Head coach Mark Brew said the goal is to honor veterans of all branches of the military in Cleveland and surrounding areas for service to the United States of America.
“A second goal was to assist either in the effort to build a veterans park or construction of the veterans home,” he said. “We decided on the veterans park because we felt it was a more manageable goal for a new event. The park is something many of our players will be able to see finished while they are still here in Cleveland.”
Cleveland Mayor Tom Rowland said it is fitting that the baseball team chose to focus its energy on veterans because the military and baseball are both steeped in tradition.
Rowland first spoke publicly about a park honoring veterans at a monthly meeting of the Col. Benjamin Cleveland Chapter of the Sons of the American Revolution in March 2007. At that time, the mayor pitched the idea of placing the park in the First Street Square. The location is now on the west end of Spring Creek on Veterans Memorial Highway (APD 40) near the BP convenience store on the corner of 25th and Parker streets. The park will also link to the Cleveland/Bradley County Greenway, which leads to Schimmels Park on the campus of Lee University.
The park was put on hold so it would not interfere with raising money for the veterans home.
Rowland envisions the park as the start of Veterans Memorial Highway, the segment of APD 40 between Parker Street and South Lee Highway and become a gateway to the city.
The scope of the project has been reduced from life-sized statues to flagpoles and benches. The original price tag fell from about $750,000 to about $125,000.
“Basically, we will have five flagpoles, one for each branch of the service surrounding one center flagpole with the U.S., Tennessee and MIA/POW flags,” he said. “We’ll have one bench at the base of each flagpole representing each branch of the service. There will be some type of walkway extending from the center to each flagpole.”
The chief methods of fundraising are through camouflage T-shirts sold person-to-person before and during the game and through local businesses in the community, which includes the Cleveland Daily Banner; business and corporate sponsorships, benefit days at local restaurants and a silent auction on game day.
Also, donation boxes will be setup at all home games and in area stores. Admission to the doubleheader on Military Appreciation Day against Southern Polytechnic State University is by donation.
“The entire event will be orchestrated around the ballgames. The first game begins at noon and Military Appreciation Day is expected to last from 11 a.m. until 5 p.m.,” he said. “We are hopeful of having displays of military equipment on Olympic Field and a flyover prior to the first pitch at noon.”
A color guard from a local ROTC detachment will present the colors and a military person will lead the pre-game prayer and lead in the singing of the national anthem. “God Bless America” will be sung during the seventh and ninth inning stretches instead of the traditional “Take Me Out to the Ballgame.”
Also, a member of the military will throw out the first pitch.
“Active and veteran members of the armed forces will be recognized in between the games one and two of the doubleheader,” Brew said.
Details will be released as the event evolves. For more information about Military Appreciation Day, please call baseball graduate assistant Andrew Carson at office at 423-614-8031 or email to firstname.lastname@example.org.