Across MLB, tributes honor 9/11 heroes
On-field ceremonies at all 15 games mark 12th anniversary of tragic events
Kathleen Coppo's father, Joe, was a municipal bond trader at Cantor Fitzgerald, high in one of the Twin Towers in the spot where the Freedom Tower now stands a dozen years later. She was among the emotion-spent fans at old Yankee Stadium on the night of Game 4 of the 2001 World Series, when October turned into November and Derek Jeter homered in the 10th inning.
"When I heard 'God Bless America,' it was very hard to hold back tears," she recalled in the movie "Nine Innings From Ground Zero." "I looked at my mom; she had tears in her eyes. I think half the people around me were crying. It was very powerful.
"The flag meant something different. It meant something more, at least to me. My dad died in this tragedy, and that's why people were putting flags up, because 3,000 people tragically died. ... It's not about winning or losing, it's about what baseball has brought to the city. It brought me a way to get back and be close to my dad."
We Shall Not Forget.
Those four words will be fixtures on Wednesday at all Major League Baseball home games, as part of the National Day of Service and Remembrance. MLB and all 30 clubs will commemorate the 12th anniversary of Sept. 11, 2001, with patriotic on-field tributes at all 15 games. This remembrance is part of baseball's ongoing league-wide effort to honor those whose lives were lost and affected on that tragic day.
It will be an annual reminder of the greatest disaster in American history. Time has passed and the world has changed, only reinforcing the need to pause, look up and remember. Wednesday also will be a reminder of how a nation healed itself back then, in part through the simple act of courageously going back outside and watching ballgames, a role those involved with the sport are honored to have played.
"All of us within Major League Baseball made a solemn promise after Sept. 11, 2001: We Shall Not Forget," Commissioner Bud Selig said two years ago on the 10th anniversary of the tragedy. "On Sept. 11, 2011, in the memory of those who were lost, the 30 Major League clubs will honor our military, the first responders, public servants and the people who enrich their communities for others."
As part of MLB's tribute, on-field personnel, including players, coaches and umpires, will wear an American flag patch embroidered on the side of their caps, while special lineup cards and base jewels also will be used for each game that day. Home clubs will mark the anniversary with pregame ceremonies, including a moment of silence, and the "We Shall Not Forget" MLB silhouetted batter ribbon will be displayed throughout ballparks.
The Blue Jays will wear customized caps that feature the U.S. flag patch on one side and Canada's maple leaf patch on the other.
The identical caps to be worn by on-field personnel are available at the MLB.com Shop, and all net proceeds will be donated to the 9/11 Memorial and Museum in New York, the Flight 93 National Memorial in Stoystown, Pa., and the National 9/11 Pentagon Memorial.
MLB.com will provide complete coverage of the day's ceremonies and perspectives through columns, news articles, multimedia and photographs. Additionally, MLB.com, the 30 club websites and their respective social media channels will deliver messages of service and remembrance.
MLB Network will re-air the "Nine Innings From Ground Zero" special developed by MLB Productions at 12:30 p.m. ET on Wednesday. The Network will feature coverage of the day's events across MLB in its studio programming, beginning with "The Rundown" at 2 p.m. ET.
It took 10 days for baseball games to resume after 9/11, and then-New York mayor Rudolph Giuliani would tell MLB.com later: "It's how much baseball means to people and what it can do for a community, what it can do for a country."
The first game back was at Shea Stadium -- a Mets victory over the Braves behind Mike Piazza's iconic homer -- and this week, the same Mets organization is following what has become custom.
In advance of the club's home game against the Nationals, Mets COO Jeff Wilpon and players David Wright, Matt Harvey and Zack Wheeler will visit a firehouse (Engine 54, Ladder 4 and Battalion 9) and have lunch on Tuesday. This is the ninth year in a row that Wright has visited a firehouse on or around Sept. 11. This particular house lost all 16 members 12 years ago.
At Citi Field on Wednesday night, seven local agencies will be represented in a Joint Emergency Service Color Guard. Players will line up on the baselines for a moment of silence and the anthem, which will be sung by either an FDNY representative or the daughter of a first responder singing on behalf of Tuesday's Children. Whoever does not sing the anthem will sing God Bless America. The first pitch will be thrown out by Lee Ielpi, president of the September 11th Families Association board of directors and co-founder of the Tribute WTC Visitor Center.
