Photos: ‘Military Appreciation Night’ Turns Ballpark Red, White and Hoo

May 13, 2024 By Andrew Ramspacher, Andrew Ramspacher,

There was enough of a breeze Friday night at Disharoon Park to keep the American flag beyond the center field wall waving for just about all nine innings of the University of Virginia’s baseball game against North Carolina State University. 

It was a fitting sight on an evening filled with patriotism.

UVA began its “Heroes Appreciation Weekend” with “Military Appreciation Night” at The Dish, featuring a variety of tributes to the military community. 

The celebration began with a pregame tailgate reception, where UVA Director of Athletics Carla Williams and McIntire School of Commerce professor Jeffrey Lovelace, a U.S. Army veteran, spoke to a crowd that included representation from the UVA ROTC programs as well as the University’s alumni veterans. 

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“We are the sixth-largest athletics department in the country,” Williams said, “and we take great pride in recognizing our military throughout the year at our sporting events.” 

Williams went on to recognize Matt Ganyard, a U.S. Marine Corps veteran who, at 34, walked on to the UVA football team last fall as a kicker and earned several national honors, including being named to the Atlantic Coast Conference All-Academic Team and becoming a finalist for the Armed Forces Merit Award. 

“We are extremely proud of Matt, not only for his service to our country to help protect our freedoms,” Williams said, “but we are proud of the leadership, mentorship and presence he brought to a group of young men when they needed it most.”

Events such as Friday’s “do a lot to make veterans see their service as meaningful,” said Lovelace, who served as an Army officer from 2002 until 2014, “to see it being something that the community values and our university values. I deeply appreciate that.”

Jeffrey Lovelace, left, UVA Director of Athletics Carla Williams, right
McIntire professor Jeffrey Lovelace, a U.S. Army veteran, and UVA Director of Athletics Carla Williams spoke to the University's military community on Friday.

UVA, according to U.S. News and World Report’s latest rankings of colleges and universities, is rated in the top 10 for veterans. Since September 2021, the UVA Veteran Student Center has been open in Newcomb Hall, serving as an active space for UVA’s military community, including student veterans and ROTC students.

During the 2023-24 academic year, UVA reported nearly 300 former service members in its student body. On Friday, the UVA ROTC programs will commission 37 new officers. 

Lovelace praised UVA for its “deep commitment to support our military community.” 

UVA Today was present on Friday to capture a slice of that dedication, demonstrated through a baseball game. 

Representatives of UVA's military community after throwing out the ceremonial first pitch
On-field UVA Student Veteran Recognition plaque being given to Tomas De Oliviera
Army personnel shows military vehicle to kid.
Captain Brian Lagrange throwing out first pitch.
UVA baseball players emerge from dugout
U.S. Army Capt. Nicholas Hassell watches the game
UVA baseball coach Brian O'Connor surveys the field
UVA baseball teammates celebrate home run
A rainbow appears over Disharoon Park

Media Contact

Andrew Ramspacher

University News Associate University Communications