MIAMI -- As Miami Marlins right-hander Tom Koehler sat in front of a camera to tape a PSA on 9/11 before Friday's batting practice, he felt a tap on his shoulder.
It was his father, Rolf, whose squad reported to Ground Zero 14 years ago today.
Thanks to the Marlins, he, his wife, daughter, Tom's wife and infant surprised the Marlins pitcher at the ballpark. Though Rolf said he doesn't get "really crazy emotional," this trip brought excitement. They shared a hug and talked. Earlier, Tom had called him to ask how work was going. He has since retired but holds a job as school security.
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"It's an emotional day," Rolf said. "It was rough on our family and many others and everybody was touched. If you go down to the area where World Trade was, it's so vibrant (now).
"When I see this it's to never forget. Certain events in history: Pearl Harbor, you knew where you were. JFK. I knew exactly where I was in this moment. I was getting in a police car racing down. It was more like a nuclear explosion if I can describe it. You just go there and try to save whoever you can. Besides the amount of death, which is horrific, the psychological (effect), the injuries alone. The hospitals and people wandering aimlessly. When you went down there you couldn't even look through. It was white. That's why when teams do this and they have a moment of silence it should be that way."
Koehler and his teammates found caps from various South Florida branches of first responders hanging in his locker, ranging from Miami Beach Police to Broward Sheriff. They wore them during batting practice and hoped to keep them on for the game.
Greg Terp, Marlins director of security and retired Miami-Dade police officer, collected the caps for Patriotic Day. Manager Dan Jennings wore a NYPD one as he spoke to media.
"Just to be able to wear this hat -- NYPD -- is such a prideful thing to be able to do knowing so many men and women -- those first responders who put their lives on the line unselfishly," Jennings said. "For myself, players and staff that are having the opportunity to wear these hats in honor of the police department, the military and coast guard and fire departments all over -- it's a great honor to be able to recognize true heroes. Those guys and ladies are certainly true heroes."
In the morning, closer AJ Ramos adopted Miami Beach Fire Station #4 for the day. President David Samson and others visited #2. An ayudan team went to a VA hospital, while a couple others stopped by Golden Glades Elementary to make care packages for soldiers.
At the ballpark, the Marlins encouraged fans to visit four "Stations to Serve" for Miami Rescue Mission, Miami Meals of Hope, Volunteers of America and the American Red Cross.
Ace Jose Fernandez, who wore a Miami Beach Police cap, said he woke up remembering the significance of 9/11. When the terrorist attacks happened, he was just a schoolboy in Cuba.
"I visited the (area where the) towers were in New York in 2013, my first year," Fernandez said. "Coming back to that and the people that died for no reason there. It's tough. It brought a lot of memories of being there. It's a really quiet place and a lot of respect for those people. We can never forget."