Bringing the veterans to the ball field

American Legion baseball invites vets to season finale

Marquette Blues’ Cooper Myers shakes Vietnam Army veteran Ronald Pickens’ hand before Pickens throws out the first pitch of the game against the Iron Mountain Golds at Gerard Haley Memorial Field in Marquette Wednesday afternoon. Residents of the Jacobetti Home for Veterans were bused to the event thanks to the American Legion baseball program. (Journal photo by Corey Kelly)

MARQUETTE — The American Legion baseball program in Marquette decided to do something special for area veterans during the Blues’ regular-season finale at Gerard Haley Memorial Field Wednesday afternoon.

They invited them to the game.

A bus filled with residents from the D.J. Jacobetti Home for Veterans arrived at the field just before the first pitch of the game against Iron Mountain Gold and each received a warm reception from all in attendance.

“We used to do this a few years ago and we got away from it,” Blues manager Derek Swajanen said. “So it was nice that they brought them out here.

“All the kids introduced themselves and talked with them. Kind of interacted and socialized with them. They could have a hot dog or whatever they wanted and obviously, get to watch a ball game.”

Most of the veterans had big smiles on their faces throughout the game as they enjoyed their refreshments and watched the Blues put on an impressive performance in a blowout victory.

Swajanen said it was nice to hear the vets talk about how they looked forward to coming out for the game.

“It’s kind of nice to hear them talk about that,” he said. “The gentleman that came out and threw out the first pitch had been practicing for about a month, from what I understand. It was awesome.”

As the game wound down and rain started to fall, the vets began boarding their bus back to Jacobetti, but not before they were serenaded over the loudspeaker by the hymns from the various branches of the military.

Once the game was over, Swajanen went over to ask the vets what they thought of the game and the response was quite positive.

“I just went on the bus and asked them if they all enjoyed the game and they loved it,” he said. “They said they loved coming out and it was nice. It’s something we could give back to the veterans because they’ve given so much to us.”

Ryan Stieg can be reached at 906-228-2500, ext. 252.