Marine throws opening pitch in Padres home opener
By Cpl. Jess Levens
| | April 15, 2005
MARINE CORPS RECRUIT DEPOT SAN DIEGO --
The San Diego Padres baseball team honored America's military at its season home opener April 7 at Petco Park when they beat the Pittsburgh Pirates 1-0 in 12 innings.
The Navy's Leap Frogs parachuted onto the field, sailors unfurled a giant American flag in the outfield; a Marine once stationed at the depot sang the national anthem; the depot color guard presented the flag; and depot Provost Marshal's Office training chief Staff Sgt. Brian K. Fernandez, a San Diego native and Padres fanatic, threw the opening pitch.
"This is what it's all about," said Fernandez. "It doesn't get much more American than this - baseball, hometown and apple pie."
Fernandez's dream come true began when the Padres front office contacted the depot searching for a decorated Operation Iraqi Freedom veteran from San Diego. Fernandez jumped at the chance when he heard the call.
"A few days after I asked to do this, I got a phone call from the Padres," said 35-year-old Fernandez. "It's such an honor. Sports has been a way of life, especially San Diego sports. The Padres have been passed down through the family."
Fernandez's leaders are glad he got this chance.
"He deserves this," said Maj. Ron Capes, provost marshal. "He's from San Diego, he loves San Diego and he isn't a fair-weather fan. He's loved the Padres through thick and thin."
Deputy provost marshal 1st Lt. Brent Turner added, "The service he provided in Iraq is amazing, and I think that also reflects why he was chosen."
In OIF, Fernandez led the personal security team for Maj. Gen James F. Amos, commanding general of the 3rd Marine Aircraft Wing.
"We were called the Shadow Team, and I was the Shadow leader," said Fernandez. "Basically, I was the general's shadow. My sister would joke and say I was a general's bulletproof vest, but it wasn't like that. I rode in the lead vehicle on convoys, and my team and I just made sure the general was safe. It was a tremendous honor."
For his service, the former sailor and federal firefighter received the Navy and Marine Corps Commendation Medal. Nowadays, Fernandez is responsible for training the depot's military policemen and ground security force Marines.
"His training methods are great," said Turner. "Federal agents have come to the depot looking for Fernandez's training. He has also been invaluable in training our GSF Marines and he led the riot control Marines at the Rock 'n' Roll Marathon."
These efforts and his love for his local ball club helped Fernandez earn his 15 seconds of fame in front of his hometown and his 14-year-old son Keith.
"It was a bit overwhelming actually getting out there and doing it," said Fernandez. "But my goal was to get the ball over the plate, which I did. It was a great time. My boy had a blast. I enjoyed the entire experience."