Mariners, Tigers welcome veterans

Mariners, Tigers welcome veterans

SEATTLE -- Colonel Bruce F. Meyers has seen a fair amount during his life, from time in the Pacific in World War II, to Korea to Vietnam.

What he hasn't done much is throw a baseball, which was a crucial factor Friday when he went to the Safeco Field mound for the ceremonial first pitch.

"When the admiral called me and said, 'Would you throw out the first ball,' I said, 'Geez, I haven't thrown a ball for 60 years,'" Meyers said Friday. "Footballs, yes. If you give me a football, I'll get it right over home plate."

The football takes us back to the early 1940s, when Meyers entered the University of Washington in 1942 and played football in 1943 and 1944, where he would also join the Naval ROTC. In 1943, the Huskies won an invitation to the Rose Bowl against Southern California.

"I broke my ankle about 10 days before the trip so I didn't go," he lamented.

Meyers did not have the typical college life, as he went through the university with an emphasis on naval science classes. With the country in the middle of World War II, he also went out to the Pacific and served on various vessels in between semesters and on summer breaks.

He was then commissioned in the Marine Corps at age 19, around seven months before the end of the World War II. Meyers was a rifle company commander in Korea for 13 months and also served in Vietnam.

After retiring in 1970, he went into law and eventually became the associate dean of what is now the Seattle University Law School. He has also written a book, "Fortune Favors the Brave," that chronicles a military development during his career.

"I was the founding commanding officer of what we called 'force reconnaissance,' which was special operations within the Marine Corps," he said. "We operated in spy units to go in behind the lines and get intelligence information. Most of the time we went in by helicopter in Vietnam. I was by this time a regimental commander so I was way out of that business, but they worked for me."

Vietnam was the first time this technique was used.

"We began to insert these teams 20, 30 miles behind the lines. ... Initially the teams were smaller ... But I trained and came up with the idea for this, so it was kind of interesting to be a user of what we had developed and spent before the war years doing."

As Friday marks the Fourth of July, Major League Baseball is in the middle of a league-wide Welcome Back Veterans program. Both the Mariners and Tigers wore Stars & Stripes hats on Friday, and the bases also had the program's logo on them. The hats, a commemorative lineup card and a ceremonial home plate (not used in the game) will be auctioned off on MLB.com to help raise funds for the program.

And for Meyers, July 4 understandably brings back some memories.

"On the Fourth, I probably think about the guys that I go back and see at the wall, their names are up there, and we were close," he said.

As for the pitch, it fell a little short of home plate. But forgive Meyers, as the lefty was operating off of a torn rotator cuff.

Jesse Baumgartner is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.