SEATTLE As a child, Major Marc Miller of the 97th Airlift Squadron dreamed of taking the field with the Seattle Mariners.
Miller, a C-17 Globemaster pilot for the Air Force, attended his first game in 1978, when the Mariners played in the Kingdome. He was extended an opportunity, 36 years later, to walk onto the grass of their current home, Safeco Field, during the teams 13th annual Salute to Armed Forces Saturday before the game against the Texas Rangers.
Miller felt the same excitement he experienced in the dome he learned he was going to be one of six service members to throw a ceremonial first pitch.
Im sitting around at my hometown and got together with a few of my buddies and talked about this being something I wanted to do, Miller said. I wouldnt trade it for anything.
Thousands of fans at Safeco Field joined the Mariners in celebrating service members and their families with several pre-game events. Senior officers from five military branches and the Washington National Guard accepted commemorative plaques from Mariners president Kevin Mather and team chairman John Ellis.
I Corps commanding general, Lt. Gen. Stephen Lanza, accepted a plaque as senior Army representative, while Col. William Krueger, director of operations at the Western Air Defense Sector, accepted on behalf of the Air Force.
The whole Department of Defense is represented here today, Lanza said. (The event) just shows the trust that our nation has in our military.
Service members from Joint Base Lewis-McChord and other local installations lined up along the first and third baselines along with players from the Mariners and the visiting Rangers.
Paralyzed veterans and representatives from several veterans service organizations like USO Northwest, Veterans of Foreign Wars and the American Legion, also joined the active duty service members, reservists and the teams.
Its amazing that they take us on the field and they want to recognize veterans, said Brent King, executive director of Paralyzed Veterans of Americas Northwest Chapter and a retired Army second lieutenant.
The U.S. Joint Service Honor Guard from JBLM presented the colors while Specialist Raymond Deleon of the I Corps 56th Army Band played Taps before joining the rest of the band for the national anthem.
Deleon, who also played at Safeco Field in 2011, said being invited by the Mariners to perform is always an honor. While he wasnt playing professional baseball, something he dreamed of as a child, he was able to play his trumpet at a major league ballpark.
Youre going to feel very proud and at the same time, you serve this country doing what you love, Deleon said.
Though each service member came from a different part of the country and wasnt necessarily a Mariners fan, all shared the same passion for baseball.
Lanza mentioned that he had grown up a New York Yankees fan, but Saturday, he was a Seattle Mariner fan.
Seeing (pitcher) King Felix (Hernandez) out there and seeing his legion of fans is awesome, Lanza said.