PHOENIX – Before the first pitch was thrown in the Arizona Diamondbacks’ 7-5 comeback victory Monday over the Colorado Rockies, the organization took time to recognize five service members who lost their lives and their families.
Gabriel and Martin Apolinar, the sons of fallen soldier Staff Sergeant Martin Apolinar, took the mound to throw out the first pitch to their favorite Diamondbacks player, Ketel Marte.
The Diamondbacks teamed up with Tragedy Assistance Program For Survivors (TAPS) to honor those families, while also donating $10,000 to the program.
“In the five years I have been here, the D-backs have always done something special for fallen soldiers on Memorial Day,” Ray Rivera, a Vietnam veteran and an usher for the Diamondbacks said. “It is not just on Memorial Day though, I feel like we are always honoring the military throughout every game.”
The national anthem was sung by Tech Sergeant Lisa Cimino of the Air Force. Stationed at Barry M. Goldwater in Phoenix, she has sung the national anthem over 400 times at different sporting events throughout the Valley.
“The relationship between the Diamondbacks and the military is not uncommon,” Cimino said. “I have a great relationship with the organization and performing on Memorial Day has a special touch.”
Baseball has long had a tie to service members and the sacrifices they make during times of war.
Baseball’s biggest-grossing movie of all time, “A League of Their Own,” explored the idea of an all-women’s baseball league that took place while the men were at war. The reality differs as some of baseball’s biggest stars traded in their cleats for boots when the nation called.
Ted Williams, Willie Mays and Joe DiMaggio are all Hall of Famers who left the major leagues to serve in the war during the middle of their careers.
“Some of our baseball heroes gave up their careers to honor their country,” Brayden Stockbauer, 22, said. “That is why it is America’s pastime and bringing your family to the ballpark on Memorial Day is a way to remember our country’s heroes.”
Stockbauer and Jordan Polaski, 28, flew in from Las Vegas for the Diamondbacks game as part of their plan to visit all 30 MLB stadiums, but being in Phoenix for Memorial Day was important to them.
“Part of the reason why I am such a big baseball fan is because when I was six years old, I remember how different baseball stadiums were remembering 9/11,” Polaski said. “The way they showed patriotism and President (George) Bush throwing out the first pitch at Yankee Stadium, is a moment I will never forget.”
Every game played during 3 p.m. local time on Memorial Day also took part in the nation’s moment of silence. In addition, every MLB player also wore a red poppy patch donning the phrase, “Lest We Forget,” in honor of those fallen.
The poppy patch and the phrase have been placed on MLB uniforms since 2019. They used to wear camouflage uniforms and hats which they have moved to Armed Forces Day weekend, which is celebrated one week before Memorial Day.