Marines stationed in the Washington area stormed Nationals Park for U.S. Marines Day May 8.
The Washington Nationals honored the Marine Corps by inviting Marines to take part in an array of pregame ceremonies before the game against the Detroit Tigers.
“It means a lot to us,” said Shawn Bertani, the senior director of community relations for the Washington Nationals. “We hold the military branch days, and there is always such an overwhelming feeling of appreciation all around.”
Rain delayed the game, but luckily Marines are amphibious so festivities continued. Marine participants waited patiently in rain-dampened dress uniforms.
Members of the Marine Corps Base Quantico, Va., Marine Corps Band played a selection of upbeat jazzy tunes for the crowd before performing the National Anthem to kick off the game.
“We performed here last year, and it still surprises me,” said Sgt. Kyle Slick, trumpet musician and Maplegrove, Minn., native. “I never thought I would have a point in my life when playing for thousands of people was the norm.”
“The Washington Nationals really rolled out the red carpet for us,” said Sgt. Maj. Craig Cressman, the Joint Base Meyer-Henderson Hall, Washington, sergeant major. “This is such an honor, and it is a great thing to see all of these Marines out on the field.”
Cressman, a native of Gladwell, Mich., and a Tiger fan in his youth, delivered the game ball. The culmination of the pre-game ceremonies was the first pitch thrown by Lt. Gen. Willie Williams, director of Marine Corps staff at Headquarters Marine Corps.
Williams will retire this summer after 40 years of service. He has served as one of the top advisors to the last two Marine Corps commandants, and he is one of only four African American to have ever worn three stars on his collar, according to the Montford Point Marine Association.
Williams threw a high arching pitch into the glove of Chad Tracy, the Washington Nationals third baseman.
To one event organizer, the rain delay was a fortuitous touch for welcoming the Marines – known for their amphibious nature – to the stadium.
“I think it was kind of fitting,” said Bertani. “Hopefully, when we have this event next year, we will make it rain to make the Marines feel right at home.”