FORT BRAGG, N.C. (AP/WNCN) — The Braves hosted the Marlins in a special for-the-troops contest Sunday night at Fort Bragg.
Major League Baseball staged the game at the sprawling U.S. Army post on the day before Independence Day as a “thank you” to the armed forces.
It has turned an overgrown golf course into a major league-ready field surrounded by a temporary 12,500-seat ballpark — a project that’s costing MLB and the players’ association roughly $5 million.
Crews put the finishing touches on the ballpark less than a five days ago. The game, which marks the first regular season game of a professional sport ever played on an active military base, started at 8:05 p.m.
By the top of the 5th inning at 9:30 p.m., Miami was up 2-0. The Marlins later extended their lead to 3-0 around 10 p.m. and then added another run to make it 4-0.
By the 9th inning, the Marlins also added another run, but the Braves scored twice in the bottom 9th to make it 5-2. However, the Braves couldn’t rally any more and the Marlins won.
Earlier Sunday afternoon, players toured the base, with some learning how to pack a parachute. Other players had lunch in the base mess hall and then signed autographs for Fort Bragg troops and their families.
The salute-the-troops game will cap an ambitious four-month project to create the temporary ballpark from scratch.
“I couldn’t be happier with the progress that the team has made,” said Murray Cook, MLB’s veteran field consultant and the point man for the construction of this field said to the Associated Press one week ago.
Bringing big-league baseball to Fort Bragg came with a unique set of challenges.
Chief among them was creating the field and constructing the temporary ballpark that now surrounds it.
“I think the biggest challenge is the most obvious one — which is, we started out with a piece of ground that was part of an abandoned golf course, and you can’t really start from much more scratch than that,” said Joe Garagiola Jr., a senior vice president for Major League Baseball. “And so the challenge was to identify and then execute all the elements that go into making a major league field.”
The site of the old Willow Lakes golf course has been buzzing with near-constant activity ever since the game was announced in March.
The first chunks of Charlotte-grown Bermuda grass sod were laid in early May and the rest of the field was down by May 23, Cook said. He pointed out that 6-8 feet of soil was moved to create the proper grading, a drainage system that will remove 8-10 inches of water per hour was installed and USGA-caliber sand was spread out for the sod to take root. Then the temporary seating, following a blueprint drawn up by sports architectural design firm Populous, was built around the field.
Now that the stadium and grounds are finished, the biggest concern was the weather. Rain had been passing through Eastern North Carolina throughout the day, but rain held off for the historic match-up.
The Braves come into the game with a 28-53 record on the season and currently sit in fifth place in the National League East division. The Marlins sit at three games over .500 with a 42-39 record. They’re currently in third place in the National League East.
For more information on the game, click here.
CBS North Carolina contributed to this report.