MADISON, Ala. – Even though COVID-19 has prevented the Trash Pandas from playing their first season at Toyota Field, the Trash Pandas crew has used the field to host dozens of community events – this one, however, is different from the rest.
Gates opened at 5:30 p.m. Friday for fans across the Tennessee Valley to meet and greet with USA’s official amputee softball team, the USA Patriots. The main event of the evening was a matchup between the USA Patriots and a local team of BeArded Warriors, a volunteer group dedicated to offering service members and their families recreational opportunities.
Vice President of Marketing, Promotions, and Entertainment Lindsey Knupp says the Trash Pandas crew has been planning this night for months.
“9/11 means a lot of different things to a lot of different people, and I think every single one of us has a piece of that you kind of hold on to and you remember,” Knupp said.
Trash Pandas President and CEO Ralph Nelson remembers that day with shock.
“I walked into my office. I could see the smoke from my window, turned on the television and that’s when I knew.”
He was living and working in Manhattan at the time of the attacks. Nelson said seeing people covered in ash and smelling jet fuel in the air is imprinted on his memory forever.
“Because it was such a profound day in my life, everything I’ve done since then has always commemorated it. We will always do something on September 11 here in this ballpark because I just feel that this is a community gathering place and I don’t ever want people to forget that.”
Nelson wanted fans to enjoy everything about tribute night, from a local hero’s first pitch to the finale of fireworks, but for him, it was important for attendees to take away one big thing:
“I want people to pause, think about September 11. Think about the 3,000 people that died. Think about how that event affected where we are today. If we do that then we’ve had a successful night,” Nelson said.