The Cardinals announced Monday that the team, in conjunction with MLB and Bank of America (#troopthanks), is offering all active and retired military, as well as all emergency first responders, free tickets to its home games against Milwaukee on Wednesday and Thursday. The military offer is in addition to the club's daily game policy to provide a free ticket any active member of the U.S. Armed Forces, and fans can get more info and print out this ticket option if applicable at cardinals.com/heroes.
"We want to recognize the selfless service of all of our military, police, fire and emergency response workers," Cardinals president Bill DeWitt III said. "These men and women put their lives on the line to protect us. We want to thank them for their service, as well as the sacrifice each of their families make on our behalf."
In Seattle, it will be Military Special Night as the Mariners host the Astros. Keith Taylor of the Marysville Fire Department (north of Seattle) will sing the national anthem and "God Bless America." Colors will be presented by the Professional Firefighters of Kitsap County Local 2819 Honor Guard (Kitsap County is across Puget Sound to the west of Seattle). The ceremonial first pitch will be thrown by recent Medal of Honor recipient Staff Sergeant Ty Carter, who is stationed at Joint Base Lewis-McChord, near Seattle.
While on his first deployment in Afghanistan, Carter was stationed at Combat Outpost Keating in Kamdesh District, Nuristan Province. On Oct. 3, 2009, the outpost came under heavy attack and Carter, then a specialist, distinguished himself in what came to be known as the Battle of Kamdesh. He helped rescue a critically wounded comrade, Specialist Stephan Mace, from under intense fire, although Mace later died of his injuries. Carter returned three times across heavy enemy fire to bring ammunition to three fellow soldiers who were trapped in a Humvee.
Two weeks ago, President Barack Obama awarded Carter with the Medal of Honor in a White House ceremony. The following day, Carter was inducted into the Pentagon Hall of Heroes.
In Texas, where the Rangers will host the Pirates, in addition to the moment of silence, the 531st U.S. Air Force Quintet will perform the national anthem along with the NASJRB Color Guard presentation.
Major James Ruzicka will throw out the first pitch in Cleveland, where the Royals visit the Indians for a day game. Ruzicka is serving his second consecutive year in Afghanistan. His first year was at NKC, a Headquarters Base in Kabul, where he was the Commander of the Joint Security Office and part of the MP Team. While there, he met his future wife, a third-generation Tribe fan who helped arrange this first pitch and recognition. Ruzicka is now at OIC (Officer In Charge) of Internal Operations of the Special Forces Base.
It will be First Responders Appreciation Night at Marlins Park, where the Braves visit the Marlins. First Responders will be honored in a pregame ceremony, and proceeds from each ticket sold will benefit the Police Officers Assistance Trust and the South Florida Council of Firefighters.
While the Red Sox are on the road, the organization will team with the American Red Cross and Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center to host the 11th annual Day of Remembrance Blood Drive at Fenway Park from 7 a.m. to 2 p.m. ET on Wednesday. Those who are eligible are invited to donate blood in honor of those lost in 9/11, and this year's drive also will commemorate the Boston Marathon survivors. The event is presented in cooperation with the Boston Police, Firefighters and EMTs. Appointments to donate blood can be made by calling 1-800-RED CROSS or by visiting http://redcrossblood.org.
In Philadelphia, members of the city's police and fire departments will present 50 state flags in an on-field ceremony before the 7:05 game against San Diego. Fans who purchase tickets through the Police and Firefighters Celebration promotion will receive a special T-shirt, and net proceeds for this event benefit local police and firefighter charities. Among the performance schedule, an All-Service Military Color Guard will be followed by the national anthem from Air Force Senior Airman Eric Anderson, and Philly police officer Nate Fulton will sing "God Bless America."
"When I look back on those days once play had resumed, it gives me pride that the national pastime provided fans with some moments of normalcy and joy," Selig said on the 10th anniversary observance. "That sense of community was never more profound than during the 2001 World Series, when the extraordinary solidarity of the Yankee Stadium crowds demonstrated the special place that baseball holds in our country.
"I am very proud of the efforts throughout Major League Baseball to remember and to commemorate, and like all Americans, it is my great hope that acts of kindness and service will renew the spirit of unity that resonated in our nation after Sept. 11."
Mark Newman is enterprise editor of MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.