby Charlotte was trucked in to make the field respectable.

Another endeavor was not only in building the field, but creating a nice place for these 12,000 special spectators to sit. That’s the beauty of aluminum bleachers – they can be erected quickly and with portable bleachers, they can be moved around the field to accommodate fans in different areas.

An electronic scoreboard was also erected to really give the troops an experience like they were in a major league ballpark.

After starting in May, all of this was completed just five days before the game.

But it was worth it, for both the troops and the players. Before the game, players met with the families, posed for photos and signed autographs. In turn, the troops shared some of their professional expertise with the ballplayers and showed them their skills, such as how to pack a parachute.

All in all, the “Away” game for both teams certainly accomplished its mission. It would have been difficult to ship 12,000 troops and civilians to a major league stadium for a game. So to show their appreciation, the MLB brought the stadium to the troops. Everybody scored a hit that day.



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