The Washington Nationals' extensive efforts in the military community were recognized last night when the team was presented with the USO of Metropolitan Washington's Legacy of Hope Award during its 30th Annual Awards Dinner at the Ritz-Carlton in Arlington, Va.
Established in 2004, the award is named after famed entertainer and longtime USO advocate Bob Hope and is presented annually to an organization that exhibits extraordinary dedication to supporting our nation's service members.
"As native Washingtonians, my family and I are very much aware of the significant contributions and sacrifices made by members of our military and their families. Few of us can ever comprehend how much each service member - as well as their wives, husbands, children and parents - sacrifice in order to serve our country. They inspire us to give back and pay tribute whenever we can," said Mark D. Lerner, Nationals Vice Chairman and Principal Owner. "Bob Hope's generosity and dedication set a high standard for all Americans, and we are honored to play a small role in continuing his legacy."
As the stewards of the national pastime in the Nation's Capital, the Nationals are committed to making a difference in the lives of the men and women who fight for our country, and believe that military outreach is one of the most fulfilling components of the team's Community Relations efforts. From the In-Game Military Salute to the "Me and a Friend" program, the Nationals are dedicated to working with the USO to "serve those who serve" across the Greater Washington region.
In addition to the team's work with the USO, the Nationals host rehabilitation sessions for injured military members and youth baseball clinics for military children on the field at Nationals Park, schedule player and coaches visits to area military hospitals, incorporate service members and their families into various gameday activations and are proud partners of the Nationals Wounded Warrior Amputee Softball Team. Below are a few of the many initiatives currently in place:
In-Game Military Salute
* The Nationals offer premium seating in our Lexus Presidents Club for select military groups during every game, providing a special experience for veterans, active duty service members and their families.
* A gourmet buffet, complimentary in-seat food and beverage service and views of the underground batting cages and post-game press conference are included.
* Honorees are recognized on NatsHD at the end of the 3 rd inning and receive a standing ovation from fans.
Me and a Friend Program
* In association with the Department of Defense and the USO, this program recognizes the challenges that military children face as they continually relocate due to their parents' military assignments. This special program offers military children a sense of stability and allows them to enjoy being kids.
* The Nationals provide tickets to children of active duty service members for every Sunday game of the season giving them the opportunity to use the free tickets to connect with peers and help make new friends.
* The group receives a visit from Nationals mascot, Screech and are first in line to participate in "Kids Run the Bases" after the game.
* The Nationals were the first organization to partner with the USO on the "Me and a Friend" program.
Washington Nationals Wounded Warrior Amputee Softball Team
* In 2011, the Nationals and the Wounded Warrior Amputee Softball Team joined together to announce a partnership aligning the two teams in support of one another.
* Now known as the Washington Nationals Wounded Warrior Amputee Softball Team (WWAST), the team is comprised of veterans and active duty service members from across the United States, each of whom have lost limbs while serving our country.
* These extraordinary athletes have been featured in Sports Illustrated and on CBS Evening News, NBC Nightly News, Fox News Channel and HBO's Real Sports with Bryant Gumbel, as they embody the resilience of our military while illustrating the strength and tenacity to overcome any challenge.
* Using the latest in prosthetic technology, the team travels around the country facing only able-bodied opponents and competes at the highest levels.
Team Visits to Military Hospitals
* Since 2005, the Nationals have regularly visited Walter Reed Army Medical Center to meet with wounded service members. In 2010, the club became the first Washington-area team to visit National Naval Medical Center in Bethesda, Md.
* Moving forward, the Nationals will continue these visits at the new combined facility, Walter Reed National Military Medical Center, located in Bethesda.
* Additionally, wounded veterans have had the opportunity to step outside the confines of a traditional rehab facility to work on their therapy at Nationals Park. In coordination with the Nationals Community Relations department, groups have come out to play catch on the infield and hit in the Nationals batting cages throughout the year.
Ticket and Memorabilia Donations
* During the past three years, more than 40,000 Nationals tickets have been donated to military and veteran groups.
* The team continuously donates memorabilia and experience packages to raise funds for charities that benefit service members and their families.