More than 100 veterans from all across Southern California took part in activities Monday when the UCLA baseball program hosted Veteran Appreciation Day at Jackie Robinson Stadium.
Los Angeles Dodgers manager and UCLA alumnus Dave Roberts opened the day of Bruin baseball and spoke to the group. Roberts, who played four years at UCLA in front of veterans at Jackie Robinson Stadium, grew up in a military family with a father who served in the Marine Corps for 30 years.
Also in attendance was UCLA Director of Athletics Dan Guerrero, who played for Bruins in the early 1970s. “One of the great things about UCLA baseball is its decades-long relationship with veterans of our U.S. armed forces,” he said. “I remember playing in front of our veterans and, after games, visiting with them and hearing about their experiences. This event brought back all those memories. You watch our baseball student-athletes and alums share their craft with our veterans while the veterans in turn share their remarkable stories and prospectives with them
"It’s one of my favorite days of the year and a tremendous opportunity to say ‘Thank you’ to everyone who has sacrificed for our country,” Guerrero said.
After socializing on the concourse with Roberts, Guerrero and others, the veterans were invited down to the field to take batting practice and play catch. The group got a chance to interact with UCLA players and coaches, who gave them a few friendly pointers along the way.
“We owe so much to the veterans for their dedication to our country,” said UCLA baseball head coach John Savage. “This event allows us an opportunity as a program to give back to them for all that they’ve sacrificed. We want them to feel like they are a part of the Bruin family, and events like this offer a chance for them to be involved and have fun. We play in a stadium that bears the name of a veteran and Bruin legend Jackie Robinson, and we strive to carry on his legacy by continuing to serve the veteran community.”
This season, the Bruins, who first began playing baseball on Veterans Administration grounds in 1933, will host three veteran appreciation games in which a veteran will throw out the ceremonial first pitch while the team honors all current and former service members by wearing special camouflage jerseys.
As is the case throughout the season, veterans will continue to receive free admission to all UCLA baseball home games.