SAN DIEGO (NNS) -- The San Diego Padres paid tribute to the Armed Forces on April 4 with the 12th annual Military Appreciation Night at Petco Park.
The Padres wore camouflage styled uniforms to salute the military and service member particpation included serving as the color guard to throwing out the first pitch.
"It's awesome!" said flag bearer, Sonar Technician Seaman Recruit Chris Patterson, Fleet Anti-Submarine Warfare (FLTASW), Point Loma. "They wore the uniform; I felt proud."
The opening ceremony included 14 enlisted personnel from each branch of the service who have demonstrated exceptional performance.
Miramar Marine of the Year, Sgt. Vania Arias of Marine Air Control Group 38 Supply said, "I'm excited to represent my unit."
As the service members entered the building, applause followed and individual fans called out "thank you."
The crowd also roared in appreciation as the military took the field. Air National Guard Master Sgt. Daryl Kinney of the 147th Combat Communication Squadron said it was a pleasure to be a part of the ceremony.
"It's better than winning the Noncommissioned Officer of the Year!" he said.
Backing the Marine Color Guard during the national anthem, 50 Sailors held flags representing each state in the union.
"It means a lot, everyone cheering," said Patterson. "San Diego shows a lot of respect [to us]."
As fans, Patterson and fellow shipmates volunteered to be flag bearers. Another flag bearer, Sonar Technician (Surface) Seaman Recruit Zachary Christman, FLTASW Point Loma volunteered so he could see the game.
"It's an awesome chance," he said.
The Padres were pitted against the Dodgers, and with the Dodgers based only two hours north, the stands were packed to near capacity, holding 42,474 spectators.
Electrician's Mate 2nd Class Rachel Adams, Coast Guard's Junior Woman of the Year said she felt honored to be a part of the ceremony.
Brig. Gen. Angie Salinas, commanding general of the Marine Corps Recruit Depot/Western Recruiting Region threw the first pitch.
"It was low and to the left; they would have gotten a hit," she said. "It was a great feeling up on the mound. There is no better team than the San Diego Padres."
Parachute Rigger 2nd (AW/SW) Jason Keith, currently deployed out to sea in the Western Pacific on the USS Nimitz, was unable to make the game. However, his son attended the game and announced, "Play ball!"
The 11-year-old, dressed in a red baseball cap and white and blue jersey, watched a pre-recorded video message from his dad that was played before he made the announcement.
In 1996, the Padres became the first national sports team to organize an annual event to show appreciation to the military, said Brigid Cranmer, manager of military programs. She said this long-standing relationship was a way for Padres owner John Moores to give back to the community of service members, local and abroad.
Moores brought retired Navy Capt. Jack Ensch aboard as director of military marketing to set up the program. Ensch said the Padres are the only team to hold two opening nights; one for the league and one for the military.
"We felt they deserved their own opening night," Ensch said.
Although the Padres lost the game 7-1, with the Dodgers getting six runs in the seventh inning, the event was still a successful Military Opening Night.
"It's great to be able to applaud the military community," she said.
For more news from Navy Region Southwest, visit www.navy.mil/local/cnrsw/.