By Bryan Spann, Fort Meade Public Affairs Office
Fort Meade and the Orioles team up
Fort Meade and the Baltimore Orioles have been partnered for many years, staging events for youth on the installation and organizing a number of Military Appreciation Days at Camden Yards. Prior to COVID, the Orioles also held spring baseball clinics on the installation with past and present Orioles players, cycling young baseball enthusiasts through pitching, hitting and base running drills. In addition, Fort Meade garrison commanders and others, represented the installation by throwing out first pitches, marching in Color Guards and enjoying heavily attended Armed Forces weekend events at the stadium.
Like most large sporting events, the pandemic put a hold on a majority of those activities, so the installation and the baseball team looked for ways to continue the partnership while maintaining safe pandemic protocols. Saturday, May 15, was Military Appreciation Day at Camden Yards. This year, Staff Sergeant Kyra Dorn, from the U.S. Army Field Band sang the National Anthem for the fans. And instead of standing on the pitcher’s mound, Garrison Commander, Col. Christopher Nyland, along with Cpt. Shane Ivy, commander of 241st Military Police Detachment and 2nd Military Working Dog Detachment and Cpt. Anna Young, commander of Headquarters Company, threw out a virtual first pitch in a video intended to be played at the stadium before the game.
“It was virtual, but it was still an honor to be asked to join Col. Nyland and Cpt. Young for the first pitch,” said Cpt. Shane Ivy. “I never would have expected to be asked to do something like that. I would have loved a chance to toss out the ball at Camden Yards, but this, especially sharing it with one of the working dogs, was memorable.”
While the game was going on, the Orioles and the Fort Meade USO and the installation collaborated to conduct a COVID-friendly, contactless “drive-and-go” giveaway in the Smallwood Hall parking lot at Fort Meade.
“The Orioles organization reached out to the PAO (Public Affairs Office). We’ve had some experience doing this before, so Fort Meade PAO reached out to us, brought us all into the same conversation and we were able to create this wonderful drive-and-go event for our service members and their families,” says Brittany Freshwater, Center Operations Supervisor at the Fort Meade USO.
Prior to the event, families, after demonstrating their military affiliation, were cleared and made appointments to attend during a specific timeslot. The drive-and-go event featured three stations.
“To be as safe as possible, families or individuals pulled right into the parking lot, staying in their vehicles,” said Freshwater. “We checked them in completely contactless. We had a drive lane, they were able to pull up and stop at each tent get some USO swag, some Orioles swag and box meals for everyone in attendance from Chick-Fil-A.”
The star attraction, of course was the Bird, the Orioles mascot, recently inducted into the Major League Baseball’s mascot hall of fame. In the end, the drive-and-go served 955 people from 241 families.
Freshwater says, “The USO's mission first and foremost is to keep service members connected to family, home and country and one of the ways we do that is definitely by boosting morale and taking their mind off every day military life. So we always look for ways and opportunities to do that with a number of different events. And it's always wonderful to partner with local organizations such as the Baltimore Orioles and Chick-fil-A.”
While COVID restrictions are slowly loosening, mask restrictions at Camden Yards on Saturday were still in effect when the New York Yankees beat the Oriels in an 8 to 2 game.