In no particular order of importance North Carolina has been home, at one time or another, to the following:
Some of the greatest college basketball games ever played; the Rose Bowl; the moonshine-running bootleggers that led to the creation of modern stock car racing; Michael Jordan; the Final Four; a long list of ACC championship games in many sports; golf’s U.S. Open; the Stanley Cup and on it goes.
And so the state doesn’t lack for sporting history, and culture. But now comes a historic first: the first regular-season Major League Baseball game on North Carolina soil. It happens on Sunday, Atlanta Braves vs. Miami Marlins, at Fort Bragg.
You’ve probably heard about what they’ve been calling the “Fort Bragg Game.” You might even have questions. Everything one should know, here:
—Q: Why are they playing a Major League Baseball game at Fort Bragg?
—A: It’s a tribute to American military servicemen and servicewomen and it’s especially fitting given that the game on Sunday, which is a regular-season game that counts in the standings, coincides with Fort Bragg’s annual Fourth of July holiday festivities.
—Q: How historic of an event is this, exactly?
—A: The Fort Bragg Game — which begins at 8 p.m. EDT on Sunday and will be televised nationally on ESPN — represents a couple of firsts. For one, and most important, this is the first time any professional sports league will hold a regular-season game on an active military base. It’s also the first time the state of North Carolina will host a regular-season Major League Baseball game.
—Q: Why the Braves and Marlins?
—A: This game is the last of a four-game series between the teams. The first three games are in Atlanta, which offers a relatively easy commute to Fort Bragg. The Braves also happen to be one of the closest Major League teams to North Carolina and, indeed, when this game was announced in March, Braves president John Schuerholz said it was “special for our fans and our entire organization that we are playing this game in Braves Country — Fort Bragg, North Carolina.”
—Q: Why Fort Bragg?
—A: For one, Fort Bragg is the most populated military base in the country, home to more than 50,000 active duty soldiers. And so in providing this tribute, Major League Baseball is bringing America’s pastime to America’s largest military base. The logistics of it worked, too, given Fort Bragg had space for a baseball field and temporary stadium, and because Major League Baseball had the means to build it there quickly.
—Q: And what about that stadium — how did it come to be and what happens to it after Sunday’s game?
—A: The story of the field, and the stadium, has provided one of most interesting sub-stories of this entire event. In the span of a little less than four months, Major League Baseball will have constructed a 12,500-seat stadium atop what used to be part of the old Willow Springs Golf Course. Before construction began, the land had become a barren, overgrown field that barely resembled a golf course.
Now the stadium that has been built on that site is the largest baseball stadium in the state. After the game on Sunday, the field will be converted into a softball field and a recreational facility to be used by those who live on the base. The gift of the field is a meaningful one for the Fort Bragg community, given that in the past 10 years the base has lost approximately 20 athletic fields because of construction or other projects.
—Q: Is the game on Sunday open to the public? How do I get tickets?
—A: Tickets weren’t made available to the general public and were only open to Department of Defense ID cardholders. Those cardholders who were interested in attending the game on Sunday had to go through a ticket lottery, which was open between May 31 and June 12.
—Q: I’m one of the lucky ones with a ticket. How do I get there and where do I park?
—A: As Fort Bragg officials put it when they released ticket information about the event, “parking will be in several pre-designated areas on the installation.” Parking lots will be assigned based on where a ticket-holder’s seat is at the stadium, and there will be shuttles between the parking lots and the fields. Fort Bragg has urged ticket-holders to follow the assigned parking plan and not park and walk on their own, as that will disrupt traffic.
—Q: Anything else to know?
—A: That about covers it. Sunday will be among the most unique days in North Carolina sports history.
©2016 The News & Observer (Raleigh, N.C.)
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