(This post originally appeared on Bus Leagues Baseball.com.)
When most people think of movie scenes that pull the patriotic heartstrings, they think of Independence Day, Saving Private Ryan, maybe some of the old John Wayne films, Team America: World Police, or even Rocky 4. For me, however, the movie scene that most screams “America!” is the 4th of July segment of The Sandlot.
Although the whole scene is great, from the block parties to the food to the kids playing baseball under the fireworks to Benny “The Jet” yelling at his friends to concentrate on baseball instead of staring into the sky, what really makes that scene special to me is Ray Charles’s “America the Beautiful“. That is the icing on the cake, or rather the apple pie. I’m oozing America and ready to put another American flag on the moon by the time that scene is over.
I was reminded of this classic 4th of July scene this past Friday night at Space Coast Stadium, home of the Brevard County Manatees of the Florida State League.
Located not too far from Kennedy Space Center and Patrick Air Force Base on the east coast of Central Florida, the Brevard County area is home to many military veterans and people who work in the military and aerospace industries. On Friday the Manatees organization decided to honor this part of their community with a special Military Appreciation Night. Not only were tickets free for veterans throughout the area, but the Manatees also wore special desert camouflage uniform tops featuring a patch of one of the local Air Force units. During the game the organization also went out of their way to recognize those who served by asking veterans to stand for applause, having a little girl sing Mariah Carey’s “Hero”, and holding a silent auction for the game-worn jerseys with the money going to a veteran’s charity organization.
Although the patriotism was definitely flowing during the game (won 3-2 by the visiting Fort Myers Miracle), after the game the Manatees organization upped the emotion with an epic fireworks extravaganza. Accompanying the pyrotechnics was some of the best pro-American music songs ever written. Of course the public address system played Lee Greenwood’s “God Bless the USA”, but their first song was none other than Ray Charles’s “America the Beautiful”.
There I was, near field level on the first base side, with Manny the Manatee a few feet from me, a full moon peeking over the left center score board, fireworks lighting the sky, and Ray Charles singing America’s glory. Just like in The Sandlot.
Happy Memorial Day, indeed.
(P.S. Although I did not have my camera on me, here is a video of a fireworks show at Space Coast Stadium earlier this year.)