Fort Leonard Wood was the highlight of pre-game ceremonies Saturday at Hammons Field in Springfield, Missouri, where it was Military Appreciation Day.
“I’m really giddy about being here. This is really cool,” said Brig. Gen. Brian Bisacre, commandant of the U.S. Army Military Police School, as he, along with USAMPS Regimental Command Sgt. Maj. Michael Bennett, USAMPS Regimental Chief Warrant Officer 5 Joel Fitz and their families began a tour of the stadium.
Part of that tour included a meeting with the Springfield Cardinals — the Double A affiliate of the St. Louis Cardinals — in the team’s locker room. There, Bisacre earned what would be the first of two standing ovations — the second coming later from similar remarks made to the crowd before conducting an Oath of Enlistment ceremony on the field.
“Like you, we aspire to win in whatever we do,” Bisacre told the players. “We have a little bit different purpose. We do what we do so we can support and defend the Constitution of the United States. We’ve been doing that for 244 years; we’ll do it anywhere in the world and against anyone who threatens the liberties and freedoms that we enjoy in the country. That’s what makes the United States Army so great. We don’t care where you’re from: North, South, East, West. We don’t care what color you are; whether you’re male or female, what sexual orientation you are — the only thing we care about is that you’re a valuable member of the team, you’re willing to go shoulder to shoulder with each other, take something on and win.”
Bisacre, Bennett and Fitz took time to shake hands with nearly every Cardinals player, and later visited with the more than 80 Fort Leonard Wood service members who would later parade onto the infield.
During the parade of service members, Fort Leonard Wood’s Drill Sergeant of the Year, Sgt. 1st Class Marianne Russell led Soldiers onto the field along the third-base line, as audience members stood and cheered. Fort Leonard Wood personnel would later stand at attention in a V-formation hinging behind home plate as the Soldiers met Marines, Airman and Sailors, who marched in from the first-base line.
“It’s humbling, definitely, and it’s certainly an honor to be here,” Russell said, noting that, as a lifelong baseball fan, the day was a special one for her.
“I grew up watching the Red Sox with my grandfather — that’s something we did all the time,” she added.
For the crowd, the pre-game ceremonies began with the Oath of Enlistment, after which Bisacre, Bennett and Fitz congratulated all 28 future Soldiers from around the Springfield area.
Following the swearing-in, the three USAMPS leaders took turns throwing in ceremonial pitches, with Fitz going first, followed by Bennett and Bisacre.
With Fort Leonard Wood personnel lining the infield, the 399th Army Band moved into formation from the outfield and, after the joint service color guard presented the colors, performed the National Anthem.
Throughout the game, Fort Leonard Wood personnel took part in a number of games and activities between innings.
During the seventh inning stretch, Spc. Lance Boston with the 399th Army Band performed “God Bless America.”
“It’s always a pleasure,” Boston said before the game when asked how he felt to have the opportunity to perform. “I was here two years ago when I sang ‘God Bless America’ and had a fantastic time. I’m excited to do it again this year.”
While the Cardinals fell to the visiting Northwest Arkansas Naturals 12-5, audience members were treated to a fireworks show after the game.
This was the 14th year Military Appreciation Day held at the ballpark. The event is sponsored annually by Infuze Credit Union.
“It’s a tremendous honor to be able to serve the men and women who serve in the United States Army and all the armed forces who train on Fort Leonard Wood,” said Mike Smith, Infuze Credit Union CEO, who also threw out a ceremonial pitch.
Military Appreciation Night is also something Springfield Cardinals players and staff look forward to each year, according to Hammons Field CEO Dan Reiter.
“This is very special for our team,” Reiter said during the tour. “In fact, we brag to other teams about it every year.”
Hammons Field reported a season-high sellout crowd of 7,490 spectators.