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Taking our military out to the ballgame

Tacoma baseball salutes the troops

Tacoma Rainiers’ D.J. Peterson ready for a mid-game pitch by Christ Heston. Photo credit: Christina Butcher

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Is there anything quite as American as watching a baseball game in the warm, afternoon sun? Very few experiences can rival the nostalgia felt while sitting in a small-town baseball stadium enjoying a home game. But on Sunday, June 11, the grit city's very own minor league baseball team, the Tacoma Rainiers, will do its best to up the ante by hosting the 33rd annual Salute to Armed Forces Day at Cheney Stadium.

The Rainiers' celebration of the U.S. military comes on the heels of national Armed Forces Day (May 20) and Memorial Day (May 29) holidays. The upcoming event at Cheney Stadium is the Rainiers' own way of honoring Army, Air Force, Navy, Coast Guard and Marine Corps servicemembers and their sacrifices to our nation. During the celebration, the Rainiers will go toe-to-toe with the Las Vegas 51s.

Rainiers' players and coaches will show their support to servicemembers by wearing specialty jerseys that will later be auctioned off. All proceeds from the auction will go to USO Northwest, a nonprofit organization that supports servicemembers throughout Washington state and Oregon.

USO Northwest, which has been in operation for 51 years, frequently partners with the Rainiers baseball team. Fully funded by donations and primarily staffed by volunteers, it serves more than 65,000 servicemembers and their families every year. In addition to the Salute to Armed Forces Day event every June, USO Northwest also teams up with the Rainiers to provide servicemembers with complimentary use of the USO Heroes Suite at Cheney Stadium.  The suite is available to local military organizations to enjoy the baseball game from a private, family friendly area during home game events.

"As a former military spouse, I know that downtime with your family is so important," said Gina Luplow, USO Northwest events manager. "Especially with what's going on in the world now, having time to be with your loved ones is the most important thing."

Use of the suite includes free tickets to the baseball game and non-alcoholic beverages. The Rainiers give out 36-40 tickets for the luxury suite to military groups each month. Interested military organizations can sign up for the suite online at  

Details for this year's Salute to Armed Forces Day haven't been ironed out yet, but, according to media and Tacoma Rainiers' communications manager Brett Gleason, previous events included static vehicle displays, ceremonial opening pitches by servicemembers from each military branch, remembrance ceremonies, and special color guard and national anthem performances.

Similar to USO Northwest, which donates NFL, NBA and other MLB sporting event tickets to servicemembers across the U.S., the Rainiers have an ongoing, complimentary ticketing program for servicemembers called Red, White and Blue. The program provides free home-game baseball tickets to active-duty servicemembers and their families upon request. Community members are welcome to donate to the program by calling or visiting the Rainiers front office at Cheney Stadium. Like many military support programs in the greater JBLM area, the Rainiers' USO Heroes Suite and Red, White and Blue programs are made possible through the generosity of volunteers, community members and organizations across the Puget Sound.

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