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A look at the stories behind pregame ceremonies, honors and partnerships

There’s a lot more that goes into doing these than you might think.

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Sean Marshall throws out a ceremonial pitch during the Cubs last homestand
David Banks-USA TODAY Sports

I like to get to the ballpark early, even if there isn’t a giveaway. It’s nice to wander around, explore the space, and chat with fans. Even if it’s a ballpark like Wrigley that I visit frequently there is always something new to discover. Plus it gives me time to fill out my scorecard and grab a bite to eat.

As the Cubs open a series this weekend against the Padres, I wanted to highlight a unique element to a couple of these opening ceremonies. It got me thinking about some of the incredible pre-games I’ve had a chance to witness, including and not limited to the time I just happened to be on the field at Fenway the same night Boston Marathon winner Meb Keflezghi threw out the first pitch for a Red Sox game. Check out the video here.

It’s a part of the game we don’t talk about a lot, but it’s fun, includes a lot of hidden gems and deserves a highlight.

Like many baseball teams, the Padres frequently honor first responders and military personal. It just so happens that they will be honoring both during this series with the Cubs because Friday, July 13th is a First Responder Friday and Sunday, July 15th will be a Military Appreciation Sunday. As you can see from the above links there are discounted tickets for first responders and military personnel.

All of this looks pretty standard, but I recently got a peek behind the scenes that I wanted to share with all of you. In addition to the above honors, the Padres have also partnered with an active military serviceman’s company to devise a unique way to honor these responders and troops. Garret Schmitz is a military pilot (and lifelong Padres fan) who wanted to “provide quality built aviation inspired watches at an affordable price.” Wingman Watches started with a kickstarter in 2015 has expanded to include additional ventures, including this 2018 partnership with the Padres.

It’s a pretty cool way for the Padres to support the troops. The troops and responders honored on the field as the bell ringer for “embody(ing) the spirit of a wingman” during the course of their service are given a Wingman Watch. The Padres support a venture started by a serviceman. So as you’re watching the games this weekend, keep an eye out for the bell ringer [VIDEO] and the backstory behind the logos.

What cool things have you had a chance to see by getting to the ballpark early and paying attention to the pregame? Share them in the comments as we get ready for tonight’s game between the Padres and the Cubs!

Full disclosure, Wingman Watches founder and CEO Garret Schmitz is a childhood friend. He and his brother (CFO, Geoff Schmitz) were kind enough to share some information with me about the backstory of their partnership with the Padres for this piece.