Words and Photos: Washington National Guard Night at Cheney Stadium

By Gary Lott on July 28, 2014

The Tacoma Rainiers played host last week to hundreds of service men and women from throughout Washington during the team's Washington National Guard Night.

"The Tacoma Rainiers value and support what the Washington National Guard, along with all branches of the military, do for the residents of this great state," said Tacoma Rainiers Group Event Coordinator Chris Aubertin.  "The opportunity to provide the citizen-soldiers and airmen, along with their families, a fun, affordable experience at our ballpark is a small way of saying thanks." 

The 133rd Army National Guard Band had the special honor of performing the "National Anthem" and officially kicking off the event, which was held July 24 at Cheney Stadium.

"This isn't the first time the band has played on the field, but it was my first time," said Sgt. 1st Class Alton Huckaby, a member of the 133rd Army National Guard Band. "The experience is a little bit overwhelming at first.  Walking out onto home plate, you don't realize how the attention is literally all around you." 

"All the timing that goes into it for just two minutes is intense," said fellow band member Staff Sgt. Amy O'Shield. "This is one of our communities, so it's great to be out here representing, and it was very well received."

>>> A member of the Las Vegas 51s minor league baseball team gives a fist-bump to members of the 133rd Army National Guard Band after they perform the "National Anthem" for Washington National Guard Night with the Tacoma Rainiers July 24. Photo credit: Gary Lott

The 133rd Army National Guard Band often plays the face of the Washington National Guard, with many opportunities to shake hands with people who don't get exposed to the military as much as other communities.

"It's really humbling to know that I get to play the national anthem to start this game that everyone has come to enjoy with their families," said Huckaby.

Band members feel it is not only their job to perform, but also to foster and build relationships with the many communities in Washington state.

"It's our job to go out there, meet those individuals, speak to those individuals and inform them about what their Guard is doing for them, and let them know that we will always be there," Huckaby said.  "We're the mouthpiece, the face of the Guard, so it's our job to represent them professionally."

After the performance, band members joined their fellow service members and families filling the stands for Washington National Guard Night at the ballpark.

Along with the hundreds of citizen-soldiers and their families that filled the seats of Cheney Stadium, band members also got to enjoy the game in style via the USO Heroes Suite.

"There's a lot of responsibility and work that comes with being a part of the military, and the Rainiers offer a way to kick back and relax along with rewarding all that hard work and effort," Aubertin said. "This Heroes Suite was created to make military appreciation more all-inclusive."

The USO Heroes Suite is donated for every Rainiers home game and provides service members with a complimentary ballpark experience including a full-spread buffet and beverages.

"Our appreciation of the military can't be said enough, and it allows for different groups to be recognized throughout the season," Aubertin said. "It also allows for partners (who work closely with the Armed Forces) to be able to interact face-to-face with their target audience." 

However, due to the ongoing Central Washington wildfire activation of hundreds of members of the Washington National Guard, not all the seats were filled.

"As much as we'd love to have them all out here enjoying a fun night at the ballpark, it's comforting to know that they're always putting the citizens of the state of Washington at the top of their list," Aubertin said. "We thank you all for your continuous service.  Be safe out there, and we'll be here for you once your task is done."

>>> Post performance group shot! Photo credit: Gary Lott