LOS ANGELES -- The Dodgers kicked off their "Season of Giving" on Saturday by hosting 300 active duty service members and veterans in honor of Veterans Day.
Representatives of all branches of the U.S. Military and their families took batting practice at Dodger Stadium, with Dodgers alumni Ron Cey, Manny Mota, Billy Ashley and Dennis Powell providing tips. Military guests and their families were also provided a behind-the-scenes tour of Dodger Stadium, a catered lunch in the Lexus Dugout Club and a photo opportunity with the 2017 National League Championship trophy.
"These men and women put their lives on the line for us and that is something that we can't take for granted," said Naomi Rodriguez, the Dodgers' vice president of external affairs. "We want to honor these men and women, and their families, because they serve our country, too. This is our way of thanking them."
The Dodgers honor military personnel and veterans year-round with initiatives that include an on-field recognition of a Military Hero of the Game at every home game and an annual Military Appreciation Night. For details on the Dodgers' military programs and ticket promotions, visit www.dodgers.com/military.
"It's one of our top priorities, we do it every game in the middle of the second inning, and if you see it happen, it's a magical experience," said Rodriguez. "You see our fans give them a standing ovation. You see our players shake their hands, give them a ball. Our players are appreciative of their service. It's part of the Dodgers culture. I never get tired of it. Everybody turns their attention to the field and honors our military hero."
Rodriguez said Saturday's event was the kickoff to the team's "Season of Giving," which includes an upcoming turkey giveaway and a holiday party for local children.
"This is always my favorite event of the year," said Ashley. "My dad, being a Vietnam War vet, was a marine and Purple Heart recipient. Everything he went through, his sacrifices, led me today to be in these peoples' debt. The sacrifices they've made home and abroad boggles my mind. They're the heroes. We're here honoring them. They gave us the freedom to put these jerseys on."
Ken Gurnick has covered the Dodgers for MLB.com since 2001. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.