Dallas Baptist University Baseball Team Salutes Military Service

The Patriots' outfield fence backs up into Dallas-Fort Worth National Cemetery

Dallas Baptist University is a place of peace, where students follow a God-first mentality.

"You know, being a Baptist institution, it really is our job to honor God in any way we can," senior Jordan Martinson said.

DBU students and athletes are known as the Patriots. It's a title that runs deep on their campus, and they work hard to honor it through respect and gratitude.

"A huge pillar in our program is humility and we describe that to our guys as, 'It's a focus on others and not ourselves,'" said Dan Heefner, the Patriots' head baseball coach.

Heefner said there's no greater form of humility than to give yourself for others. That lesson hits home on a daily basis, because just beyond DBU's outfield fence is the Dallas-Fort Worth National Cemetery where more than 62,000 veterans and their spouses are in their final resting place.

So when "The Star Spangled Banner" is played before each game, the players salute with intention.

Heefner's staff came up with an etiquette list for their players to follow after asking military veterans the proper way to salute during the national anthem.

"They're going to stand straight up and down," Heefner said.

"You want to put your feet at a 45, heels together," Martinson said.

"Left hand is straight down your leg, like they're holding quarters in their hand," Heefner said.

"Right hand holding your hat over your heart," Martinson said.

"We don't sing, we don't look around, and we stay there until the very last note is played," Heefner said.

There is also a weaving of sounds that binds the Patriots on both sides of the outfield fence.

While DBU's church bells can be heard by loved ones mourning their loss at the cemetery, there's also a sound that plays from a speaker at the cemetery, which stands tall above the tree line that unites the two properties.

The song it plays was heard during a game against Minnesota on Feb. 22.

Martinson was the starting pitcher.

"When you first hear that first trumpet note... everybody gets dead silent," Martinson said.

"Taps," playing from the cemetery, could be heard on the field. It's a sound that's heard every night at 7 p.m., and DBU's Friday night games start 30 minutes prior.

When Martinson heard it from the mound, he set down his glove, took off his hat and placed it over his heart and stopped the game. His teammates, players from the opposing team and others followed his lead.

"If I can give one minute of my time to listen to that and recognize, you know, we're privileged to play a game and there's people out there risking their lives to allow us to do this so, I want to honor them in any way I can," Martinson said.

As "Taps" concluded, the stands erupted with cheers and the game continued.

"I think the moment right after, when it ["Taps"] finishes, is the coolest because the crowd usually erupts, our dugout definitely goes crazy," Martinson said.

Every one of the players was happy to pause a game to say, "Thank you" to those who have allowed us our freedoms.

"And for us specifically, it's our faith," Heefner said. "To be at a place where we can freely worship God and to know that there are people who've given their lives for us to be able to do that."

Baseball players learn life lessons about respect, gratitude and humility learned at Dallas Baptist University, while playing the game with humble hearts and a God-first mentality.

Stopping baseball games to salute "Taps" started with a pitcher in 2014 and is now part of DBU's ground rules, so before games, Heefner tells the umpires and opposing coach what to expect.

Last year, the speaker at the cemetery was broken during baseball season. Heefner said having it back this year has been really special.

The cemetery said a lot of military families don't know about the cemetery's benefits for veterans, their spouses and dependent children, who are allowed to be buried at Dallas-Fort Worth National Cemetery at no cost.

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